A city, the capital of Magadha. There seem to have been two distinct towns;
the older one, a hill fortress, more properly called Giribbaja, was very ancient
and is said (VvA. p.82; but cp. D.ii.235, where seven cities are attributed to
his foundation) to have been laid out by Mahāgovinda, a skilled architect. The
later town, at the foot of the hills, was evidently built by
Hiouen Thsang says (Beal., ii.145) that the old capital occupied by
Bimbisāra was called Kusāgra. It was afflicted by frequent fires, and Bimbisāra, on the
advice of his ministers, abandoned it and built the new city on the site of the
old cemetery. The building of this city was hastened on by a threatened invasion
by the king of Vesāli. The city was called
Rājagaha because Bimbisāra was the
first person to occupy it. Both Hiouen Thsang and Fa Hsien (Giles: 49) record
another tradition which ascribed the foundation of the new city to
Pargiter (Ancient Ind. Historical Tradition, p.149) suggests that the old
city was called Kusāgrapura, after Kusāgra, an early king of Magadha. In the
Rāmāyana (i. 7, 32) the city is called Vasumatī. The Mahābhārata gives other
names - Bārhadrathapura (ii.24, 44), Varāha, Vrsabha, Rsigiri, Caityaka
It was also called Bimbisārapurī and Magadhapura (SnA..ii.584).
But both names were used indiscriminately (E.g., S. N. vs. 405), though
Giribbaja seems, as a name, to have been restricted to verse passages. The place
was called Giribbaja (mountain stronghold) because it was surrounded by five
hills - Pandava, Gijjhakūta, Vebhāra, Isigili and Vepulla* - and Rājagaha,
because it was the seat of many kings, such as Mandhātā and Mahāgovinda
(SnA..ii.413). It would appear, from the names given of the kings, that the city
was a very ancient royal capital. In the
Vidhurapandita Jātaka (J.vi.271),
Rājagaha is called the capital of Anga. This evidently refers to a time when
Anga had subjugated Magadha.
* SnA.ii.382; it is said (M.iii.68) that these hills, with the exception of
Isigili, were once known by other names e.g., Vankaka for Vepulla (S.ii.191).
The Samyutta (i.206) mentions another peak near Rājagaha - Indakūta. See
The Commentaries (E.g., SnA. loc. cit) explain that the city was inhabited
only in the time of Buddhas and
Cakkavatti kings; at other times it was the
abode of Yakkhas who used it as a pleasure resort in spring. The country to the
north of the hills was known as Dakkhināgiri (SA.i.188).
Rājagaha was closely associated with the Buddha's work. He visited it soon
after the Renunciation, journeying there on foot from the River Anomā, a
distance of thirty leagues (J.i.66). Bimbisāra saw him begging in the street,
and, having discovered his identity and the purpose of his quest, obtained from
him a promise of a visit to Rājagaha as soon as his aim should be achieved (See
the Pabbajjā Sutta and its Commentary). During the first year after the
Enlightenment therefore, the Buddha went to Rājagaha from
Gayā, after the
conversion of the Tebhātika Jatilas.
Bimbisāra and his subjects gave the Buddha
a great welcome, and the king entertained him and a large following of monks in
the palace. It is said that on the day of the Buddha's entry into the royal
quarters, Sakka led the procession, in the guise of a young man, singing songs
of praise of the Buddha. It was during this visit that Bimbisāra gifted
to the Order and that the Buddha received Sāriputta and
Moggallāna as his
disciples. (Details of this visit are given in Vin.i.35ff ). Large numbers of
householders joined the Order, and people blamed the Buddha for breaking up
their families. But their censure lasted for only seven days. Among those
ordained were the Sattarasavaggiyā with
Upāli at their head.
The Buddha spent his first vassa in Rājagaha and remained there during the
winter and the following summer. The people grew tired of seeing the monks
everywhere, and, on coming to know of their displeasure, the Buddha went first
to Dakkhināgiri and then to
According to the Buddhavamsa Commentary (p.13), the Buddha spent also in
Rājagaha the third, fourth, seventeenth and twentieth vassa. After the twentieth
year of his teaching, he made Sāvatthi his headquarters, though he seems
frequently to have visited and stayed at Rājagaha. It thus became the scene of
several important suttas - e.g., the Atānātiya,
Jīvaka, Mahāsakuladāyī, and
incidents in the Buddha's life connected with Rājagaha, see
Gotama. The most
notable of these was the taming of Nālāgiri.
Many of the Vinaya rules were enacted at Rājagaha. Just before his death, the
Buddha paid a last visit there. At that time, Ajātasattu was contemplating an
attack on the Vajjians, and sent his minister, Vassakāra, to the Buddha at
Gijjhakūta, to find out what his chances of success were (D.ii.72).
After the Buddha's death, Rājagaha was chosen by the monks, with
at their head, as the meeting place of the First Convocation. This took place at
the Sattapanniguhā, and
Ajātasattu extended to the undertaking his whole
hearted patronage (Vin.ii.285; Sp.i.7f.; DA.i.8f., etc.). The king also erected
at Rājagaha a cairn over the relics of the Buddha, which he had obtained as his
share (D.ii.166). According to the Mahā Vamsa, (Mhv.Xxxi.21; MT. 564) some time
later, acting on the suggestion of Mahā Kassapa, the king gathered at Rājagaha
seven donas of the Buddha's relics which had been deposited in various places -
excepting those deposited at Rāmagāma - and built over them a large thūpa.
