Situated on the banks of the holy river Ganga, Patna, earlier known as Patliputra, is one of the most ancient cities of India. Capital of Bihar, Patna is known for its magnificent past and the historical buildings. Patna began as Pataliputra in the 5th century BC. In the 3rd century BC it became the capital of the Magadh kingdom and the seat of the Indian emperor Ashoka.
Patna is the gateway to the Buddhist and Jain pilgrim centers of Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda, Bodhgaya and Pawapuri, all located in the state of Bihar. After India attained independence, Patna became the capital of Bihar. It has some very attractive tourist destinations. The Mahatma Gandhi Setu over river Ganga stretches for 7.5 Km and is among the longest bridges in the world. The Golghar, Har Mandir, Kumrahar are the major attractions in the city.
Besides, it has long been a major agricultural center of trade, its most active exports being grain, sugarcane, sesame, and rice.
History of Patna
The village of Patali is the very place where was subsequently established the renowned city of Patalibo- Patalibothrathra, capital of Magatha. The place had reached the height of its glory when Megasthenes, the ambassador of Seleucus, visited it in the reign of Chandragupta. In the time of Buddha it was but an insignificant place. There was, however, a sort of fort to arrest the inroads of some troublesome neighbours. Buddha, when he passed through that place, predicted that it would become a flourishing town. The prediction begun to have its accomplishment one hundred years after his death, when King Ajatsatru, and removed the seat of his empire to Palibothra, near the place where the modern city of Patna stands.
Fort to city
The name Patna is thought to be adapted from Patan, the name of the Hindu goddess Patan devi. Another theory considers it to be derived from Patliputra the original name of Patna. Patliputra was started by Ajatshatru (son of Bimbisar of the Sishunag/Sisunga dynasty) as a fort on the junction of 4 rivers, particularly the Ganga and Sone. This was to defend the kingdom of Magadh from the army of the Liccahvis that used to cross the river Ganga and harass the citizens on the other side of the river.
Patna has been called by several names depending upon the ruler of the city, Pataligram, Pataliputra, Kusumpur, Pushpapura, Azimabad, and the present day Patna. Another point of noteworthiness is that it has “Putra” attached to Patli. A story goes that Patli was a princess who have birth to a child and the parents decided to live there at the very spot the child was born hence it came to be known as Patliputra. Nonetheless, no city in India has this unique name of having a suffix of Putra. Putra in Sanskrit is Son.
Initially the fort was maintained by some soldiers. One of them was particularly fond of roses and planted some. Hence the fort came to be known as Patligram and later Kusumpur Again Patli and Kusum is another name of the flower rose while gram is a village in the Hindi/Sanskrit language.
Another interesting story is that while hunting at the jungles of Bihar Sharif king Ajatsatru happened to go across the river to Vaishali where the people made fun of his physical features. “How could the son of beautiful Bimbisar and Chella be so ugly”? This really upset Ajatsatru and decided to destroy Vasishali. Ajatsatru being a good military strategist decided to convert this region into a fort to defend from and attack on the Liccahvis of Vaishali. He must have decided to make a city on the banks taking into account the vicinity of the river and Ganga.
Later on the city was built under the guidance of Ajatsatru’s trusted ministers Sunidh and Vaskar. The credit goes to Udayin, the son of Ajatsatru to actually build Patliputra to a famous city and to use it as his capital of Magadh. The Gargi-Samhita, Yug Puran, Vayu Puran mentions that Udayin magnificently built Kusumpur. In the later years it became the grandiosecapitale of Magadh and India that rose to its highest pinnacle during the rule of Ashoka the great.
The current name of Patna, the capital of Bihar was given by Sher Shah Suri, whose tomb is at Sasaram, a place near Patna and is a well known tourist spot for locals and foreigners alike. It is now the capital of Bihar.
How to get to Patna
By Air: Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport, Patna. All good domestic airlines connect to Patna airport. The Loknayak JaiprakashInternational Airport, Patna is connected to all the major Indian cities. The airport is 10 km from the city center. Rail: Patna is well connected to the rest of India via railways network. Direct trains to major cities of India are available Road: Patna is well connected by roads. Bus services are available for places within the state as well as to other states. Another airport is the Gaya International Airport, Gaya (100 kms) with limited flights. Check your country.
By rail: You can take the train to Patna Junction the nearest to Patna. Alternatively, Danapur Junction; Patna Sahib Junction.
By Road: Connected with all Indian cities.
Local Transport: Taxis, Private Taxis, Mini-buses (more for locals), Cycle-rickshaws, Auto-rickshaws.
Where to Stay:
Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation's Hotel Kautilya Vihar, Bir Chand Patel Path. There are other Hotels and Rest-Houses such as Chankya, Maurya hotel. More on Bihar Government Hotels.
