Eighty kilometres northeast of Bodhgaya, the small market town of Rajgir nestles in rocky hills that witnessed the meditations and teachings of both the Buddha and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. The capital of the Magadha kingdom before Pataliputra (Patna), Rajgir was also where King Bimbisara converted to Buddhism. Rajgir is also regarded as a health resort because of its hot springs, 1km south of town, which can get unpleasantly crowded, especially as the neighbouring Laxmi Narayan Temple has become a popular destination for Hindus not wishing to miss out on Rajgir’s Buddhist and Jain pilgrimage fest.
A Japanese shrine at Venuvana Vihara marks the spot where a monastery was built for Buddha to live in, while at Griddhakuta (Vulture’s Peak), on Ratnagiri Hill, 3km from the town centre, Buddha set in motion his second “Wheel of Law”. The massive modern Peace Pagoda, built by the Japanese, dominates Ratnagiri Hill and can be reached by a rickety chairlift.