It was from there that Asoka obtained relics for his vihāras.
Rājagaha was one of the six chief cities of the Buddha's time, and as such,
various important trade routes passed through it. The others cities were
Kosambī and Benares (D.ii.147).
The road from Takkasilā to Rājagaha was one hundred and ninety two leagues
long and passed through Sāvatthi, which was forty five leagues from Rājagaha.
This road passed by the gates of Jetavana (MA.ii.987; SA.i.243). The Parāyana
Vagga (Sn. vss.1011-3) mentions a long and circuitous route, taken by
disciples in going from Patitthāna to Rājagaha, passing through
Ujjeni, Gonaddha, Vedisā.
Kusinārā, on to Rājagaha, by way of the usual places (see below).
From Kapilavatthu to Rājagaha was sixty leagues (AA.i.115; MA.i.360). From
Rājagaha to Kusinārā was a distance of twenty five leagues (DA.ii.609), and the
Mahā Parinibbāna Sutta (D.ii.72ff ) gives a list of the places at which the
Buddha stopped during his last journey along that road -
Nālandā, Pātaligāma (where he crossed the Ganges),
Kotigāma, Nādikā (??),
Vesāli, Bhandagāma, Hatthigāma, Ambagāma, Jambugāma, Bhoganagara, Pāvā, and the Kakuttha
River, beyond which lay the Mango grove and the Sāla grove of the Mallas.
From Rājagaha to the Ganges was a distance of five leagues, and when the
Buddha visited Vesāli at the invitation of the Licchavis, the kings on either
side of the river vied with each other to show him honour. DhA.iii.439f.; also
Mtu.i.253ff.; according to Dvy. (p.55) the Ganges had to be crossed between
Rājagaha and Sāvatthi, as well, by boat, some of the boats belonging to the king
of Magadha and others to the Licchavis of Vesāli.
The distance between Rājagaha and Nālandā is given as one league, and the
Buddha often walked between the two (DA.i.35).
The books mention various places besides Veluvana, with its Kalandaka-nivāpa
vihāra in and around Rājagaha - e.g., Sītavana, Jīvaka's Ambavana,
Pipphaliguhā, Udumbarikārāma, Moranivāpa with its Paribbājakārāma, Tapodārāma,
Indasālaguhā in Vediyagiri, Sattapanniguhā, Latthivana, Maddakucchi,
Supatitthacetiya, Pāsānakacetiya, Sappasondikapabbhāra and the pond Sumāgadhā.
At the time of the Buddha’s death, there were eighteen large monasteries in
Rājagaha (Sp.i.9). Close to the city flowed the rivers Tapodā and Sappinī. In
the city was a Potter's Hall where travelers from far distances spent the night.
E.g., Pukkusāti (MA.ii.987); it had also a Town Hall (J.iv.72). The city gates
were closed every evening, and after that it was impossible to enter the city.
Vin.iv.116f.; the city had thirty-two main gates and sixty four smaller
entrances (DA.i.150; MA.ii.795). One of the gates of Rājagaha was called
Tandulapāla (M.ii.185). Round Rājagaha was a great peta world (MA.ii.960;
In the Buddha's time there was constant fear of invasion by the Licchavis,
and Vassakāra (q.v.) is mentioned as having strengthened its fortifications. To
the north east of the city were the brahmin villages of Ambasandā (D.ii.263) and
Sālindiyā (J.iii.293); other villages are mentioned in the neighborhood, such as
Kītāgiri, Upatissagāma, Kolitagāma, Andhakavinda, Sakkhara and Codanāvatthu
(q.v.). In the Buddha's time, Rājagaha had a population of eighteen crores, nine
in the city and nine outside, and the sanitary conditions were not of the best.
SA.i.241; DhA.ii.43; it was because of the city's prosperity that the
Mettiya-Bhummajakas made it their headquarters (Sp.iii.614). The city was not
free from plague (DhA.i.232).
The Treasurer of Rājagaha and Anāthapindika had married each other’s sisters,
and it was while Anāthapindika (q.v.) was on a visit to Rājagaha that he first
met the Buddha.
The people of Rājagaha, like those of most ancient cities, held regular
festivals; one of the best known of these was the Giraggasamajjā (q.v.). Mention
is also made of troupes of players visiting the city and giving their
entertainments for a week on end. (See, e.g., the story of Uggasena).
Soon after the death of the Buddha, Rājagaha declined both in importance and
prosperity. Sisunāga transferred the capital to Vesāli, and Kālāsoka removed it
again to Pātaliputta, which, even in the Buddha's time, was regarded as a place
of strategically importance. When Hiouen Thsang visited Rājagaha, he found it
occupied by brahmins and in a very dilapidated condition (Beal., op. cit.,
ii.167). For a long time, however, it seems to have continued as a center of
Buddhist activity, and among those mentioned as having been present at the
foundation of the Mahā Thūpa were eighty thousand monks led by Indagutta.