After his two year stint with Aga Khan Trust at Muzaffarpur, Bihar, my brother finally decided to head back to home. He again asked me to join for the drive back – from Patna to Delhi, a journey of about 1100 kms which could have taken less than 18 hours. However, we decided to stretch it over 4 days and 1350 kms covering some of the Buddha relics enroute.
On 30th August 2018, I took the late evening flight to Patna and reached by the night fall. My Brother along with my niece was waiting for me at the Patna airport. The pick-up vehicle was the same one which I would be driving for the next four days. The car had undergone major overhauling to undertake this trip. It also sported brand new shoes. In all it was looking a happy car. After dinner and finalizing the program for the next day, we went slept for the morning to arrive.
We woke up early as we had planned a long day ahead. We left for Rajgir by 6.15 am from our house at Ashiana Mor. We tanked up the Blueberry in Patna itself. Patna had hardly woken up. My brother offered to show me the newly inaugurated Sabhyata Dwar, which was not part of the original plan. But dedicating 10 minutes to this new happening monument in Patna was completely worth for.
ready to rumble
din ki sahi shuruat
The Sabhyata Dwar or Civilization Gate is a sandstonearchmonument located on the banks on River Ganga built in a Mauryan-style architecture. However, the approach road to the monument was yet to be built and we could not get the opportunity to see it first-hand. Anyways soon we were on the 4 lane highway making good speeds. Pick-up of the Blueberry too has become swift post the overhauling and replacement of clutch.
We took the Patna-Bakhtiyarpur-Bihar Sharif route to Rajgir. Rajgir was about 100 kms from my home with first 50-60 having four lane roads. Remaining distance was two lane roads. However we again made good speeds due to low traffic being early hours of the day. There were some stretched where work for four laning of the highway was undergoing. But most of the roads were smooth and we made fast progress. We covered the 100 0dd kms in less than two hours after a pit-stop at Silao for buying the famous sweet of the area – Khaja.
We reached Rajgir by 8.30 am and stopped at a road side dhaba for breakfast. We had brought along poori-sabji and ordered some tea from the dhaba. After finishing up the tiffin we left for Sone Bhandar caves, our first spot for the day. After driving for few kilometers on the Rajgir-Gaya highway, there was a detour of one kilometer. As soon as we took the single lane road for Sone Bhandar cave, we saw a monument by the name Maniyar Math. The structure is believed to belong from Gupta period. The temple was built from terracotta bricks. After spending few minutes, we left for Sone Bhandar caves which was just half a kilometer away.
The hills of Rajgir are dotted with numerous caves. However, of the various caves of Rajgir, the most famous one is the Son Bhandar cave. These caves are located at the base of a small hill after being cut into the hill to make two separate hall. They are man-made and believed to be from Mauryan times. These are called Sone Bhandar, literally meaning store-house of gold. However, a local tourist guide, an old man in fact told us that it is mistakenly referred to as store-house of gold. In the local dialect, it means maze of caves and not store-house of gold. The way he narrated his version of history was very impressive, though I cannot vouch for his claims. Anyhow, we were amazed to see the workmanship inside the cave, the well-polished walls and the carvings were wonderful. These caves have intricately carved sculptures and writings. One of the caves is largely damaged but contains lots of carvings. These carvings seemed to be of Jain sculptures. We could hardly spend half-an-hour there before a big group of tourists forced us to take a hasty retreat.
Battle field of Jarasandh was our next destination for the day. It was situated merely a kilometer away from Sone bhandar caves. Jarasandh Akhada, also known as Ranbhumi literally means battle field. Jarasandh was the king of Magadh during Mahabharata period. During Jarasandh’s rule, Rajgir was the capital of the Magadh empire. It is believed that this is where martial arts or mall yuddh were practiced by Jarasandh and his army or this may have been the place where Bheem Sen killed Jarasandh in a duel combat. In current times, there remains only a stone platform which may have been used as Akhada. However, it is situated in a beautiful valley overlooking the hills and forest. Also, there is an abundance of butterflies at this place. There is nothing else to do here. Ten minutes is what you can dedicate to this place.