A city, the capital of Māgadha.
The place was called Giribbaja (mountain stronghold) because it was surrounded by five hills—Paṇḍava, Gijjhakūṭa, Vebhāra, Isigili and Vepulla. It is said MN.iii.68 that these hills, with the exception of Isigili, were once known by other names e.g., Vaṅkaka for Vepulla. SN.ii.191 The Saṃyutta SN.i.206 mentions another peak near Rājagaha—Indakūta.
Rājagaha was closely associated with the Buddha’s work. He visited it soon after the Renunciation. Bimbisāra saw him begging in the street, and questioned him as to his purpose. Snp.472–491 During the first year after the Enlightenment the Buddha went to Rājagaha from Gayā, after the conversion of the Tebhātika Jatilas. Bimbisāra 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. 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 Sattarasavaggiyā with Upāli at their head.
The Buddha spent his first vassa in Rājagaha 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 Dakkhiṇāgiri and then to Kapilavatthu. Vin.i.77ff.
Later the Buddha made Sāvatthī his headquarters, though he seems frequently to have visited and stayed at Rājagaha. It thus became the scene of several important suttas—e.g., the Āṭānāṭiya, Udumbarika and Kassapasīhanāda, Jīvaka, Mahāsakuladāyī, and Sakkapañha.
Many of the Vinaya rules were enacted at Rājagaha. Just before his death, the Buddha paid a last visit there. At that time, Ajātasattu was contemplating an attack on the Vajjians, and sent his minister, Vassakāra, to the Buddha at Gijjhakūṭa, to find out what his chances of success were. DN.ii.72
After the Buddha’s death, Rājagaha was chosen by the monks, with Mahā Kassapa at their head, as the meeting place of the First Convocation. This took place at the Sattapaṇṇiguhā, and Ajātasattu extended to the undertaking his whole hearted patronage. Vin.ii.285 The king also erected at Rājagaha a cairn over the relics of the Buddha, which he had obtained as his share. DN.ii.166
Rājagaha 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 Campā, Sāvatthī, Sāketa, Kosambī and Benares. DN.ii.147
The Parāyana Vagga Snp.1011–1013 mentions a long and circuitous route, taken by Bāvarī’s disciples in going from Patiṭṭhāna to Rājagaha, passing through Māhissati, Ujjeni, Gonaddha, Vedisa. Vanasavhaya, Kosambī, Sāketa, Sāvatthī, Setavyā, Kapilavatthu, Kusinārā, on to Rājagaha, by way of the usual places. The Mahā Parinibbāna Sutta DN.ii.72ff. gives a list of the places at which the Buddha stopped during his last journey along that road—Ambalaṭṭhikā, Nāḷandā, Pāṭaligāma, Koṭigāma, Nādikā, Vesāli, Bhaṇḍagāma, Hatthigāma, Ambagāma, Jambugāma, Bhoganagara, Pāvā, and the Kakuttha River, beyond which lay the Mango grove and the Sāla grove of the Mallas.
The books mention various places besides Veḷuvana, with its Kalandaka-nivāpa vihāra in and around Rājagaha—e.g., Sītavana, Jīvaka’s Ambavana, Pipphaliguhā, Udumbarikārāma, Moranivāpa with its Paribbājakārāma, Tapodārāma, Indasālaguhā in Vediyagiri, Sattapaṇṇiguhā, Latthivana, Maddakucchi, Supatiṭṭhacetiya, Pāsānakacetiya, Sappasoṇḍikapabbhāra and the pond Sumāgadhā.
The city gates were closed every evening, and after that it was impossible to enter the city. Vin.iv.116f.
Ajātasattu was afraid of invasion by the Licchavis, and Vassakāra is mentioned as having strengthened its fortifications. To the north east of the city was the brahmin village of Ambasaṇḍā DN.ii.263 ; other villages are mentioned in the neighborhood, such as Kīṭāgiri, Upatissagāma, Kolitagāma, Andhakavinda, Sakkhara and Codanāvatthu.