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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, which can get unpleasantly crowded.

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. Griddhakuta is actually halfway down the hill, so you may prefer to wander down from here rather than climb back up to take the chair lift. Look out for the 26 Jain shrines on top of these hills, reached by a challenging trek attempted almost solely by Jain devotees. On an adjacent hill, in the Saptaparni cave, the first Buddhist council met to record the teachings of the Buddha after his death.

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