Bihar Chronicles: Being Pilgrim in Rajgir

Temple on the hill
                                            Secluded Temple on a hill
Now it was time to visit the other side of Ganges so I headed back to Patna for spending couple of days. Patna became my comfort zone in Bihar and the base camp for journeys in bar pattern… courtesy to my friend for arranging everything… Leaving patna for the last time sparked a mild waves of fear in my conscious… while fighting with the gust of dust at Bus stand, I boarded the bus to Rajgir and said my final good bye to Patna, the capital of Bihar… Somewhere in the mind I knew that it’s not the direct bus and conductor lied to me just for making extra money but I was sure enough to reach somewhere closer to Rajgir. Ganges was swelling at its full swing and swept away many villages situated closer to its bank. Roads were also wiped out due to flood and many patches were closed. Relief efforts for affected villages were functional obliviously but quite determinately. Flood impacted region was only accessible on wooden boats and food packets were transferred as a relief. It’s a perennial problem of Bihar thus does not attract media because there is not much money covering these disasters. Potholed ride to Rajgir ended to a city called Patna Bihar from where I boarded another bus to Rajgir. Intermittent drizzle welcomed me in the city of Rajgir which was hosting a pilgrim congregation around Brahmakund, the famous hot water spring.
Hills around Rajgir
                                                    Hills around Rajgir
Set amid the seven low rising hills and bush land, having its root back to 1000 BC, Rajgir is the first capital of Magadha Kingdom and was previously known as Rajagriha. Rajgir is highly revered site with close association with the founders of both Buddhism and Jainism. Lord Buddha and Mahavira have spent significant time around Rajgir. With umpteen archeological sites and ruins of Nalanda University, Rajgir is a delightful extension for the travelers to Bodhgaya....a true abode of Kings, that's what it means..
Tonga Stand Rajgir
                                           Tonga Stand Rajgir
Soon after lodging into a nasty hotel, I headed to Nalanda which is some 12 km south-west to Rajgir. Rain was a great relief from the blistering sultriness which I had been facing since I arrived in Bihar but Rain has also spoiled the occasional moments of photography. Few kms before Nalanda circle, Shared Auto stopped at a little town named Silao which has a line of sweet shops selling Khaza (Specialty of Silao I guess). I have experienced Khaza in Uttar Pradesh but this one looked different. It is more like square patties dipped into sugar syrup. It started downpour heavily which made me bit concerned about my camera. In 30 mins, Auto starts again and dropped me at Nalanda circle where I hired a Rickshaw to the excavation site.
Temple 3 Nalanda
                                                 Temple 3 Nalanda
Excavation site of Nalanda is quite fascinating not just for the ruins unearthed but for the historical accounts associated with it. It was one of the oldest Universities of the world and had thousands of students at its prime time. I have written an independent article primarily about historical and archeological details of excavation site so I will refrain myself to go more in details here. My Guide told me that when Nalanda was set to fire by Muslim invaders, it burnt for months because all the literature was inscribed on copper leaves….quite appealing isn’t it …It’s a huge complex which I strolled for a while in between the drizzles. ASI has done a remarkable job with the restoration of ruins and maintaining the temples. Travelers are not allowed to climb staircases of Temple 3 which is the prime attraction of excavation site. In some years, ASI will start the excavations in remaining part to unearth more structures of that time. Despite my ordinary knowledge in archeology, Nalanda looked quite intriguing site. It kept me occupied for more than 2 hours. However overgrown bushes around the ruins make some of the temples invisible to discerned visitors. Soon after trolling the entire promenade in the complex, I headed out to Nalanda Museum which is just opposite to excavation site. Shops selling DVDs about the history of Nalanda University and souvenirs are lined up on both sides of the street. I was much inclined for evening snacks, coconut water and buying water bottles. Due to the break at road side vendor, I missed the visit to Nalanda Museum in which I was superficially interested.  
View from the Top of Ratnagiri Hills
                                          View from the Top of Ratnagiri Hills
