Rajgir is located 15 kms from Nalanda and 100 km from Patna in Bihar. Rajgir (Rajgriha) meaning the abode of Kings, has been mentioned first in the ancient Hindu epic Mahabharata. It has been estimated by scholars that the city must be at least 3000 years old. Rajgir has been closely related to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism and has played host to Lord Buddha and Mahavira, thus has many archaeological sites related to Buddhism and Jainism.
Moreover, Rajgir is one of the leading health and winter resorts of India, with its warm water ponds. These ponds are said to contain some medicinal properties which help in the cure of many skin diseases. The added attraction of Rajgir is a Ropeway which takes visitors uphill to the Shanti Stupa and Monasteries built by the Japanese Devotees on top of the Ratnagiri hills.
Places to Visit
1. Jarasandha ka Akhara: This is the Ranbhumi where Bhima and Jarasandha fought one of the Mahabharata battles.
2. Jivakameavan Gardens: Seat of the Royal Physician’s dispensary where Lord Buddha was once brought to have wound dressed by Jivaka, the royal physician during the reign of Ajatshatru and Bimbisara.
3. Ajatshatru Fort: Built by Ajatashatru (6th century B.C.), the king of Magadha during the Buddha’s time. The 6.5 sq.meter Ajatshatru’s Stupa is also believed to have been built by him.
4. Cyclopean Wall: Once 40 Km long, it encircled ancient Rajgir. Built of massive undressed stone carefully fitted together, the wall is one of the few important Pre-Mauryan stone structures ever to have been found. Traces of wall still subsist, particularly at the exit of Rajgir to Gaya.
5. Shanti Stupa: The Vishwa Shanti Stupa is located on a 400 meter high hill. The stupa is built in marble and on the four corners of the stupa are four glimmering statues of Buddha. To reach the top of this hill one has to come through the “Ropeways”. This place is also called the GridhaKuta.
6. Venu Vana: Site of the monastery Venuvana Vihar built by king Bimbisara for Lord Buddha to reside. This was the king’s first offering to Lord Buddha.
7. Karanda Tank: It is the tank in which Lord Buddha is said to have bathed.
8. Sonbhandar Caves: Two rather strange cave chambers were hollowed out of a single massive rock. One of the chambers I believed to have been the guard room, the rear wall has two straight vertical lines and one horizontal line cut into the rock; the doorway is supposed to lead to king Bimbisara Treasury. Inscriptions in the Sankh Lipi or shell script, etched into wall and so far undeciphered, are believed to give the clue to open the doorway. The treasure, according to folklore, is still intact. The second chambers bears a few traces of seated and standing etched into the outer wall.
9. Bimbisara jail: His impatient son and heir, Ajatashatru, imprisoned King Bimbisara here. The captive king chose this site for his incarceration, for, from this spot he could see Lord Buddha climbing up to his mountain retreat atop the Griddhakuta hill. There is a clear view of the Japanese Pagoda. The stupa of peace was built on the top of the hill.
11. Jain Temple: On hill crests around Rajgir, far in the distances one can see about 26 Jain Temples. They are difficult to approach for the untrained, but make exciting trekking for those in form.
12. Chariot Route Marks: The Chariot Route and hell inscriptions are worth a visit for the strangeness of the phenomenon, two parallel furrows cut deep into rock for about thirty feet giving credence to the local belief that they were “burnt” into the rock by the speed and power of Lord Krishna’s chariot when he entered the city of Rajgir during the epic Mahabharata times. Several shell inscriptions, the undeciphered characters current in central and eastern India from the 1st to 5th centuries AD, and engraved in the rock around the chariot marks.
13. Hot Springs: At the foot of Vaibhava Hill, a staircase leads up to the various temples. Separate bathing places have been organized for men and women and the water comes through spouts from Saptdhara, the seven streams, believed to find their source behind the “Saptarani Caves”, up in the hills. The hottest of the springs is the Brahmakund with a temperature of 45 degree Centigrade.
14. Pippala cave: Above the hot springs on the Vaibhava Hill, is a rectangular stone sculpted by the forces of nature which appears to have been used as a watch tower. Since it later became the resort of pious hermits, it is also called Pippala Cave and popularly known as “Jarasandha ki Baithak” after the name of the King Jarasandha, a contemporary of Lord Krishna described in the epic Mahabharata
15. Swarn Bhandar: It is to be said that that it was a store of Gold of King Jarasandha. A unread story about the cave is that there is a lot of gold in this cave and a script is written on a stone is the code to unlock the door of this Swarn Bhandar.
16. Gridhakuta: This was the place where the lord Buddha set in a motion his second wheel of law an for three months even during the rainy season, preached many inspiring sermons to his disciples. The Buddha Sangha of Japan have constructed a massive modern stupa, the Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda), at the top of the hill in commemoration. A bridle path leads to up to the hill but it is much more fun to take the Aerial Chair lift which operates every day except Thursday. One way ride takes 7.5 minutes and the view is splendid over the hills of Rajgir.