Buddhist Pilgrimage

The picturesque Rajgir, or Rajagriha as it was known in the past (literally, the abode of kings) is surrounded by the meandering river Banganga and 5 hills.

During the lifetime of the Buddha this was the capital of the powerful Magadhan kingdom, ruled by the virtuous King Bimbisara. The hills and caves surrounding Rajagriha were home to spiritual teachers, ranging from the materialism of the early Charavaka school to the metaphysics of Upanishadic philosophers.

Like many others in search of truth, Prince Siddhartha, after he renounced his royal heritage came to this city to seek the path of vation.

Siddhartha overwhelmed the citizens of Rajagriha with his serenity and grace. Even the king went to meet the ascetic and was amazed to learn that he was a kshatriya of royal descent. Bimbisara offered half his kingdom to Siddhartha but all he received was an assurance that when Siddhartha achieved his gola he would return to Rajagriha.

The first Buddhist structures at Rajgir were raised when Ajatsatni built a monastery, and a stupa over his share of the Buddha's ashes. That reliquary is now a mound used as a graveyard. The Japanese much later have built the World Peace Stupa, with its gilded images of the Buddha. Rajgir also has the Nipponzan Myohoji, the Japanese temple, and the Centaur Hokke Club which offers some traditional facilities to Japanese pilgrims.

How to Reach

The nearest airport is Patna 100 k.m. away.
The nearest mainline is Bhakhtiyarpur, 54 km, though the top line connects Rajgir
Hundred kilometre southest of Patna, Rajgir is connected by an excellent road to Patna as well as to Bodh Gaya, which is 70 kms away. The ancient university, Nalanda, is just 11 km from here.


Rajgir (Rajagriha) was the ancient capital city of the Magadha kings (before Pataliputra) in the 6th century BC. The capital was moved to Pataliputra by King Ajatasatru, who first imprisoned and then murdered his father, King Bimbisara in Rajgir. The Buddha often came here to meditate at the Jivkamaravana monastery, set in a beautiful orchard. He also converted King Bimbisara and some of his subjects to Buddhism. Mahavira, the founder of Jainism also spent time preaching in Rajgir, making this a pilgrimage site for Jains as well.

Sights to Visit

Viswa Shanti Stupa/ Peace Pagoda

This is situated on Mt Ratnagiri and is the main focus of Buddhist attention in Rajgir. A chair lift gets you to the top where the new Japanese-built Viswa Shanti or Peace stupa stands. This is an immense white structure that is visible for miles around. Four gold statues -- one on each side -- recall the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, teachings and death. The Stupa is open daily from 9 am to 1 pm, and from 3 to 5 pm.

Gridhrakuta/Vulture's Peak

This is possibly the holiest place in Rajgir. Despite its name, this is actually half-way down the mountain. From the stupa, a small path winds down the side of the mountain; take the first left to reach Vulture's Peak. It marks the site where the Buddha set in motion his Second Wheel of Law. It was also a favourite monsoon retreat of the Buddha, who preached a number of sermons and is said to have converted the Magadha king Bimbisara here.

Bimbisara's Jail

This is on the way out to Ratnagiri and is where King Bimbisara was imprisoned and eventually executed by his son and successor Ajatasatru. The king is supposed to have chosen the site of his own incarceration - from where he could look out and watch the Buddha meditate and teach.

Saptaparni Cave

This cave is just outside of town on Vaibhara hill. The first Buddhist Council gathered here shortly after the Buddha's death to compile his teachings in writing. The Pippala Cave is nearby; this was once used as a watchtower and later as an abode for hermits.

Jain shrines

These are located at the foot of Vaibhara Hill, and have been built around 22 hot springs.

Ajatasatru's Fort

This was built in the 5th century BC. The outer wall was constructed of stone blocks upto one and a half metres long. Bastions provided additional strength to the outer side, while on the inner side, ramps gave access to the top. Watch-towers were added later to strengthen the fort.

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