Best of Patna
Best Tourist Attractions: Gol Ghar, Museum, Harmandirji, Khuda Baksh Oriental Library, Kumhrar, Martyrs Memorial, Jalan Museum, Pathar Ki Masjid, Agam Kuan, Biological Park, Birla Mandir, Nawab Shahid-Ka-Maqbara, Pachim Darwaza, Padri-Ki-Haveli.
Best Buys:Decorative pieces made out of stone, Bead-Jewellery, Tilcoot-a kind of sweet.
Best Hangouts: An excursion to Kumhrar, a local village where excavations are going on to find out the hidden treasures of Mauryan and other dynasties.
Best Activities: Take a boat ride in river Ganga and walk some part of Mahatma Gandhi Setu. Festivals: Chhatha, celebrated 6 days after Deepavali, is the most popular festival of Bihar. Pataliputra Mahotsav features parades, sports, dancing, and music.
Best Nearest Tourist Destinations: Vaishali, Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Rajgir.
Best Time To Visit Patna: February to April and August to November as the temperature is mild.
Places to visit in Patna
These are the major tourist attractions in Patna and must visit.
Golghar: The huge, beehive structured building was built to store grains, following a terrible famine in 1786. The 29 mtr high building offers a scenic view of river Ganga and Patna city. This granary was never used for the desired purpose.
Patna Museum: The city museum is a collection of metal and stone sculptures of the Maurya and Gupta Periods, terracota figurines and archaeological finds from different sites in Bihar. It has the Ashes of the Buddha, image of Yakshi (3rd century BC), and a 16 mt long fossilized tree.
Har Mandir: A holy shrine of Sikhs, this is said to be the second-most important Gurudwara in India. The Gurudwara was built by Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th guru of the Sikhs. Built in white marbles, with kiosks on the terraces, it consecrates the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh.
Martyrs Memorial: The memorial in front of the old secretariat, shows seven young men facing the bullets and sacrificing their lives during the '1942 Quit India movement'.
Khuda Baksh Oriental Library: One of the national libraries of India, it has a rare collection of Persian and Arabic manuscript. It also host paintings during Rajput and Mughal rule in India. A very unique collection, One-inch wide Quran is also kept here.
The History of Patna and
all you need to know about Patna
PATNA at its earliest was a small straggling village with the name of Patali or Pataligrama as mentioned in Buddhist and Jaina traditions. Legend ascribes its origin to a magic stroke of a mythological king, Putraka, for his queen Patali. However, history attests its creation by King Ajatshatru who was interested in shifting his capital from the hilly Rajagriha to a more strategic Patali, on the confluence of the ganga. The fact is further corroborated by Buddha who was impressed by the site when he saw the fort being erected here while he was passing by this village in the last year of his life. The enlightened one further prophesied a great future for the new found city but imultaneously predicted its ruin from flood, fued or fire. Patali, under different names like Pataligrama, Kusumpura, Pushpapura, Kusum Dhvaja, Padmavati, Patliputra, Azimabad and finally Patna , served various dynasties. However, it witnessed its golden days under the Mauryas in the 4th century B.C. which brought vividly to the forefront the basic and total unity of an all India empire for the first time.
The lofty buildings and parapets for which Patliputra was known, impressed Patanjali to the extent that he referred to them in his grammatical examples. Patliputra's fame as a centre of learning outlived its political glory where scholars like Aryabhatta, Ashvaghosha, Chanakya, Panini, Sthalabhadra, Vatsyayana (author of Kamasutra) penned their ideals and the great authors of the Shastras were examined. Greek ambassador, Magasthenese has left a vivid account of Patliputra which is further supplemented by Kautilya's work and much later the Chinese travellers pass on their observation.
A strong sense of imagination is required to recreate the Mauryan Patliputra replete with multi-storeyed wooden buildings, palaces surrounded by parks and ponds. If we are to believe the Greek accounts, the royal parks were lined with evergreen trees, which neither grew old nor shed their leaves. The capital city with more than 500 towers and 64 gates was surrounded by wooden palisade with loopholes for the arches. A ditch around the city served the dual purpose of defence as well as sewage disposal. Every street had its water courses serving as house drains that finally emptied into the moat. Any deposit that obstructed the passage was punishable by law. House owners were also required to have fire prevention elements and so were the streets provided with vessels of water and sand kept ready in thousands.
It was Ashoka who transformed the wooden capital into a stone construction around 273 B.C. This sudden change prompted Fa Hein, who visited India between 400-15 AD, believe that genni (demons) were commissioned to erect these massive stone structures, which are no human work. Mauryan architecture is one of the least known subjects in Indian history, though literary references to palace, forts, halls and stupas are aplenty but archaeological evidences are scarce. Kumrahar site at Patna is associated with the ancient Palace site of Patliputra.
