Rajgir

Rajgir (historically known as Girivraj) is an ancient city and a notified area in Nalanda district in the Indian state of Bihar. The city of Rajgir (ancient Rājagṛha; Pali: Rājagaha) was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha, a state that would eventually evolve into the Mauryan Empire.[4] The city finds mention in India's greatest literary epic, the Mahabharata, through its king Jarasandha. Its date of origin is unknown, although ceramics dating to about 1000 BC have been found in the city. The famous 2,500-year old Cyclopean Wall is located in the city. This area is also notable in Jainism and Buddhism.[5] It was the birthplace of the 20th Jain Tirthankar Munisuvrata, and is closely associated with the arihant Mahavira and Gautama Buddha.[6] Both Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha taught their beliefs in Rajgir during the 6th and 5th century BC.[7] The ancient Nalanda university was located in the vicinity of Rajgir, and the contemporary Nalanda University named after it was founded in 2010 at Rajgir.[8] It was also through Rajgir that the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka travelled to Bodh Gaya around 250 BC, when placing the diamond throne (Vajrasana) at the great temple where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.[citation needed]

Rajgir is also famous for its association with Haryanka dynasty Kings Bimbisara (558–491 BC) and Ajatashatru (492–460 BC) as their capital city. Ajatashatru kept his father Bimbsara in captivity here. 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).

The name Rajgir came from Rājagṛiha, meaning "house of the king" or "royal house", or the word Rajgir might have its origin in its plain literal meaning, "royal mountain". It was the ancient capital city of the Magadha kings until the 5th century BC when Udayin(460–440 BC), son of Ajatshatru, moved the capital to Pataliputra.[9] In those days, it was called Rajgriha, which translates as 'the home of Royalty'.

Shishunaga (413-395 BC) founded Shishunaga dynasty in 413 BCE with Rajgir as its initial capital before it was moved to Pataliputra.

The epic Mahabharata calls it Girivraja and recount the story of its king, Jarasandha, and his battle with the Pandava brothers and their allies Krishna. Jarasandha who hailed from this place, had been defeated by Krishna 17 times. The 18th time Krishna left the battlefield without fighting.[10] Because of this Krishna is also called 'ranachorh' (one who has left the battlefield).[11] Mahabharata recounts a wrestling match between Bhima (one of the Pandavas) and Jarasandha, the then king of Magadha. 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 martial arts are practiced).

It is also mentioned in Jain and Buddhist 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, Rajgir 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.

It was here that Gautama Buddha spent several months meditating, and preaching at Gridhra-kuta, ('Hill of the Vultures'). He also delivered some of his famous sermons and initiated king Bimbisara of Magadha and countless others to Buddhism. It was here that Budhha delivered his famous Atanatiya Sutra.

On one of the hills is the Saptaparni Cave where the First Buddhist Council was held under the leadership of Maha Kassapa.

It is sacred to the memory of the founders of both the religions: Jainism and Buddhism and associated with both the historical Mahavira and Buddha.

Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara 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 one of his Shravaks(follower) King Shrenik. Thus Rajgir is a very important religious place for Jains. The twentieth Jain tirthankara, Munisuvrata is supposed to have been born here. An ancient temple(about 1200 years old) dedicated to Munisuvrat bhagwan is also present here along with many other Jain temples. This temple is also a place for four Kalyanakas of Bhagwan Munisuvratnath.

The city is in a valley surrounded by seven hills: Vaibhara, Ratna, Saila, Sona, Udaya, Chhatha, and Vipula. River Panchane flows through the outskirts of the town.

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. Another attraction of the region is the ropeway that leads uphill to the Vishwa Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda), Makhdoom Kund and monasteries built by Japanese devotees of the Buddha on top of the Ratnagiri Hills.

Temperature: maximum 44 °C (111.2 °F), minimum 20 °C (68 °F).
Winter temperature: maximum 28 °C (82.4 °F), minimum 6 °C (42.8 °F).
Rainfall: 1,860 mm (mid-June to mid-September)
Dry/warm season: October to March

According to 2011 Indian Census, Rajgir had a total population of 41,587, of which 21,869 were males and 19,718 were females. Population within the age group of 0 to 6 years was 6,922. The total number of literates in Rajgir was 24,121, which constituted 58.0% of the population with male literacy of 65.4% and female literacy of 49.8%. The effective literacy rate of 7+ population of Rajgir was 69.6%, of which male literacy rate was 78.1% and female literacy rate was 60.1%. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes population was 11,724 and 42 respectively. Rajgir had 7030 households in 2011.[3]

As of the 2011 India census,[12] Rajgir had a population of 41,587. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Rajgir has an average literacy rate of 52%, lower than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 61%, and female literacy is 41%. In Rajgir, 19% of the population is under 6 years of age.

The renowned Son Bhandar Caves is situated at Rajgir, Nalanda district in Bihar state. Son Bhandar group of caves has two caves known as eastern and western cave. Son bhandar caves are concerned with Jainism and considered to belong to 3–4 century AD.

These caves were first inspected by Cunninghum and he concluded to have analogy with Saptaparni Cave of Buddhism creed. After Cunninghum several scholars visited this place and some had opinion to concern with Buddhism. After some time all Buddhism connections were refused because of an inscription found on the southern wall of a cave.

