Rajgir New

By Sanjeev Nayyar [email protected] | 2012

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Rajgir is about 1.5 hours drive from Bodh Gaya. The road is good. It is located in a verdant valley surrounded by rocky hills, 5 hills and meandering river Banganga ensconce Rajgir, ancient Rajgriha ( literally, the abode of Kings). Mahabharata gives hill names as Vaibhara, Varaha, Vrishabha, Rishigiri and Chaityaka. However present names are Vaibhara, Vipula, Chhatha, Saila, Udaya and Sona, their being due to the Jainas. Just outside the Venuvana (garden built by King Bimbisara for Lord Buddha to stay) is this board. The First Buddhist Council was held in Rajgir.

Board outside Venuvana. Hills and caves surrounding Rajgir were home to many spiritual teachers ranging from the materialism of the early Charavaka School to the metaphysics of Upanishadic philosophers. It was also an important centre of Baudh Dharam. Buddha visited many times but his favourite area was Gridhrakuta or the Vulture''s Peak. Jain Tirthankara Mahavir, out of the 32 years of his missionary life, passed 14 rainy seasons in Rajgir and Nalanda. Of the 11 grandharas or chief disciples of Mahavir everyone is said to have died on the top of one or the other Rajgir hills.

This is the Karandak Nivap tank inside the Venuvana or the forest of Bamboos. It was the royal park gifted to Buddha to make it easier for his devotees to visit him. He passed the 1st raining season here post his enlightenment.

A meditation hall inside Venuvana. The whole place was very very peaceful, divine I would say. Missed seeing Virayatna a Jain ashram that also has a museum.

The Japanese have made a small structure there. This is a map inside the building that shows the places associated with Buddha.

Monks from Burma praying in Venvana. Missed seeing Saptaparni Caves and Mahadev temple. On the hillcrets around Rajgir, far away one can see about 26 Jain temples.

Come outside Venuvana a few minutes drive is the Japanese Temple. Buddha image inside temple.

Main area in temple. Every South-East Asian and country of the Far East have different images of Buddha meaning look and temple design.

These caves are a ten minute drive from Venuvana. These were excavated during the 3/4th century B.C. by saint Vairadeva for Jain sages.

There is believed to King Bimbisara Treasury inside cave. The guide told me that the British tried very hard to blast that stone wall but were not unsuccessful. Guide said that there is a secret mantra that needs to be said - only then would the stone move.

On left of the cave are remains of a temple. U can see images have got damaged with time. Images are in meditation pose and of Jain sages.

A few minutes before the caves is Maniyar Math. Board self explainatory. It is dedicated to the worship of the presiding deity of Rajgir - Mani Nag. This place is where the ancient shrine of Mani-naga once stood also referred to in the Mahabharata.

Pic of Maniyar Math. U walk up the steps and then walk down steps into well area. The well is above the tin sheet that covers it now.

Rajgir is very famous for the Vishwa Shanti Stupa and this ropeway. Drive to Shanti Stupa base is lovely, like through a mini forests. Rate is Rs 40/ for a two way ride. This pic is from base of hill to the top.

I was at a lower level when clicked this. At this point the gap between the chairlift and the land below is the highest. Better to look up instead of down.

U can also walk up as some Japanese devotees did that you see in the picture. Shanti Stupa is sponsored by the Japanese so is the Venvana garden.

This man looked very tense as if he could fall anytime. From Shanti Stupa you can go to Gridhakuta about 30 minutes walk. I was short of time so could not go. At this hill Buddha made King Bimbishara his devotee.

This pic is from the top of the hill - u can see the chairlifts till virtually all the way down.

This is from about mid way on way down. I first got to know about the ropeway ride when I saw the Dev Anand blockbuster ''Johny Mera Naam''. Dev Sahaab was wooing Hema Malini whilst both of them were in the chairlifts.

After you get off the chairlift walk up about 40 steps to reach Shanti Stupa. It has images of Buddha on four sides and a temple to the right of pic. It is situated on Ratnagiri hill. The stupa is 160 feet high. On its 4 sides are golden images of Buddha that depict his 4 great actions: birth, enlightenment, teaching and passing away.

"A close up view of stupa, u can see Buddha images on either side. ""Gridhakuta:This was the place where the lord Buddha set in a motion his second wheel of law 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."

This is the open area in front of Shanti Stupa - seemed good enough for a helicopter to land. The Sikh that you see in the picture appeared to be some senior officer of the Bihar Police. Gun totting guards were all around him. His daughter asked the local Photographer to click atleast 20 pics. After he printed the pictures (they have a laptop and printer there itself) the guards started bullying the photographer into charging Rs 10/ per picture instead of Rs 20/ that he normally charges.

Buddha in Namaste posture.

Buddha in Dharma Chakra posture.

Sleeping Buddha.

Buddha is teaching posture. The Digambar Jains believe that Mahavir was born at Kundalpur 18 kms from Rajgir.

There are ruins all over Rajgir. On way to Shanti Stupa is Jivaka Amravana Vihara. Rajgir has lots of restaurents that cater to people from different states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab etc.

Ruins of Jivaka Amravana Vihara. What I liked about Rajgir is that all along the main road there are boards which gives name of places of tourist interest and direction. Could not locate Rana-Bhumi or the place that witnessed the month long duel between Jarasandh and Bhima who had entered Rajgir in disguise along with Krishna and Arjun.

This is a Jain Temple close to the main market. It has an underground section also. There were some Jain temples on top of the hill, did not have the energy to walk up.

"U see 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."

"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 "Saptarni Caves", up in the hills". Devotees enjoying the hot water springs.

Topada in the Mahabharata refers to the hot water springs of Rajgir. U can bath in the pool as you saw in the previous pic or u can sit like this and enjoy. Water really freshened me up. The hot water springs are part of the Lakshminarayan Temple Complex. The hottest of the springs is Brahmakundi where temp is 45degree C. Guru Nanak too believed to have visited Rajgir.

Ruins of Ajastshatru Fort. "Built by Ajatshatru (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."

Board ''Chariot Wheel Mark and Shell Characters'' is self explainatory.

Could not make much of the chariot wheel mark - this is the area. Bihar Tourism run three hotels there.

In Rajgir you can travel on ghoda gadi (a la Basanti style Sholay) or by car. Keep a day for Rajgir if u wish to go to Gridhakuta Hill. Some narrations taken from Bihar Tourism web site.

I loved the Shanti Stupa area. Here is another pic. Nalanda is 12 kms from Rajgir. Had visited in February. Bihar looked so green and nice. The drive from Patna to Bodh Gaya through Rajgir to Patna got me to see lush green fields. Prices of veggies in Bodhgaya are 20% of what they are in Mumbai and fresh.

Trip to Rajgir ends with respects to Buddha. This image is outside the Japanese temple. I loved Bihar and hope to go back some day.