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 Mahágovinda, a skilled architect. The later town, at the foot of the hills, was evidently built by Bimbisára.
Hiouen Thsang says (Beal, ii.145) that the old capital occupied by Bimbisára was called Kuságra. It was afflicted by frequent fires, and Bimbisára, 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 Vesáli. The city was called Rájagaha because Bimbisára 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 Ajátasattu.
Pargiter (Ancient Ind. Historical Tradition, p.149) suggests that the old city was called Kuságrapura, after Kuságra, an early king of Magadha. In the Rámáyana (i. 7, 32) the city is called Vasumatí. The Mahábhárata gives other names - Bárhadrathapura (ii.24, 44), Varáha, Vrsabha, Rsigiri, Caityaka (see PHAI.,p.70).
It was also called Bimbisárapurí 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, Gijjhakúta, Vebhára, Isigili and Vepulla* - and Rájagaha, because it was the seat of many kings, such as Mandhátá and Mahágovinda (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 Játaka (J.vi.271), Rájagaha 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 Rájagaha - Indakúta. See also Kálasilá.
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 Dakkhinágiri (SA.i.188).
Rájagaha was closely associated with the Buddha's work. He visited it soon after the Renunciation, journeying there on foot from the River Anomá, a distance of thirty leagues (J.i.66). Bimbisára 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 Rájagaha as soon as his aim should be achieved (See the Pabbajjá Sutta and its Commentary). During the first year after the Enlightenment therefore, the Buddha went to Rájagaha from Gayá, after the conversion of the Tebhátika Jatilas. Bimbisára 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 Bimbisára gifted Veluvana to the Order and that the Buddha received Sáriputta and Moggallána 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 Sattarasavaggiyá with Upáli at their head.
The Buddha spent his first vassa in Rájagaha 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 Dakkhinágiri and then to Kapilavatthu (Vin.i.77ff).
According to the Buddhavamsa Commentary (p.13), the Buddha spent also in Rájagaha the third, fourth, seventeenth and twentieth vassa. After the twentieth year of his teaching, he made Sávatthi his headquarters, though he seems frequently to have visited and stayed at Rájagaha. It thus became the scene of several important suttas - e.g., the Atánátiya, Udumbarika and Kassapasíhanáda, Jívaka, Mahásakuladáyí, and Sakkapańha.
For other incidents in the Buddha's life connected with Rájagaha, see Gotama. The most notable of these was the taming of Nálágiri.
Many of the Vinaya rules were enacted at Rájagaha. Just before his death, the Buddha paid a last visit there. At that time, Ajátasattu was contemplating an attack on the Vajjians, and sent his minister, Vassakára, to the Buddha at Gijjhakúta, to find out what his chances of success were (D.ii.72).
After the Buddha's death, Rájagaha was chosen by the monks, with Mahá Kassapa at their head, as the meeting place of the First Convocation. This took place at the Sattapanniguhá, and Ajátasattu extended to the undertaking his whole hearted patronage (Vin.ii.285; Sp.i.7f.; DA.i.8f., etc.). The king also erected at Rájagaha a cairn over the relics of the Buddha, which he had obtained as his share (D.ii.166). According to the Mahá Vamsa, (Mhv.xxxi.21; MT. 564) some time later, acting on the suggestion of Mahá Kassapa, the king gathered at Rájagaha seven donas of the Buddha's relics which had been deposited in various places - excepting those deposited at Rámagáma - and built over them a large thúpa. It was from there that Asoka obtained relics for his viháras.
Rájagaha 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 Campá, Sávatthi, Sáketa, Kosambí and Benares (D.ii.147).
The road from Takkasilá to Rájagaha was one hundred and ninety two leagues long and passed through Sávatthi, which was forty five leagues from Rájagaha. This road passed by the gates of Jetavana (MA.ii.987; SA.i.243). The Paráyana Vagga (SN. vss.1011-3) mentions a long and circuitous route, taken by Bávarí's disciples in going from Patitthána to Rájagaha, passing through Máhissati, Ujjeni, Gonaddha, Vedisá. Vanasavhaya, Kosambí, Sáketa, Sávatthi, Setavyá, Kapilavatthu, Kusinárá, on to Rájagaha, by way of the usual places (see below).
From Kapilavatthu to Rájagaha was sixty leagues (AA.i.115; MA.i.360). From Rájagaha to Kusinárá was a distance of twenty five leagues (DA.ii.609), and the Mahá Parinibbána Sutta (D.ii.72ff ) gives a list of the places at which the Buddha stopped during his last journey along that road - Ambalatthiká, Nálandá, Pátaligáma (where he crossed the Ganges), Kotigáma, Nádiká (??), Vesáli, Bhandagáma, Hatthigáma, Ambagáma, Jambugáma, Bhoganagara, Pává, and the Kakuttha River, beyond which lay the Mango grove and the Sála grove of the Mallas.
From Rájagaha to the Ganges was a distance of five leagues, and when the Buddha visited Vesáli 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 Rájagaha and Sávatthi, as well, by boat, some of the boats belonging to the king of Magadha and others to the Licchavis of Vesáli.
The distance between Rájagaha and Nálandá 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-nivápa vihára in and around Rájagaha - e.g., Sítavana, Jívaka's Ambavana, Pipphaliguhá, Udumbarikáráma, Moranivápa with its Paribbájakáráma, Tapodáráma, Indasálaguhá in Vediyagiri, Sattapanniguhá, Latthivana, Maddakucchi, Supatitthacetiya, Pásánakacetiya, Sappasondikapabbhára and the pond Sumágadhá.
At the time of the Buddha’s death, there were eighteen large monasteries in Rájagaha (Sp.i.9). Close to the city flowed the rivers Tapodá and Sappiní. In the city was a Potter's Hall where travelers from far distances spent the night. E.g., Pukkusáti (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 Rájagaha was called Tandulapála (M.ii.185). Round Rájagaha was a great peta world (MA.ii.960; SA.i.31).
In the Buddha's time there was constant fear of invasion by the Licchavis, and Vassakára (q.v.) is mentioned as having strengthened its fortifications. To the north east of the city were the brahmin villages of Ambasandá (D.ii.263) and Sálindiyá (J.iii.293); other villages are mentioned in the neighborhood, such as Kítágiri, Upatissagáma, Kolitagáma, Andhakavinda, Sakkhara and Codanávatthu (q.v.). In the Buddha's time, Rájagaha 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 Rájagaha and Anáthapindika had married each other’s sisters, and it was while Anáthapindika (q.v.) was on a visit to Rájagaha that he first met the Buddha.
The people of Rájagaha, like those of most ancient cities, held regular festivals; one of the best known of these was the Giraggasamajjá (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, Rájagaha declined both in importance and prosperity. Sisunága transferred the capital to Vesáli, and Kálásoka removed it again to Pátaliputta, which, even in the Buddha's time, was regarded as a place of strategically importance. When Hiouen Thsang visited Rájagaha, 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 Mahá Thúpa were eighty thousand monks led by Indagutta. Mhv.xxix.30.