Soon after appeasing appetite, I walked towards Black Buddha which is supposedly at walkable distance from Museum. Yet again I was mistaken as a foreigner from some Buddhist country. I doubted why tanning is showing contrary results. A group of school kids directed me to Black Buddha statue which appeared to be somewhere in the countryside surrounded by paddy fields. I kept walking for half an hour but did not get any clue about the temple or anything. Oddly enough but there was also none to help me further so I decided to retrace my steps back to Nalanda. Another gaze to the map of Nalanda made me bit disappointed because I had devoted too much of time visiting one sight. Opposite to the ticket counter, there was couple of Tonga walas offering ride till the main road. This part of Bihar was dominated by Tonga as public transport… it’s quite a ride indeed on uneven roads with occasional potholes.. Roller coaster in just 10 INR and I was back to main road catching another transport to Rajgir.
An Inscription at Ratnagiri Hill
                                           An Inscription at Ratnagiri Hill
Pilgrims side of Rajgir is some 2 km away from the main town (Bus stand) and always has Tonga plying between. Rajgir is surrounded by partially gone fortification walls snaking over the hills. It started to drizzle in the evening that inhibited my walk into the bush land which was lush green some part and muddy some part. Evening prayers in the temples around Bramhakund became the highlight of the day. As religious chanting gets louder, clouds disappeared displaying the crystal clear milkyway. Rajgir Bazar is well decorated with lightings and colorful friezes where pilgrims hustle around to buy images of God and Goddess, auspicious vermilion and all. For me evening was over just after finishing Rajasthani Thali at a Marwari Bhojnalay and I sneaked back to my hotel room which turned bit clammy due to rainfall… ..Slumbered again….
Chairlift to Ratnagiri Hill
                                         Chairlift to Ratnagiri Hill
My laziness started to take its toll on my travel. In the morning, I scurrie my way to the nearest restaurants for breakfast and tea before negotiating with a Tonga wala to drop me till the base of Vishwa Shanti Stupa (6 km). Mistakenly I hired a Rikshaw instead of Tonga which would have been a faster ride. I assumed it soothing ride through placid bush land on an even road but it turned sluggish after a while on those gradual slopes. Looking at panting Rikshaw wala, I got down from the Rikshaw couple of times and finally made it to the chairlift office in an hour. Vishwa Shanti Stupa will be just an hour hike from the bottom but I preferred to take the chairlift to make my memoir more comforting. Unlike other ropeways of the country, this one is just a chair (not a closed compartment) carrying one person. For a concerned visitor, it will definitely trigger mild apprehension. After passing a long queue, I boarded the chairlift to the hill top.  Along the ropeway, I took some panoramic shot of the green valley underneath. Hills around Rajgir are largely arid and comprise large boulders. These are low rising with uneven tract of forests. In some 20 minutes, I made to hill top and took the lesser crowded lane to Vishwa Shanti Stupa.
Vishwashanti Stupa at Rajgir
                                          Vishwashanti Stupa at Rajgir
Built by Japanese in 1969,it is whitewashed 40 m high peace pagoda like any other.  It’s positioning on hill top might be intriguing visitors around the globe. On the periphery of the stupa, I saw some women making swastik sign with pebbles on the ground. It held my attention for a while before I marked my way to a large metal bell outside the stupa. Horde of Pilgrims were occupying all the desired places where I could sit and gaze out on the distant horizon so I preferred to take the chairlift back to the ground and head elsewhere.
Ratnagiri Hill Trek
                                              Ratnagiri Hill Trek
Bihar Tourism Department is doing a remarkable job to promote Rajgir as an alternative to Bodhgaya. All the tourist sites are well marked and easily accessible through Tanga. Rajgir tourist map is also placed in all the key locations of the town.  For temple visitors, there is a lot in and around Rajgir but I only could walk till Japanese temple before hitting another restaurant for lunch. I enquired with a Tanga wala but hiring a private one would have been heavy on my pocket so quit the idea of usual sight-seeing. Overcast weather made the surroundings look greener and clouds were almost touching the hills. Besides innumerous temples (Significant to all religions) and archaeological sites, Rajgir itself is a delight to meandering around the arid bush land. Flock of pilgrims hires these tongas frantically plying between religious sites.  Soon after it started to drizzle and I pushed into the bus to Gaya for another slow pace journey in Bihar.
Rajgir Tourist Map
                                                 Rajgir Tourist Map

How to reach Rajgir: I think the best way to reach Rajgir is via Trains. There are couples of trains from Patna and one direct train from Delhi as well. Alternatively you can catch any private bus to Bihar Sarif from Patna which will take 3-4 hours depending upon the road condition which gets worse post monsoon. From Bihar Sharif, either catch another private bus or ridiculously crowded jeeps to Rajgir (10 INR, 1 hour)
 

Where to stay in Rajgir: Rajgir is a major pilgrim’s destination of Bihar hence it is blessed with all sort of accommodation options scattered around the town. Mob of pilgrims make their tents in the open fields or occupy Dharmshalas. For budget backpackers, there are couples of nasty lodges near Bus stand. One can get a room as low as 300 INR in those cramped hotels with narrowed staircases.

Where to eat in Rajgir: Better choices of restaurants are available opposite to Brahmakund hot springs (2 km South to Bus stand). There are plenty of Marwari, Jain Bhojnalaya on that street and serves cheap Thali. You would not find good eateries in Rajgir town around Bus stand. Hit one of the restaurants opposite to Brahmakund, these are decent.

Marooned in Rajgir
                                                Marooned in Rajgir

 

Tourist attractions around Rajgir:
* Hire a private tonga for half day (250-300 INR) to visit all the key tourist attractions around Rajgir however hiking till Vishwa Shanti Stupa and Vulture peak will add waiting time so Tonga guy may charge more.
* Vishwa Shanti Stupa, Venuvan Vihar, Hot Spring, Veerayatan Museum, Maniyar Math, Sawrn Bhandar, Bimbisar Jail, Old Fort wall, Digambar Jain Temple, Saptarni Cave, Jivak Amra Van, Griddhakuta (Vulture’s peak)

 

 

 

Bihar Chronicles: In Chronological order

Bihar Chronicles: Clueless in Patna

Bihar Chronicles: Kesariya Stupa, under the Grassy and Wooded veil

Bihar Chronicles: Vaishali, tumbling across countryside of Bihar

Bihar Chronicles: Being Pilgrim in Rajgir

Bihar Chronicles: Growing (Within) Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya

Bihar Chronicles: Lost Monuments of Sasaram

Hi Vishnu, Your article is

Hi Vishnu,

Your article is vary short and nice. I can see that you visit lots of places, it increase my hunger to explore the world. I wish to go to the place and also put all the
relevant information to my blog but my journey was cancelled due to delay of Indian railways.details in http://www.holidaystory.in/rajgir-tour/

Thanks
Ruma Dey Baidya

I remember the colorful Tonga

I remember the colorful Tonga stand of Rajgir and the antique ropeway that goes to the Japanese Pagoda. There is a rusticness about the state of Bihar. Did you eat Khaja and Lai ?

Thanks for your comment, Mam.

Thanks for your comment, Mam. Yes, I eaten Khaja and Lai one the way to Rajgir. Indeed, this region is blessed with its own rustic charm. keep dropping by.

Rajgir se 20 k.m. north me

Rajgir se 20 k.m. north me ramchandrapur ke pass barrgaau me asnaal kare aapka problem solve hoga

hmmm ok

hmmm ok

I am going through your

I am going through your travelogue about Bihar and it is amusing to see that you couldn't find anything beautiful about the place, except for a few stray comments from you about the helpful people of Bihar. This is not surprising given the superficial nature of your visit-- touch and go type, the general tendency of going with what the mainstream media writes (particulary Engish media which has a large number of ex-Biharis who have been instrumental in shaping this image about Bihar), the woeful public transport system which you used, and your lack of reading about the pace before visiting.

Your visit to Rajgir seems to have been completely wasted. This is the first imperial capital of India and you couldn't find anything to write about the people who lived here and rules India. There are so many ruins which you could have seen and commented upon--not only the fashionable Buddhist and Jaina ruins but also Brahminical and Naga ruins. For your information, Naga people once ruled a large part of India (before the rise of people following Vedas and Puranas) and even now they are spread all across the country, and their cult of snake worship is an important constituent of modern day Hinduism. To my knowldge, Rajgir has the maximum number of ruins datin to that period. For instance, the 40 KM long massive Cyclopean wall (with similarities to surprisingly similar walls in Greece) dates back to the time to Jarasandha (as mentioned in Mahabharata). 

Rajgir was one of the major centres which witnesssed the birth of largescale mining, manufacuture and commerce in the historial age--which ws responsible for making the place the most imporatnt town in the country after the Harappan civilisation. During the time of Buddha no town could match Rajgir in terms of grand buildings, residences of citizens, civil amenities incluidng public baths, religious buildings including Maniar Math, fortification with accessories like watch towers and bastions, roads (one of which ad walls on both sides) and the entire story can be seen in the ruins.

Sadly you missed all this.

Thank you very much for

Thank you very much for giving time to read my blog posts about Bihar. I appreciate you dropped the comment with your findings and added such an informative insight about Rajgir which many of us were not aware of.

I got the glimpse of grandeue which Rajgir once possesed but sadly i could not make a comprehensive trip.

You are absolutely right that it was touch and go sort of trip and I should have spent more time in Bihar to present much better picture of the state. Next time, i will try to make it up to your expecations.

I would appreciate more comments/critical criticism for my other travel stories and please do add your inputs related to history, legends associated with the places.

at last, I offer my sincere apologies if my travel diaries hurt anyone's sentiments.

+- Vishnu

Hello   Bhai app se ek baat

Hello

 

Bhai app se ek baat puchani thi

 

kya rajgir (bihar) me koyi aisi jagah hai jahan par skin ki sari bimari thik hoti hai bas kewal asnaal kar lene se

 

agar ho to please mujhe batane ka kast karen aur rajgir se kitan KM hoga ye bhi batain

 

thanks virender yadav

lucknow india

Rajgir ke pass ek pond hai

Rajgir ke pass ek pond hai jahan theertyatri snan karne jaate hain... woe rajgir main hi hai... walking distance padega... lekin mujhe pata nahi ki usase skim ki beemari theek hoti hai...

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