Monday, December 17, 2007

Visit To Rajgir

वीरायतन- राजगीर

is a city and a notified area in Nalanda district in the Indian state of Bihar. The city of Rajgir (ancient Rajagriha or Rājagṛha; Pali: Rājagaha) was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha, a state that would eventually evolve into the Mauryan Empire. Its date of origin is unknown, although ceramics dating to about 1000 BC have been found in the city. The epic Mahabharata calls it Girivraja and recounts the story of its king, Jarasandha, and his battle with the Pandava brothers and their allies Krishna. It is also mentioned in Buddhist and Jain scriptures, which give a series of place-names, but without geographical context. The attempt to locate these places is based largely on reference to them and to other locations in the works of Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, particularly Faxian and Xuanzang. It is on the basis of Xuanzang in particular that the site is divided into Old and New Rajgir. The former lies within a valley and is surrounded by low-lying hills. It is defined by an earthen embankment (the Inner Fortification), with which is associated the Outer Fortification, a complex of cyclopean walls that runs (with large breaks) along the crest of the hills. New Rajgir is defined by another, larger, embankment outside the northern entrance of the valley and next to the modern town. The sources do not agree which of the Buddha's royal contemporaries, Bimbisara and Ajatashatru, was responsible for its construction. Ajatashatru is also credited with moving the capital to Pataliputra (modern Patna).

This place has been associated with both the historical Buddha and Mahavira. Rajgir has also developed as a health and winter resort due to its warm water ponds. These baths are said to contain some medicinal properties that help in the cure of many skin diseases. The added attraction of Rajgir is the Ropeway that leads uphill to the Shanti Stupa and Monasteries built by the Japanese Devotees of the Buddha on top of the Ratnagiri hills.

One may visit Rajgir from Patna. Another way is to come via Begusarai junction or Mokameh, after arriving by train in an overnight journey from Kolkata. Rajgir is a diversion from somewhere midway on the Barauniand Patna highway. It is located in a verdant valley surrounded by rocky hills. Recently Indian Railways have started trains from Rajgir to Kolkata and Delhi.


Rajgir, which means 'house of the king', was the ancient capital city of the Magadha kings until the 5th century BC when Ajatashatru moved the capital to Pataliputra. In those days, it was called Rajgrih, which translates as ‘the home of Royalty’.

Jarasandha who hailed from this place had defeated Krishna 18 times because of which Krishna is also called 'ranchhod' (person who runs away from fight). Mahabharata recounts a wrestling match between Bhima, one of the pandavas, and Jarasandha, the then king of Rajgir. Jarasandha was invincible as his body could rejoin any dismembered limbs. According to the legend, Bhim split Jarasandha into two and threw the two halves facing opposite to each other so that they could not join. There is a famous Jarasandha's Akhara(place where you practice martial arts).

It is sacred to the memory of the founders of both the religions: Buddhism and Jainism. It was here that Gautam Buddha spent several months meditating, and preaching at Griddhkuta, (‘Hill of the Vultures'). He also delivered some of his famous sermons and converted King Bimbisara of Magadha and countless others to his religion.

Rajgir is also famous for its association with Shishunaga Kings Bimbisara and Ajatashatru. Ajatashatru kept his father Bimbsara in captivitiy here.

On one of the hills is the cave of Saptparni where the First Buddhist Council was held under the leadership of Maha Kassapa. The Saptparni cave is also the source of the Rajgir Hot Water Springs that have curative properties and are sacred to the Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Today an aerial ropeway provides the link with a hilltop stupa "Peace Pagoda" built by the Japanese.

Lord Mahavira spent fourteen years of his life at Rajgir and Nalanda, spending chaturmas (i.e. 4 months of the rainy season) at a single place in Rajgir (Rajgruhi) and the rest in the places in the vicinity. It was the capital of his favourite shishya (follower) king Shrenik. Thus Rajgir is a very important religious place for Jains also.

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