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Author of this article is Laxman Burdak लक्ष्मण बुरड़क
Location of Rajgir on Nalanda District Map
A map of Rajgir

Rajgir (राजगीर) is an ancient city in Nalanda district in Bihar. The city of Rajgir was called in ancient times as Rajagrija (राज-गृह) or Rājagṛha or Rājagaha in Pali. As per Alexander Cunningham, Xuanzang called it Kiu-she-kie-lo-pu-lo, or Kusagarapura, that is the " town of the Kusa Grass."[1] Kusagarapura was the original capital of Magadha, which was called Rajagriha, or the " Royal Residence." It was also named Girivraja, or the "hill-surrounded," which agrees with Hwen Thsang's description of it as a town " surrounded by mountains." Girivraja[2] is the name given in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the old capital of Jarasandha, king of Magadha, who was one of the principal actors in the Great War, about 1426 B.C..[3]

Variants of name


Jarasandha's Akhara at Rajgir
Jarasandha's Akhara at Rajgir

Rajagriha (राजगृह) is name of a Country mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi under Dhumadi (धूमादि) (4.2.127) group. [4]

According to Alexander Cunningham[5] Kusagarapura was the original capital of Magadha, which was called Rajagriha, or the " Royal Residence." It was also named Girivraja, or the "hill-surrounded," which agrees with Hwen Thsang's description of it as a town " surrounded by mountains." Girivraja[6] is the name given in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the old capital of Jarasandha, king of Magadha, who was one of the principal actors in the Great War, about 1426 B.C. The Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hian[7] describes the city as situated in a valley between five hills, at 4 li, or two-thirds of a mile, to the south of the new town of Rajagriha. The same position and about the same distance are given by Hwen Thsang, who also mentions some hot springs, which still exist. Fa-Hian

[p.463]: further states that the " five hills form a girdle like the walls of a town," which is an exact description of Old Rajagriha, or Purana Rajgir, as it is now called by the people. A similar description is given by Tumour from the Pali annals of Ceylon, where the five hills are named Gijjhakuto, Isigili, Webharo, Wepullo, and Pandawo[8] In the Mahabharata the five hills are named Vaihara, Varaha, Vrishabha, Rishi-giri, and Chaityaka;[9] but at present they are called Baibhar-giri, Vipula-giri, Ratna-giri, Udaya-giri, and Sona-giri.

It was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha, a state that would eventually evolve into the Mauryan Empire. Its date of origin is unknown, although ceramics dating to about 1000 BC have been found in the city. Mahabharata writes it as Girivraja/Giribraja

The name Rajgir might come from Sanskrit Rājagṛha 'house of the king' or "royal house", or the word Rajgir might have its origin in its plain literal meaning, "royal mountain". It was the ancient capital city of the Magadha kings until the 5th century BC when Ajatashatru moved the capital to Pataliputra. In those days, it was called Rajgrih, which translates as 'the home of Royalty'.

Magadha was the most powerful country before the rise of the Pandavas at Indraprastha, but after the fall of Jarasandha, the empire was divided. Jarasandha's son Sahdeva was installed by Pandavas at their capital Giribraja (Rajgir) and supported them in the War. His brother Jalasandha and other princes of Magadha sided with the Kauravas (V.64.6, 164.9).

पराच्याश च दाक्षिणात्याश च परवीरा गजयॊधिनः
अङ्गा वङ्गाश च पुण्ड्राश च मागधास ताम्रलिप्तकाः Mahabharata(8.17.2)

The epic Mahabharata calls it Girivraja and recounts the story of its king, Jarasandha, and his battle with the Pandava brothers and their allies Krishna. Jarasandha who hailed from this place had been defeated by Krishna 17 times. The 18th time Krishna left the battlefield without fighting. Because of this Krishna is also called 'ranacora' (one who has left the battlefield). Mahabharata recounts a wrestling match between Bhima, one of the pandavas, and Jarasandha, the then king of Rajgir. Jarasandha was invincible as his body could rejoin any dismembered limbs. According to the legend, Bhima split Jarasandha into two and threw the two halves facing opposite to each other so that they could not join.

There is a famous Jarasandha's Akhara (place where martial arts are practiced).

It is also mentioned in Buddhist and Jain scriptures, which give a series of place-names, but without geographical context. The attempt to locate these places is based largely on reference to them and to other locations in the works of Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, particularly Faxian and Xuanzang. It is on the basis of Xuanzang in particular that the site is divided into Old and New Rajgir. The former lies within a valley and is surrounded by low-lying hills. It is defined by an earthen embankment (the Inner Fortification), with which is associated the Outer Fortification, a complex of cyclopean walls that runs (with large breaks) along the crest of the hills. New Rajgir is defined by another, larger, embankment outside the northern entrance of the valley and next to the modern town.

