“This is Rajagiri,” the driver quipped as I was looking at an approaching gate with inscription “Welcome to Rajagiri.” I smiled at his obvious interpretation.
The driver, Mohit (his name changed), was a young man in his twenties, and was a native chap of Gaya. He was quite enthusiastic with an engaging discussion between him and me after I asked him, “How is Bihar after Lalu (lost his reign of Bihar)?” I was surprised with his forceful comment, “He will never return,” either indicating his political affiliation or reflecting the general disillusionment towards Lalu Yadav in the state. But our discussion did not seem to end soon, and I wanted to shift the topic.
My visit to Rajagiri or the ancient Rajagaha was to see the land where Sakyan prince Siddharth frequented and taught his religion after attaining buddhahood. Even though I am not a follower of the faith, the period boasting the first recorded history of India and the historical importance of the place excited me.
Mohit had already changed the topic of discussion. The curvy road in the hilly terrain was flashing the ancient memory with a synergy between my knowledge of history and the stretched imagination.
I pulled the window pane down to allow a puff of breeze to sneak into my nose. Full of earthy fragrance, there was no sign of foul quotient as the ancient capital of Magadha was badly known for – the ancient city was surrounded by big hills obstructing fresh air. Mohit was amused of my act in the scorching heat outside.
I asked him to stop at a park nearby. “Park!” He seemed to reject any such plan. “He is travelling this far to see a mere park,” Mohit might have gathered opinion. But then we stopped and came out of the vehicle.
“People come here to relax; it is a good destination of college-going couples!” Mohit was passing running commentary in spite of my hesitation then to follow his conversation. It was Venu Van, the place where Buddha spent quite a few rains with his followers. This was the place where Jivika, an able medico from Taxila, was looking after the Master during his stay. The remains, though very small in quantity, are on display for tourists. But, where is Buddha? We make effort to preserve heritages by protecting the physical assets (that is a paradox too, but would not like to discuss). But the essence of Buddhism has been lost in this place during the course of time.
I was disappointed, but was struggling to hide my feeling. “The desire is the main cause of sorrow,” was the reminder. We went on visiting different other spots, Bimbisar Jail, where the mighty king Bimbisar was imprisoned by his own son Ajatasatru, later Sone Bhandar, and then even the hot-water spring with numerous stories tied around it since long. I was trying to assemble the entire past into a rolling flashback. But Buddha was missing!