Rajgir which is historically known as Girivraj is an ancient city and a notified area in Nalanda district in the Indian state of Bihar.
The name Rajgir came from Rajagṛiha, meaning “house of the king” or “royal house”. It was the ancient capital city of the Magadha kings until the 5th century BC when Udayin, son of Ajatshatru, moved the capital to Pataliputra. In those days, it was called Rajgriha, which translates as ‘the home of Royalty’.
The city of Rajgir was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha. One of the earliest references to Magadha is in the epic Mahabharata, where we see the entire Yadava clan abandoning their homeland on the Gangetic plains to migrate south-westwards towards the desert-ocean land to avoid constant battles with their eastern neighbour, Magadha.
In the Mahabharata, Magadha is the mightiest kingdom in the country, stronger even than the Kurus (of whom the epic is all about). Magadha controlled the entire eastern part of the country through alliances with smaller vassal states. It was constantly at war with its western neighbours, the Yadavas of Mathura, who ultimately migrated far west to the sea coast near the Rann of Kutchh (modern Gujarat) because they could no longer afford the resources needed to protect their kingdom from the regular onslaughts of the Magadha king, Jarasandha.
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 and because of this Krishna is also called ‘ranachorh’ which means 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, Bhima 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 , it is a place where martial arts are practiced.
Rajgir is also mentioned in Jain and Buddhist scriptures, It was here that Gautama Buddha spent several months meditating, and preaching at Gridhra-kuta meaning Hill of the Vultures. He also delivered some of his famous sermons and initiated king Bimbisara of Magadha and countless others to Buddhism. It is said that it was here that Budhha delivered his famous Atanatiya Sutra.
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. Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara spent fourteen years of his life at Rajgir and Nalanda, spending Chaturmas at a single place in Rajgir and the rest in the places in the vicinity. It was the capital of one of his Shravaks(follower) King Shrenik. Thus Rajgir is a very important religious place for Jains. The twentieth Jain tirthankara, Munisuvrata is supposed to have been born here. An ancient temple(about 1200 years old) dedicated to Munisuvrat bhagwan is also present here along with many other Jain temples. This temple is also a place for four Kalyanakas of Bhagwan Munisuvratnath.
As the capital city of Kingdom of Magadha, it oversaw and laid the foundations of mighty Magadhan empire ruled by different dynasties that subsequently dominated the whole South Asia/Indian sub-continent and beyond. When the capital of the Magadha kingdom was shifted to Pataliputra the present Patna, the political importance of Rajgir declined. Presently it is a major sacred region for the Hindus, Jains, Muslims and Buddhists.