By Madhu Mishra
Bihar/Rajgir (Nalanda): The historic township of Rajgir of Nalanda district in Bihar has added a few more attractions for tourists recently when the state chief minister Nitish Kumar inaugurated a sprawling nature’s safari, the first of its kind glass suspension bridge in the country, cabin ropeway and zipline for cycling, besides additional cabin ropeway.
Rajgir, which continues to attract the followers for Buddhism and Jainism across the world for its religious significance, has been in the focus of the state government for infrastructure development ever since Nitish Kumar took over as its CM in 2005. An international cricket stadium with seating capacity of 40000 sports’ enthusiasts is likely to be opened soon as the only sporting complex in the state with international standards.
Known as the first capital of Magadh Kingdom, Rajgir, also known as Rajgraha, later evolved as centre to the Mauryan Empire and also finds its mention in the greatest literary epic of Mahabharata through its king Jarasandh. Although ceramics dating to about 1000 BC have been found in the city,
The nature safari, developed by the Department of Forests, Environment and Climate Change in over 500 hectares of land endowed with thick forest along Rajgir-Jethian Buddha Marg, will have a number of wild animals roaming around soon. Arrangements are being made to bring animals from other zoos by the officials.
Besides historic value associated with Rajgir, the city also holds special significance for political developments in the state. It is said CM Kumar usually goes to Rajgir for break before taking major political and administrative decisions. Kumar had decided to desert the RJD-led Grand Alliance and re-join hands with its old ally, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), in August 2017 after resting at Rajgir.
The city has been attracting historians and tourists from across the globe for other many classic structures associated with religions and monuments with archaic values.
The World Peace Stupa
It is a white colour huge structure set up atop Ratnagiri hills with statues of Lord Buddha mounted on it in four directions. It also has a small Japanese Buddhist Temple with a large park. There is a temple near the stupa where prayers are done for universal peace. The initial pagoda reached completion in 1969. New initiatives in 1993 resulted in the present form. It is one of around 80 Peace Pagodas which have been built around the world by the neo-Buddhist organisation Nipponzan Myohoji.
These were a dream of Fujii Nichidatsu, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, in response to the atomic bombing of Japan. There is an old ropeway connected to Vishwa Shanti Stupa from the foothills.
Thousands of people visit there to take bath in the most famous hot spring, popularly known as “Brahmkund”, which is believed to be having divine power to cure many skin diseases. As it is a matter of faith, many temples have come up around the spring. People offer prayers after taking bath in the bathing area, which has been developed for the devotees.
However, climate change, growing deforestation in the nearby areas and falling level of underground water has posed a serious threat to the site, with the flow of water to the springs through spouts from ‘Saptdhara’, the seven streams behind the ‘Saptami caves’ in the hills, virtually stopping.
Veerayatan Museum is a fascinating Jain museum showcasing history of each of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras. It features ornate dollhouses like 3-D panel depictions made from wood and metal. One will also see a lot of amazing arts on display here by an artist Arharya Shri who resides here and are a must watch.
The beautiful museum opened in 1982 in Rajgir and has more than 50 diorama panels consisting of artistic handmade representations of the lives and teachings of the 24 Tirthankaras. This is a very popular visitors’ place, having more than five million visitors to its credit. A visit to the gallery is no less than a pilgrimage.
Swarn Bhandar caves
The Son Bhandar caves, also Sonebhandar, are two artificial caves located in Rajgir. They belonged to the Jains. The caves are generally dated to the 3rd or 4th century CE, based on the dedicatory inscription found in the largest cave which uses Gupta Script of the 4th century CE, although some authors have suggested the caves could actually go back to the period of the Mauryan Empire from 319 to 180 BCE.
The main cave is rectangular with a pointed ceiling, and the entrance is trapezoidal, reminiscent of the structure of the Barabar caves (the first artificial caves of India, dated the 3rd century BCE). The quality of the Mauryan Polish and the finish are nevertheless much inferior. The stone of Son Bhandar is also much less hard than Granite of the Barabar caves.
At a distance of 2 km from Swarn Bhandar, and 5 km from Rajgir Railway Station, Bimbisara Jail is an ancient monument located in Rajgir, Bihar. Situated on the way to Griddhakuta Hill, it is one of the well-known places of heritage in Bihar, and among the best places to visit in Rajgir.
Bimbisara Jail is believed to be the place where Bimbisara was confined by his son King Ajatshatru. Legend says that King Bimbisara was detained and held captive by his son Ajatshatru, during his last days of life. It is said that King Bimbisara decided to stay in this small room of the prison during his last days as he could see Lord Buddha, who was residing in the fort at that time going to Girddhkuta Parvat to deliver his sermons every morning.
Situated on the southern side of Maniyar Math, it is surrounded by high walls and stone pillars. It is a famous tourist spot, where tourists gather to witness the remains of rich Indian history. Here from the site, the tourists also get to see a scenic view of the Japanese Peace Pagoda, which lies at the top of the hill.
Ghora Katora Lake : Ghora Katora Lake is a beautiful spot near Rajgir. It is said that the horses of the kings of Rajgir used to drink water here. The shape of the lake resembles that of a horse and the lake is surrounded by mountains on three sides. It is located near World Peace Pagoda. Surrounded by hills, the lake looks picturesque and makes for an ideal trip. Horse carts or tongas and bicycles help tourists reach them. One can enjoy boating here. It is a very relaxing place and all one can hear is the sound of wind and water.
Dating back to 2500 years ago, the Cyclopean walls are 4 meters wide and encircle the city, being 40 km long. It was built by the Mauryans with an objective to fortify the city. Today most of it stands in ruins.
The wall is said to have been built to protect the city from external enemies and invaders. It is among the oldest specimens of Cyclopean Masonry across the world. It was erected by the rulers before 3rd century BC using massive undressed stones.