The excavations have brought to light the period from 600 B.C. to 600 A.D. Here one can admire the remains of the 80 pillared hall that impressed Magasthenese most. These pillars with the magic of Mauryan polish continue to impress even the architects of today. Arranged in eight rows with ten pillars in each, the plan resembles the hall of hundred columns at Persepolis . Possibly, Kautilya urged the king to attend the public issues here for three hours each day.
Within the Kumrahar complex are the excavated remains of Ashoka's charitable hospital. A little distance away is another Ashokan remain, the Agam Kuan or the fathomless well which is believed to be a part of the legendary hall created by Ashoka. Fa Hein relates that Ashoka, in course of his distant journeys had encountered the kingdom of Yama and accordingly thought of building a hall, resembling that of what he had seen. Later Ashoka demolished the hall and embarked on better projects of compassion and piety. Besides the numerous rock edicts proclaiming his message of universal peace he is credited for the construction of 84,000 stupas throughout his mighty kingdom.
Since the imperial innings of the Mauryas and the Sungas, Patliputra lay, not in darkness, but in a perpetual twilight. Besides the loss of political patronage, Patliputra suffered the ravages of nature. At the close of 6th century, continuous rain for 17 days devastated the city which had earlier been set aflame by the Greeks.
Patliputra was revived by Sher Shah Suri in the middle of the 16th century. On his return from one of the expeditions, while standing by the Ganga, he said, ``If a fort were to be built in this place, the waters of the Ganga could never flow far from it, and Patna would become one of the great towns of this country''. Sher Shah's fort in Patna does not survive, except for some of the walls that have been incorporated within the complex of the Jalan House which was formerly the nawab's haveli but now a private residence that houses an interesting museum famous for its jade collection and Chinese paintings. A little from this place is the historic mosque of Sher Shah where there are numerous tombs, including that of Mustafa Khan Rohilla. The earliest mosque in Patna is dated 1489 and erected by Alauddin Hussani Shah (one of the Bengal rulers). Locally it is called Begu Hajjam's mosque for the reason it was repaired in 1646 by a barber of this name.
It was August 1574 when Akbar came to Patna to crush the Afghan Chief, Daud Khan. His successful seige resulted in an enormous booty that included 265 elephants and much to the rejoicing of common people, who enjoyed picking up gold coins and other articles on the river bank through which Daud had fled to Orissa in the cover of darkness. Akbar's Secretary of State and author of Ain-i-Akbari refers to Patna as a flourishing centre for paper, stone and glass industries. He also attests to the high quality and the numerous varieties of rice grown in Patna that had gained popularity in Europe . Much later the Venetian traveller, Manucci was impressed by the fine earthen pottery and the cups of clay made in Patna that were finer than glass,lighter than paper and highly scented.
Shah Jehan as a rebel prince visited Patna together with Queen Mumtaz and their architectural pursuit finds reflection in the shape of a beautiful mosque cum madarsa by the side of Ganga . It was built by Saif Khan, the Mughal governor married to Mumtaz's elder sister, Malike Bano. Other Mughal constructions include the Idgah and a serai that was once rented for months to make it easier for foreign traders. Later, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb acceded to the request of his favourite grandson, Prince Muhamad Azim to rename Patna as Azimabad, after his own name in 1704 while he was serving as the Mughal subedar.
Prince Azim was a young prince who aspired to make Patna , a second Delhi but his ambition was cut short by the patriarchal war. With the decline of Mughal power, Patna slipped into the hands of the Nawabs of Bengal, who maintained its commercial prosperity.
Patna during the 17th century was the centre of international trade. The Britishers started with a factory in Patna in 1620 for the purchase and storage of calico and silk. Soon it became a trading point for saltpetre, urging other European powers like the French, the Danes, the Dutch and that Portuguese to compete in the lucrative business. Various European factories and godowns started mushrooming up in Patna and it acquired a trading fame that attracted far off merchants, as observed by Peter Mundy in 1632, who calls this place, `the greatest mart of the eastern region'.
Bankipore Club is precisely the place where the Dutch are believed to have anchored their boats and the dance hall of the club is one of the original Dutch buildings. Today's Patna College of Bihar dates back to 1772. Nearby is the cemetery that marks by an obelisk that covers the remains of the 47 Englishmen done to death by Samru, a French freebooter in the army of Nawaz Mir Qasim. administrative block is said to be the Dutchman's residence. Other important European landmarks are the Padri Ki Haveli, deemed to be the oldest church in cemetery which was once the haveli of the
In the list of cold blooded murders, mention may be made of Nawaz Zainuddin Haibat Jung, the Governor of Bihar (1740-48) and father of Nawaz Siraj-ud-Daulah, who was most treacherously murdered by Murad Sher Khan (a Rohilla Afghan) as a revenge for killing another Rohilla in a battle. Haibat's body was cut in two and suspended on the eastern and western gates of Patna . This was followed by the loot and plunder of Patna by the Rohillas. The body of Nawab Haibat Jung was buried at Begumpur, close to the Patna city railway station. The tomb deserves a visit for its beautiful black stone jali work, though it lies in the centre of a paddy field while the adjoining garden, mosque and Imambara have given way to fields.