It is sacred to the memory of the founders of both the religions: Buddhism and Jainism and associated with both the historical Buddha and Mahavira.

It was here that Gautama Buddha spent several months meditating, and preaching at Griddhkuta, ('Hill of the Vultures'). He also delivered some of his famous sermons and converted King Bimbisara of Magadha and countless others to his religion.On one of the hills is the Saptparni cave where the First Buddhist Council was held under the leadership of Maha Kassapa. Lord Mahavira spent fourteen years of his life at Rajgir and Nalanda, spending chaturmas (i.e. 4 months of the rainy season) at a single place in Rajgir (Rajgruhi) and the rest in the places in the vicinity. It was the capital of his favourite shishya (follower) king Shrenik. Thus Rajgir is a very important religious place for Jains also.

Rajgir is also famous for its association with Shishunaga Kings Bimbisara and Ajatashatru. Ajatashatru kept his father Bimbisara in captivity here. Ajatashatru is also credited with moving the capital to Pataliputra (modern Patna).


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[10] ने लेख किया है ...कीकट (AS, p.192) गया (बिहार) का परिवर्ती प्रदेश था. पुराणों के अनुसार बुद्धावतार कीकट देश में ही हुआ था. कीकट का सर्वप्रथम उल्लेख ऋग्वेद में है-- ' किंते कृण्वंति कीकटेषु गावो नाशिरं दुहे न तपन्ति धर्मं आनोभरप्रमगंदस्य वेदो नैचाशाखं के मधवत्रन्ध्यान:' 3,53, 14. इस उद्धरण में कीकट के शासक है प्रमगंद का उल्लेख है. यास्क के अनुसार (निरुक्त 6,32) कीकट अनार्य देश था. पुराण काल में कीकट मगध ही का एक नाम था तथा इससे सामन्यत: अपवित्र समझा जाता था; केवल गया और राजगृह तीर्थ रूप में पूजित थे-- 'कीकटेषु गया पुण्या पुण्यं राजगृहं वनम्' वायु पुराण 108,73. बृहद्धर्मपुराण में भी कीकट अनिष्ट देश माना गया है किन्तु कर्णदा और गया को अपवाद कहा गया है-- 'तत्र देशे गया नाम पुण्यदेशोस्ति वुश्रुत:, नदी च कर्णदा नाम पितृणां स्वर्गदायिनी' 26,47. श्रीमद्भागवत में कतिपय अपवित्र अथवा अनार्य लोगों के देशों में कीकट या मगध की गणना की गई है. महाभारत काल में भी ऐसी ही मान्यता थी. पांडवों की तीर्थ यात्रा के प्रसंग में वर्णन है कि वे जब मगध की [p.193] सीमा के अंदर प्रवेश करने जा रहे थे तो उनके सहयात्री ब्राह्मण वहां से लौट आए. संभव है कि इस मान्यता का आधार वैदिक सभ्यता का मगध या पूर्वोत्तर भारत में देर से पहुंचना हो. अथर्ववेद 5,22,14 से भी अंग और मगध का वैदिक सभ्यता के प्रसार के बाहर होना सिद्ध होता है. पुराण काल में शायद बौद्ध धर्म का केंद्र होने के कारण ही मगध को अपुण्य देश समझा जाता था.

दलीपसिंह अहलावत लिखते हैं -

राजगृह में पहली महासभा - महात्मा बुद्ध की मृत्यु के कुछ सप्ताह पश्चात् मगध की राजधानी राजगृह में 487 ई० पू० में अजातशत्रु ने बुलाई। इसमें भिन्न-भिन्न स्थानों से 500 भिक्षुओं ने भाग लिया। इसका सभापति महाकश्यप था। वहां बौद्ध-धर्म के तीन ग्रन्थ तैयार किये गये जो त्रिपिटक के नाम से प्रसिद्ध हैं। मगध पर जाटवंशज शासकों का राज्य था। [11]

In Mahabharata

Bhima's Conquests - Bhima was sent out to the East, since Bhishma thought the easterners were skilled in fighting from the backs of elephants and in fighting with bare arms, he deemed Bhima to be the most ideal person to wage wars in that region. The Mahabharata mentions several kingdoms to the east of Indraprastha which were conquered by Bhima. According to Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 26 & Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 27 Bhimasena subjugated the countries which include Girivraja.[12]

