1. Vaishali: a small town located in North Bihar bordering Nepal, is a relatively unknown town in India but deserves to be the opposite. This ancient and historically significant city is considered to hold a significant place in both Buddhism and Jainism as Gautama Buddha is known to deliver his last sermon here before his death and the last Tirthankara of Jainism- Lord Mahavira was born and raised here. Vaishali is around 80 km away from Nalanda University which was a renowned centre of research and excellence contributing to India’s rise to power in around 4th century. Few of the must visit sites in Vaishali are:
a) The Relic Stupa of Buddha: This Stupa is built on actual remains or ashes of Buddha as it is said that Buddha’s remains were distributed among 8 parts and one was given to the King Licchavis of Vaishali who decided to build this Stupa to commemorate it.
b) Ashoka Pillar: King Ashoka had become a Buddhist as a repentance of his last battle of Kalinga so he built this pillar with a lion engraved on top to mark the place where Lord Buddha had given his last teachings. It is said that the lion faces the direction in which Buddha had gone when he left Vaishali and started on his final journey.
c) Mahavir Temple: Vaishali is also the birth place of 24th and last Jain Tirthankara – Lord Mahavir so to commemorate the same, Lord Mahavir temple also was built in Vaishali which holds grand yearly celebrations on Mahavir Jayanti.
d) Buddha Stupa: It is popularly called Vishwa Shanti Stupa and its unique point is that it has been built by the Japanese as a mark of respect for Buddha to commemorate the importance of Vaishali in Buddha’s life and his last sermon here. There is also a Vaishali museum close by which stores the ancient art and artefacts mostly related to the start of Buddhism and Jainism era in India.
2. Rajgir It is one of the many historically important Indian cities located in Bihar and was the capital of ancient Magadh which later evolved into the Mauryan Empire. The city is now famous for its Hot Springs which are said to have medicinal value and is known to cure several skin diseases. Rajgir is also the location of the famous Nalanda University which brought students from all over the world to India for their higher education.
a) Hot Springs/Brahmakund: These are famous both for their religious and medicinal values. It has become a sacred place for Hindus as the water comes from seven different springs representing the seven Hindu Rishis – Agastya, Atri, Bhardwaja, Gautam, Jamadagni, Vashistha and Vishvamitra. These Hot springs have thus acquired the name Brahmakund and the warm water is believed to have healing properties so all tourists along with the pilgrims can be found taking a dip here.
b) The Ruins of Nalanda University: Now all the remains is the ruins of the famous university which was established in 5th century and had slowly become an important Buddhist centre of academic excellence which even attracted international students from all over the world. UNESCO now preserves this ancient learning place and architecture of the old library buildings and several Buddhist monasteries which were part of this university.
c) Ropeway to Peace Pagoda/ Shanti Stupa: Rajgir is a place with valleys and hills so one of the Buddhist Vishwa Shanti Stupa is built on top of Ratnagiri Hills which is also surrounded by Valleys and comes under a wildlife sanctuary area. The only way to reach the Stupa, also called Peace Pagoda is a single seater ropeway if you do not want to walk across a forest and climb the Ratnagiri hills. The place is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists but the ropeway and the scenic view of the valleys and hills have made it a strong attraction for tourists.
As you can see Vaishali and Rajgir are historically important due to their Buddhism and Jainism connect so these Stupas and temples are a common occurrence as you travel across these cities but in case you want to discover more about their historic context then there are some museums too with authentic ancient artefacts which can give you a better understanding of these cities and their importance for India in that era.