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An account of the Sone Bhandar and the Saptaparni Caves
The Ancient town of Rajagriha (present Rajgir in Nalanda district of Bihar) has been vastly explored in search of ancient ruins by numerous archaeologists and surveyors since the early 19th century. The Hills, caves and the hot springs of Rajgir have fascinated mankind since times immemorial. Even today as one travels towards Rajgir from Gaya on the road via Hisua / Naradiganj, one feels as having entered into a fortified ancient bastion. As one enters Rajgir, there is also the feeling of being under surveillance, by some watchful eyes perched on the hill tops and from the fortifications.
The name “Rajgir” is derived from “Rajagriha”, the very meaning of which symbolizes royal power being the house of the ruler. As the very name would suggest, Rajgir indeed is one of the most ancient kingdoms of India. Of the sixteen Mahajanapadas described in the Puranas, Magadh gradually emerged as the strongest and the fortified town of Rajgriha was its capital. Rajgir has been described in the epics Mahabharat and the Ramayana along with all its physical features. Jarasandha was the ruler of Magadha, with his ancient capital at Rajgir, as recorded in the Mahabharata.
The legends of Jarasandha are still traceable in the local memory of Rajgir residents, and supposed remnants of the ancient fight with Bhima, one of the Pandavas, are well marked.
Rajgir was known in ancient times under various names such as Vasumati, Barhdrarathapura, Girivraja, Kusagrapura and Rajagriha. Vasumati is derived from the legend of Vasu – a son of the creator Brahma. The Puranic tradition traces the line of kings beginning with Brihadratha and having Jarasandha as one of the most famous kings, and thus the name of Brihadrathapur or Barhadrathapura.
How and when the names of Kusagrapura, Girivraja and Rajgriha came into existence is not fully known, but they appear to be sort of descriptive names fully symbolizing the might of the ancient capital. While Rajgriha indeed denotes the existence of an ancient great seat of power, Girivraja describes the unique geographical identity of the place protected and enclosed by the hills, which originally was situated within the valley. Kusagrapura may either denote the Kusa grass found abundantly in the valley or the king Kusagra of the Barhadratha dynasty.
To be continued....