Rajgir – Exploring the Buddhist circuit in the Indian state of Bihar (Part3)
Continuing from Part 2 of the Buddhist circuits series in the Indian state of Bihar, I come to Part 3 – the last in this series. While this is not a UNESCO World Heritage site, it has its own share of Buddha association and relevance even to Mahabharat times. It is one of the places that attracts Buddhists and Hindus on their pilgrimage journey. Just 15 kms away from Nalanda, Rajgir has its own history to narrate.
Rajgir was the ancient capital of Magadha empire, which flourished in the 6th century BC. Its association with Lord Buddha puts it on the Buddhist pilgrim map. 15 kms from Nalanda, this hill town is surrounded by seven hills and is in the midst of lush green forest. The first Buddhist council to pen down Lord Buddha’s teaching, after his Nirvana, was also held at Rajgir. There is also an angle to Mahabharat linkage.
a) Vishwa Shanti Stupa (peace pagoda)
Vishwa Shanti Stupa, built in 1969, is one of the 80 peace pagodas in the world to spread the message of peace and non-violence. It was built on a 400m high hill by the Japanese and has a Japanese monk (guru).
The rope-way that leads to it is another attraction. Rustic and considered a little unsafe too, it makes for an adventure ride alright. The cable chair does not stop, so one needs to observe how others get on and off it. Children are not allowed on the ropeway. The other option is to trek up the hill but is quite a climb and would take about 30 minutes. Even the steps after the ropeway are quite steep.
On top is the beautiful white stupa with a stunning view. There is a lovely engraved peace bell and a temple.
b) Griddhakuta (Vulture hill)
It is recommended you visit this while walking down from Shanti stupa. It is said that Lord Buddha lived here for a few months after achieving Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. There is a small cave that you see, which is said to be used by Buddha.
He meditated and carried out many sermons with his disciples here. There is a shrine erected on the hilltop where prayers are offered.
c) Cyclopean Wall
4 meters wide and 40 kms in length, this wall once encircled ancient Rajgir, with an objective to fortify it. Built of massive undressed stone fitted together, it is one of the few important Pre-Maurayan stone structures ever to have been found. It is stands in ruins and a part of it is visible en route from Gaya to Rajgir.
d) Chariot Route Marks
The Chariot Route and shell inscriptions are worth a visit. Two parallel furrows cut deep into rock for about thirty feet and is believed to be from the Mahabharat times – “burnt” into the rock by the speed and power of Lord Krishna’s chariot !
The places around Rajgir are famous for stone Sculptors and bowls.
Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)
- Best time to visit is in winter (from October to March). Summer can be very hot and tiring with the sun beating down on you
- Rajgir is reachable by Air, Road or Rail.
- Air : The nearest airport is at Patna (89 kilometres)
- Rail : Rajgir is the nearest railway station, though the nearest major railhead is at Gaya
- Road : Rajgir is well-connected by road with Nalanda (12 kilometres), Bodh Gaya (110 kilometres), Gaya (95 kilometres) and Patna (95 kilometres)
- There are no taxis available in Rajgir. Cycle rickshaws and tongas are the only modes of transport
- There are a number of moderately priced hotels available at Rajgir. Tourists can also choose to stay at any of the three Tourists Bungalows of Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation
- The cable car ride costs Rs 60 for a two way ride
- Do carry water and food as there are not many options available
- Be careful of the troop of monkeys on the hill, though they are apparently harmless
- The trek on the hill might be tough for kids and elderly travelers
- Handicraft Shops are available at Aerial ropeway
- You can shop for Local Arts & Craft, Stone Sculptures and Madhubani Paintings