Rajgir (historically known as Girivraj) is an ancient city and a notified in Nalanda district in the Indian state of Bihar. The city of Rajgir was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha, a state that would eventually evolve into the Mauryan Empire. The city finds mention in India’s greatest literary epic, the Mahabharata, through its king Jarasandha. Its date of origin is unknown, although ceramics dating to about 1000 BC have been found in the city. The famous 2,500-year old Cyclopean Wall (Cyclopean masonry) is located in the city. This area is also notable in Jainism and Buddhism. It was the birthplace of the 20th Jain Tirthankar Munisuvrata, and is closely associated with the arihant Mahavira and Gautama Buddha. Both Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha taught their beliefs in Rajgir during the 6th and 5th century BC.
The ancient Nalanda university was located in the vicinity of Rajgir, and the contemporary Nalanda University named after it was founded in 2010 at Rajgir. It was also through Rajgir that the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka travelled to Bodh Gaya around 250 BC, when placing the diamond throne (Vajrasana) at the great temple where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
The first Buddhist Council, immediately after the Mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha, was convened at this place which presently is called Rajgir.
It was at the Gridhakuta, the hill of the vultures, where Buddha made Bimbisara convert to Buddhism.
Rajgir is also known as Panchpahari as it is surrounded by five holy hills.
The legend has it that the ancient city Rajagriha existed even before Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
It was the ancient capital city of the Magadh rulers until the 5th century BC when Ajatashatru moved the capital to Pataliputra (which is now known as Patna).
Lord Mahavira too spent 14 years of his life at Rajgir and nearby areas.
Rajgir is also famous for its association with Haryanka dynasty Kings Bimbisara (558–491 BC) and Ajatashatru (492–460 BC) as their capital city. Ajatashatru kept his father Bimbsara in captivity here. The sources do not agree which of the Buddha’s royal contemporaries, Bimbisara and Ajatashatru, was responsible for its construction. Ajatashatru is also credited with moving the capital to Pataliputra (modern Patna).
The name Rajgir came from Rājagṛiha, meaning “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 Udayin(460–440 BC), son of Ajatshatru, moved the capital to Pataliputra. In those days, it was called Rajgriha, which translates as ‘the home of Royalty’.
Shishunaga (413-395 BC) founded Shishunaga dynasty in 413 BCE with Rajgir as its initial capital before it was moved to Pataliputra.
The epic Mahabharata calls it Girivraja and recount 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 ‘ranachorh’ (one who has left the battlefield). Mahabharata recounts a wrestling match between Bhima (one of the Pandavas) and Jarasandha, the then king of Magadha. Jarasandha was invincible as his body could rejoin any dismembered limbs. According to the legend, Bhim 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).