And winning them over to his side, the son of Kunti, possessed of great strength, marched against Magadha. On his way he subjugated the monarchs known by the names of Danda and Dandadhara, And accompanied by those monarchs, the son of Pandu marched against Girivraja. After bringing the son of Jarasandha under his sway by conciliation and making him pay tribute, the hero then accompanied by the monarchs he had vanquished, marched against Kansa. (II.27.14,15,16)

Visit by Fahian

(The travellers) went on from this (Pataliputra) to the south-east for nine yojanas, and came to a small solitary rocky hill,1 at the head or end of which2 was an apartment of stone, facing the south — the place where Buddha sat, when Sakra, Ruler of Devas, brought the deva-musician, Pancha-(sikha),3 to give pleasure to him by playing on his lute. Sakra then asked Buddha about forty-two subjects, tracing (the questions) out with his finger one by one on the rock.4 The prints of his tracing are still there; and here also there is a monastery.

A yojana south-west from this place brought them to the village of Nala,5 where Sariputtra6 was born, and to which also he returned, and attained here his pari-nirvana. Over the spot (where his body was burned) there was built a tope, which is still in existence.

Another yojana to the west brought them to New Rajagriha,7 — the new city which was built by king Ajatasatru. There were two monasteries in it. Three hundred paces outside the west gate, king Ajatasatru, having obtained one portion of the relics of Buddha, built (over them) a tope, high, large, grand, and beautiful. Leaving the city by the south gate, and proceeding south four le, one enters a valley, and comes to a circular space formed by five hills, which stand all round it, and have the appearance of the suburban wall of a city. Here was the old city of king Bimbisara; from east to west about five or six le, and from north to south seven or eight. It was here that Sariputtra and Maudgalyayana first saw Upasena;8 that the Nirgrantha9 made a pit of fire and poisoned the rice, and then invited Buddha (to eat with him); that king Ajatasatru made a black elephant intoxicated with liquor, wishing him to injure Buddha;10 and that at the north-east corner of the city in a (large) curving (space) Jivaka built a vihara in the garden of Ambapali,11 and invited Buddha with his 1250 disciples to it, that he might there make his offerings to support them. (These places) are still there as of old, but inside the city all is emptiness and desolation; no man dwells in it.

1 Called by Hsuan-chwang Indra-sila-guha, or “The cavern of Indra.” It has been identified with a hill near the village of Giryek, on the bank of the Panchana river, about thirty-six miles from Gaya. The hill terminates in two peaks overhanging the river, and it is the more northern and higher of these which Fa-hien had in mind. It bears an oblong terrace covered with the ruins of several buildings, especially of a vihara.

2 This does not mean the top or summit of the hill, but its “headland,” where it ended at the river.

3 See the account of this visit of Sakra in M. B., pp. 288-290. It is from Hardy that we are able to complete here the name of the musician, which appears in Fa-hien as only Pancha, or “Five.” His harp or lute, we are told, was “twelve miles long.”

4 Hardy (M. B., pp. 288, 289) makes the subjects only thirteen, which are still to be found in one of the Sutras (“the Dik-Sanga, in the Sakra-prasna Sutra”). Whether it was Sakra who wrote his questions, or Buddha who wrote the answers, depends on the punctuation. It seems better to make Sakra the writer.

5 Or Nalanda; identified with the present Baragong. A grand monastery was subsequently built at it, famous by the residence for five years of Hsuan-chwang.

6 See chap. xvi, note 11. There is some doubt as to the statement that Nala was his birthplace.

7 The city of “Royal Palaces;” “the residence of the Magadha kings from Bimbisara to Asoka, the first metropolis of Buddhism, at the foot of the Gridhrakuta mountains. Here the first synod assembled within a year after Sakyamuni’s death. Its ruins are still extant at the village of Rajghir, sixteen miles S.W. of Behar, and form an object of pilgrimage to the Jains (E. H., p. 100).” It is called New Rajagriha to distinguish it from Kusagarapura, a few miles from it, the old residence of the kings. Eitel says it was built by Bimbisara, while Fa-hien ascribes it to Ajatasatru. I suppose the son finished what the father had begun.

8 One of the five first followers of Sakyamuni. He is also called Asvajit; in Pali Assaji; but Asvajit seems to be a military title= “Master or trainer of horses.” The two more famous disciples met him, not to lead him, but to be directed by him, to Buddha. See Sacred Books of the East, vol. xiii, Vinaya Texts, pp. 144-147.

