Ideas for travel to Bihar always come with their own set of caveats. Luckily, many of the concerns people have about the state have been largely remedied over the last few years. This means that this is a great time to complete your India travel portfolio by covering all the many unmissable goodies the state has to offer. And do this before these places are irreversibly commercialized and begin teeming with hordes of camera-clicking tourists. We take you to one such not-to-be-missed location in this article, located towards the south of Bihar. Rajgir would have been the top tourist spot in almost any other part of India, but its location here has meant that most people, even Indians, do not realize what a hidden gem it is.
Rajgir, or Rajgriha, was the capital of Magadha, the most powerful kingdom in the subcontinent for many years, till the 5th century BC, when the seat of the government was shifted to Pataliputra. Lord Mahavir spent fourteen years in this place and Gautam Buddha several months meditating and preaching, because of which it also finds place of pride in Jain and Buddhist scriptures, and finds mention in the works of Chinese travellers like Faxian (Fa-hien) and Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang). The sheer amount of history that resides in every corner of this 3,000 year old town makes it perfect for a history buff, but there is a lot to satisfy other tourists too.
Things to Do
Photo by mikeemesser
- Ride the rope-way up to the Vishwa Shanti Stupa – Built in 1969, this spotless white marble pagoda on a hill depicts the stages in the life of the Buddha, has a prayer center inside and offers a brilliant view of Rajgir and surrounding areas, including the remains of the Cyclopean Wall that is supposed to have encircled the town 2,500 years ago. But, if this is too tranquil for you, how about the rope-way you take to get here? Its single-chair seating, rising up a steep climb, with a sheer drop down to the rocky terrain below will make you appreciate the peace of the stupa even more.
- Take a dip in the hot springs – The town has a number of hot water springs, the most well known being the one at Saptaparni Caves. Said to have medicinal properties, probably because of the sulphur content, it won’t wash off your sins, but is certainly worth a rejuvenating dip.
Photo by Anandajoti
- Visit the historical (and mythical) ruins – The Maurya kings Bimbisaar and Ajaastshatru are the most famous rulers associated with the town. Remnants of their rule are spread through the region, most notable being Bimbisaar’s jail and Ajaatshatru’s fort. The remarkably well-preserved rock-cut chambers of Swarna Bhandar are rumored to still hide treasures for those who can locate them. Jarasandh ka Akhada is the spot where the famed wrestling matches between him and Bhim in Mahabharat are said to have taken place.
- Satisfy your pious side – Follow in the footsteps of the Buddha by visiting Jivaka’s Mango Garden (where he was brought to have his wound dressed by the royal physician) or Venu Vana (site of the monastery built by Bimbisaar for him). And then visit the many Jain museums and temples, some of which make for excellent trekking destinations too.
Photo by juggadery
- Get out of town – Rajgir can be the center for a trip to the many other historical locations in this area. These include Nalanda (12 km), Pawapuri (38 km), Bihar Sharif (25 km) and Kundalpur (18 km). Even Bodh Gaya is just 80 km away.
Getting There and Accommodation
The best time to visit Rajgir is between October and March. If you plan ahead, you can also catch the Rajgir Festival that typically takes place in late November. The international airports at Gaya and Patna (100 km) offer it great connectivity. While Rajgir does have a railway station, Gaya’s station has better train service. Regular bus services are available from Patna, Gaya and other major cities. Roads are great for driving your own car, though travelling at night is not advised.
Rajgir has a very good range of hotels and inns to serve all budgets. A good idea would be to book in advance in tourist season, after doing some basic research. For a small place, the food options can also be quite cosmopolitan here, but you have to try the many local delicacies, including some delightful sweets. And don’t miss at least one hearty lunch of daal, bhaat (boiled rice) and aloo ka bhujiya (a simple dish of potatoes cooked in mustard oil), especially after a dip in the hot spring. Chances are you’ll keep coming back for just this divine combination!
Featured Photo by mikeemesser