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Rajgir and Its Hinterland



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Harding, Robert 


This thesis is based on an archaeological survey of Rajgir, onetime capital of Magadha and one of the most important Early Historic urban sites. Its principal conclusions are:

  1. The "walls" are more walkways than defensive structures and it's clear they were used as such during the first millennium AD. In a number of stretches they are clearly not defensive and for some areas they are easily the best means of moving around. Read the right way it's clearly what the monks are saying.
  2. Despite the common assumption that the walls form a unified system, Marshall's map had already shown the north side was disconnected; and the survey showed the southern is also.
  3. That they are related to the siting of Buddhist and Jain sites raises chicken and egg questions as to relative dating; but all one can say is that such huge, monumental structures are unique in the mid-first millennium BC.
  4. A good candidate for the Elephant Stupa is the Balarama Temple. Some other sites mentioned by monks may be along the hill roads rather than on the flat.
  5. The Rajgir topography found in Pali sources is irreconcilable with topographies of Sanskrit sources and with current names.
  6. Bimbisara's Jail is a first-millennium AD monastic site.
  7. Much of the "Inner Fortification", around the northern entrance to the valley is actually an occupation mound going back to at least c. 1000 BC if not before.
  8. Finds of NBP and associated material of pre-Mauryan type (including in Inner Fortification walls) does lend support to arguments that the valley centre was occupied; the chronological relationship of Old Rajgir - New Rajgir has yet to be properly confirmed.
  9. Giriak’s Daktar English mound on the river has plentiful Early Historic and "Kushan period" evidence to show that it must be included in a network of sites centred on the hills.
  10. From the 19thC Rajgir and other Early Historic cities have been construed as “Buddhist sites”; and this had led to an under-emphasis of their urban functions.





Chakrabarti, Dilip


Rajgir, Early historic India, First millenium BC, Rajagrha, Giriak, Buddhism, Archaeological survey, History of archaeology


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge