Rajgir: A Journey Through History, Spirituality, and Natural Healing
Rajgir, known as “The City of Kings,” is a historic town in Bihar, India. It served as the capital for ancient dynasties like the Haryanka, Pradyota, Brihadratha, and later, the Mauryan Empire. Rajgir is renowned in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain texts, closely tied to historical figures like The Buddha and The Mahavira.
It was the initial capital of the Magadha kingdom, which later became the Mauryan Empire. Rajgir holds significance in Jainism and Buddhism, being the birthplace of the 20th Jain Tirthankar, Munisuvrata, and connected to Mahavira and Gautama Buddha.
Rajgir was the site of the ancient Nalanda University, and a contemporary Nalanda University was founded nearby in 2010. The town is also famous for its natural springs and towering hills, adding to its charm.
The Japanese Stupa, also recognised as the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, stands proudly on Gridhakuta Hill in Rajgir at an elevation of 400 meters. It was constructed by the Japanese with a profound intention of promoting global peace.
This majestic marble monument features four splendid golden Buddha statues, each representing a distinct phase of his life, including his birth, enlightenment, teaching, and passing away. To reach this remarkable site, visitors can conveniently utilise an aerial ropeway.
The Rajgir Ropeway, India’s oldest, offers a thrilling natural adventure. It’s Bihar’s only ropeway, with a single-seat chairlift ascending over 1000 feet to the scenic Ratnagiri Hill, home to the renowned Vishwa Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda). This route is nestled within the Pant Wildlife Sanctuary, offering unmatched forest views.
The chairlift provides access to Buddhist relics and ancient structures on the hill, all while surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Nestled in a valley, Rajgir offers captivating panoramic views and has deep connections to Buddhism. The Bihar government and Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) aim to designate the Rajgir Ropeway as a significant heritage site. This location has been a pilgrimage site for Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains for centuries, with numerous landmarks of historical and cultural significance. Rajgir itself is steeped in history, dating back thousands of years, making the Rajgir Ropeway a must-visit attraction.
The Veerayatan Museum is a captivating Jain museum that offers a deep dive into the history of all 24 Jain Tirthankaras. It boasts intricate 3-D panel depictions crafted from wood and metal, reminiscent of ornate dollhouses. Additionally, visitors can admire a remarkable collection of artwork created by the resident artist, Arharya Shri, which is a must-see.
Nalanda University, a UNESCO World Heritage site in South Bihar, is among the world’s oldest educational institutions, tracing its origins to the 3rd century. It was historically known as Nalanda Mahavira, reflecting its grand Buddhist Monastery roots. Located around 85 km from Patna, it’s a renowned, ancient university mentioned in India’s oldest epics and Hiuen Tsang’s travels.
The Gupta kings constructed monasteries in the classical Kushan style, and Emperors Ashoka and Harshavardhana were patrons, adding temples, viharas, and monasteries. In 2016, the idea of reviving the university was proposed by former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
Nalanda University’s influence extended to Tibetan and Chinese cultures, serving as a centre for advanced Vedic knowledge until it was sacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji in the 12th century. It gained prominence during Hieun Tsang’s visit in the 7th century AD, and his detailed accounts shed light on its education system and monastic life. The site was rediscovered by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1915. Legend has it that the university’s library was so vast that it continued to burn for six months after the structure was engulfed in flames.
Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall
The Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall stands as a tribute to the Chinese scholar who spent more than a decade in the region. It is situated at the very location where he resides. Within the memorial hall, you’ll find his written accounts and observations of medieval India, which have significantly contributed to our understanding of that era.
Stupa of Sariputra
The Sariputra Stupa houses the remains of one of Gautam Buddha’s two principal disciples, Sariputra, who achieved the revered status of an Arhat by following Buddha’s teachings. This pyramidal Stupa boasts an impressive size and is adorned with characteristic Buddhist pillar structures. Its grandeur is attributed to its seven-tiered construction, making it a truly remarkable sight to witness.
Swarna Bhandar, which translates to “the treasure of gold,” comprises two identical caves meticulously carved from monolithic rocks at the base of the Vaibhar range. The legend surrounding these caves suggests the existence of a concealed entrance leading to a hidden gold treasure within the hills. The cave’s walls are adorned with both seated and standing figures, alongside inscriptions in the ancient script of Sanklipi, indicating that the cave served as a sanctuary for Jain saint Muni Vairadevi and other ascetics.
Jarasandha Ka Akhara
Jarasandha Ka Akhara, situated in the vicinity of Vaibhava Hill, once served as a wrestling arena and a training ground for martial arts for the forces opposing Lord Krishna and the Yadava clan, all under the rule of King Jarasandha of Magadha. This historic site was witness to the epic confrontation between Bheema and Jarasandha, a month-long battle that culminated in Bheem’s triumph by splitting Jarasandha in two. Today, it stands as a tranquil but overgrown ruin, embraced by nature and cherished by picnickers.
Tapodharma or the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir
Tapodharma, previously the site of an ancient Buddhist monastery, has now been transformed into the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir. This location is also blessed with a cluster of hot springs known for their potential healing properties. Among these, the renowned Brahmakund spring stands out, with its soothing waters maintaining an average temperature of approximately 45 degrees Celsius.
Rajgir Hot Springs
Rajgir is renowned for its seven hot springs, collectively known as Saptarshi, which converge to form a sizable pool of warm water called Brahmakund. This is a sacred bathing place revered by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. The waters are believed to possess medicinal and therapeutic qualities, drawing historical figures such as Gautam Buddha and Mahavira to its rejuvenating embrace.
Rajgir offers a fascinating journey through history and spirituality. From its ancient origins as a hub of dynasties and educational excellence to the serene hot springs that have drawn spiritual luminaries, the region is a treasure trove of cultural and natural wonders. Explore the richness of Rajgir’s heritage and the soothing embrace of its hot springs, a truly holistic travel experience.