According to this inscription these caves were built by inspiration of a Jain Muni Vair for Jain ascetics. Sculptures of Teerthankaras were also carved in these caves. From architectural aspect; these caves are analogous to Nagarjuni cave and Barabar Caves caves of Mauryan era. Therefore, it can be concluded that construction time should not be much differ from above mentioned caves.

These caves should be related to Digambar sect of Jainism as Xuanzang wrote in his book about Vaibhar Hill of Rajgir that the place was occupied by Digambar Jain monks for meditation purpose. After some centuries these caves were converted by Hindus as Lord Vishnu sculpture was also found from mound of a cave.[13]

Historically, Rajgir has been a very important place in Jainism, as capital to many empires. The main tourist attractions include the ancient city walls from Ajatshatru's period, the Bimbisar's Jail, Jarasandh's Akhara, Gridhra-kuta, ('Hill of the Vultures'), Son Bhandar Caves[14] and the Jain temples on the five peaks.[13]

Rajgir is famous for its hot water springs, locally known as Brahmakund, a sacred place for Hindus where water from seven different springs (Saptarshi) merge and is notable for its healing effects.[15][16]

Another major attraction is the peace pagoda, Vishwa Shanti Stupa, built in 1969, one of the 80 peace pagodas in the world, to spread the message of peace and non-violence. It is the oldest peace pagoda in India. The rope-way that leads to it is another attraction, which was gifted by Japanese spiritual leader Fuji Guruji in the 1960s.

The Japanese temple is beside the Venu Vana. Venu Vana is an artificial forest, where one can enjoy Eternal peace and was used by Budhha for meditation, and meditate and famous Makhdoom Kund. Sri Ramakrishna Math is a non-political spiritual organization which have been engaged in various forms of humanitarians, social service activities.

Rajgir Heritage Museum is another place of Interest, recently inaugurated by CM Nitish Kumar.[17]

The newly developed spot of Pandu Pokhar is worth visiting. The Sariputta Stupa is located on the Peak Of Giriyak Hills, at some distance from Ghora Katora Lake.

Localities in Rajgir: Ashoknagar, Bengali Para, Chak Par, Dangi Tola, Dharmashala Road, Dhurwa More, Gandhi Tola, Ganj Par, Kali Bari, Kailash Ashram, Rajgir Kund, Mahadevpur, Mali Tola, Nahi Pokhar, Nichli Bazaar, Panchmukhi Kuan, Panditpur, Purvi Bharat, Ramhari Pind, Sabalpur, Sithoura, Tulsi Gali, Thakurbari, Upadhyay Tola.

Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation provides travel facility from state capital Patna to visit Bodh circuit (Bodhgaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Vaishali, Kesaria, Lumbini, Kushinagar, Sarnath), Jain Circuit (Rajgir, Pawapuri) and Sikh Circuit in Bihar.

The economy of the city mainly depends upon tourism and supplemented by agriculture.A large number of luxurious resorts and hotels are located in Rajgir to serve the tourists. In addition, Rajgir is located near the tourism spots like Nalanda, Pawapuri and Kundalpur.

Rajgir ranks top in Bihar, in reference to revenue collected by tourism.

Nalanda International Cricket Stadium is a proposed cricket stadium in the city. In 2013, it was announced by the Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar that an international cricket stadium will be constructed at Rajgir in Bihar's Nalanda district.[19][20]

Nalanda University, a modern university that is based on the famous university and Buddhist monastery of ancient India, has been established with its campus in Rajgir. It began its first academic session on 1 Sept, 2014.

Rajgir or Pant Wildlife Sanctuary, is situated in Nalanda Forest Division covering an area of 35.84 km2 under the Nalanda district administration. This Wildlife Sanctuary represents a remnant patch of forests nestled in the picturesque Rajgir hills within the South Gangetic Plain. This sanctuary provides numerous ecosystem services to the surrounding landscape including varieties of flora and fauna. Therefore, to protect this forest a 35.84 km2 was notified as Rajgir Wildlife Sanctuary in 1978.

It is home to number of wild animals viz. Mammals;Blue bull (Boselaphus tragocamelus), Chital or Spotted deer (Axis axis), Indian crested porcupine (Hystrix indica), Small Indian civet (Viverricula indica) Jungle cat (Felis chaus), Birds; Painted spurfowl (Galloperdix lunulata), Eurasian thick knee (Burhinus oedicnemus) and Painted sandgrouse (Pterocles indicus) Reptiles; Bengal monitor (Varanus bengalensis) and amphibians can be seen in this region; Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus), Jerdon's bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus crassus), Ornate narrow-mouthed frog (Microhyla ornata), Indian tree frog (Polypedates maculatus) etc. Landscape of Rajgir WLS is uneven terrain enclosed by five mountains; Ratnagiri, Vipulgiri, Vaibhagiri, Songiri and Udaygiri.

The World Peace Pagoda and the ropeway to it on Ratnagiri Hills were filmed in the song "O Mere Raja" of the 1970 movie Johnny Mera Naam, starring Dev Anand and Hema Malini.