The first nawab of Oudh , Saadat Ali Khan lies buried at Patna , some distance from the main railway station. The surrounding wall and the screen provided by Safdarjung is hardly traceable. Another monument is the Imambara of Imam Bandi Begum whose tomb was once a beautiful piece of latticed wall.
The Government printing press at Gulzarbagh was the European godown for opium and next to it are the ruins of Panini's ashram. Golghar is Patna 's granary built in 1786 by Captain John Garstin following a terrible famine in 1770, to serve as a state granary. A flight of steps winds round the 29 metre high building leading to the top from where one gets a fine view of the river Ganga and the city of Patna . It is an imposing landmark from where the distances are calculated in Patna .
Takht Harmandir is one of the sacred Sikh shrines, marking the birthplace of the 10th Guru, Govind Singh. The present five storeyed building was completed in 1957 though it was started by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. A little distance from the shrine is Mir Ashraf's mosque dating back to 1773 and admired for its beautiful tank just outside the mosque. A unique and Patna 's only single domed mosque built during Shah Jehan's period can be seen around the Mangal Talao. Mirza Masoom's mosque, built in 1616 is appreciated for its beautiful black basalt door that possibly belonged to a Buddhist shrine as evident from its rich carving.
The walled city of Patna was provided with two gates called Purbi and Paschmi Darwaza. The Eastern gate is provided with a temple dedicated to Patan Devi the presiding deity of the city) while the Western gate is graced by the Chhoti Patan Devi temple. The temples have been newly constructed and the images are said to have been provided by Raja Maan Singh, the Mughal Governor during the times of Akbar.
Other places of interest in Patna include the Khuda Baksh Oriental Library, famous for its rare Arabic and Persian manuscripts, rich paintings and numerous volumes of rare books. Likewise the Patna Museum is a treasure house of stone sculptors dating back to the Mauryan period and other archaeological finds. Among the stone sculpture special reference may be made of the famous Chouri bearer of the Mauryan period, popularly called Didarganj Yakshi. Another captivating image is that of Shalabhanjika (late Maurya Sunga period) in her full youthful posture, twisting the branches of the Sala tree. One of the museum's prized exhibit is the 16 metre long fossilized tree and another priceless object that has just been included in the display section are the ashes of Lord Buddha. Seven life sized statues in front of the Old Secretariat revive the memory of brave young men who sacrificed their lives in August 1942 in the historic struggle for independence. Sadaqat Ashram is another landmark which later became the retreat of Dr. Rajendra Prasad.The best time to visit Patna is between October and March preferably the festive occasion of Chaath (a week after Deepavali) or during the cattle fair at Sonepur which is not very far from Patna.
When Buddha came to Patna (then Pataligram)
And the Blessed One took up his abode at Pataligama together with a large community of bhikkhus.
Then the devotees of Pataligama came to know: "The Blessed One, they say, has arrived at Pataligama." And they approached the Blessed One, respectfully greeted him, sat down at one side, and addressed him thus: "May the Blessed One, Lord, kindly visit our council hall." And the Blessed One consented by his silence.
Knowing the Blessed One's consent, the devotees of Pataligama rose from their seats, respectfully saluted him, and keeping their right sides towards him, departed for the council hall. Then they prepared the council hall by covering the floor all over, arranging seats and water, and setting out an oil lamp. Having done this, they returned to the Blessed One, respectfully greeted him, and standing at one side, announced: "Lord, the council hall is ready, with the floor covered all over, seats and water prepared, and an oil lamp has been set out. Let the Blessed One come, Lord, at his convenience.
And the Blessed One got ready, and taking his bowl and robe, went to the council hall together with the company of bhikkhus. After rinsing his feet, the Blessed One entered the council hall and took his seat close to the middle pillar, facing east. The community of bhikkhus, after rinsing their feet, also entered the council hall and took seats near the western wall, facing east, so that the Blessed One was before them. And the devotees of Pataligama, after rinsing their feet and entering the council hall, sat down near the eastern wall, facing west, so that the Blessed One was in front of them.
Source: From Last Days of the Buddha: The Maha-parinibbana Sutta (revised edition), translated from the Pali by Sister Vajira & Francis Story (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1998). Copyright 1998