9 One of the six Tirthyas (Tirthakas=“erroneous teachers;” M. B., pp. 290-292, but I have not found the particulars of the attempts on Buddha’s life referred to by Fa-hien), or Brahmanical opponents of Buddha. He was an ascetic, one of the Jnati clan, and is therefore called Nirgranthajnati. He taught a system of fatalism, condemned the use of clothes, and thought he could subdue all passions by fasting. He had a body of followers, who called themselves by his name (Eitel, pp. 84, 85), and were the forerunners of the Jains.

10 The king was moved to this by Devadatta. Of course the elephant disappointed them, and did homage to Sakyamuni. See Sacred Books of the East, vol. xx, Vinaya Texts, p. 247.

11 See chap. xxv, note 3. Jivaka was Ambapali’s son by king Bimbisara, and devoted himself to the practice of medicine. See the account of him in the Sacred Books of the East, vol. xvii, Vinaya Texts, pp. 171-194.

Visit by Xuanzang in 637 AD

Alexander Cunningham[13] writes that The new town of Rajagriha is placed by Fa-Hian at 4 li, or two-thirds of a mile, to the north of the old town, which agrees exactly with the position of the ruined fortress now called Rajgir.

The new town of Rajagriha is said to have been built by King Srenika, otherwise called Bimbisara, the father of Ajatasatru, the contemporary of Buddha. Its foundation cannot therefore be placed later than 560 B.C. according to Buddhist chronology. In Hwen Thsang's time (A.D. 629-642), the outer walls had already become ruinous, but the inner walls were still standing and occupied a circuit of 20 li (3-1/3 miles). This statement corresponds tolerably well with the measurements of my survey, which make the circuit of the ramparts somewhat less than 3 miles. Buchanan calls new Eg,jagriha an irregular pentagon of 12,000 yards in diameter. This is clearly a misprint for 1200 yards, which would give a circuit of 11,300 feet, or 2-1/8 miles ; but this was probably the interior measurement, which, according to my survey, is 13,000 feet. The plan of new Rajagriha I make out to be

[p.468]: an irregular pentagon of one long side and four nearly equal sides, the wliole circuit being 14,260 feet out- side tlie ditches, or rather less than 3 miles.

On the south side towards the hills a portion of the interior, 2000 feet long and 1500 feet broad, has been cut off to form a citadel. The stone walls retaining the earthen ramparts of this work are still in good order in many places. It is possible that this work may be of later date, as suggested by Buchanan, but I am of opinion that it was simply the citadel of the new town, and that its walls have suffered less from the effects of time, owing partly to their having been more carefully and more massively built than the less important ramparts of the town, and partly to their having been occasionally repaired as a military posi- tion by the authorities, while the repairs of the town walls were neglected as being either unnecessary or too costly.

Kings of Magadha

Ancestry of Magadha Kings

Brihadratha Dynasty

Semi-legendary rulers in Purana accounts.

Pradyota dynasty

Pradyota ancestry

Ruling 799-684 BC according to calculations based on the Vayu Purana.

Hariyanka dynasty (545 BC-346 BC)

Shishunaga dynasty (430-364 BC)


  1. Julien's ' Hiouen Thsang,' iii. 15.
  2. Lassen, Ind. Alterthum, i. 604.
  3. The Ancient Geography of India: I. The Buddhist Period, Including the ...By Sir Alexander Cunningham, p.462
  4. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.509
  5. The Ancient Geography of India: I. The Buddhist Period, Including the ...By Sir Alexander Cunningham, p.462-463
  6. Lassen, Ind. Alterthum, i. 604.
  7. Beal's 'Fah-Hian,' c. xxviii. 112.
  8. Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal 1838, p. 996.
  9. Lassen, Ind. Alterthum, ii. 79. The five hills are all shown in Map No. XII.
  10. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.192
  11. Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Chapter V (Page 473)
  12. ततः सुह्मान पराच्य सुह्मान समक्षांश चैव वीर्यवान, विजित्य युधि कौन्तेयॊ मागधान उपयाथ बली (II.27.14) दण्डं च दण्डधारं च विजित्य पृदिवीपतीन, तैर एव सहितः सर्वैर गिरिव्रजम उपाथ्रवत (II.27.15) जारा संधिं सान्त्वयित्वा करे च विनिवेश्य ह, तैर एव सहितॊ राजन कर्णम अभ्यथ्रवथ बली (II.27.16)
  13. The Ancient Geography of India/Magadha, p.467-468

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