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Rajgir  

Frederick M. Asher

[Rājgir, Rājagṛha]

Ancient capital of the kingdom of Magadha in Nalanda District, Bihar, India. Rajgir was a frequent resort of the Buddha and of Mahavira, the Jaina teacher (c. 5th century bc), and it is sacred to both religions. Its outer fortifications (c. 6th century bc) run for about 40 km over hilly terrain; this wide rubble rampart with projecting bastions is probably the earliest surviving stone monument in India. Within the walls is a citadel with earthen ramparts. Beyond the outer walls, to the north, are the remains of new Rajgir, laid out in an irregular square, possibly by King Ajatashatru (c. 491–459 bc).

While archaeological excavations have revealed much material, few ancient monuments have survived. The earliest are the two rock-cut Sonbhandar caves. These are similar in plan and elevation to the rock-cut sanctuaries in the Barabar Hills (3rd century bc; see Barabar and Nagarjuni...