¤ Patna Also Know As
Patna, at its earliest was a small straggling village with the name of
Patali or Pataligrama as mentioned in Buddhist and Jaina traditions.
Legend acribes 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 Patalli, on the confluence of the
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
prophiesied a great future for the new found city but simultaneously
predicted its ruin from flood, fued or fire.
¤ Patalil Golden Days During Mauryas
Patalil, under different names like Pataligrama, Kusumplura.
Pushpapura, Kusum Dhuvaja, Padmavati, Patliputra, Azimabad and finally
Patna, serv4ed various dynasties. However, it witnessed its golden day
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. Patliplutras 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 accoulnt of Patliplutra which is further supplemented
by Kautilyas work and much later the Chinese travellers passed
onl their observation.
¤ The Exquisite Wooden Capital
A strong sense of imagination is required to recreate the Mauryan
Patliputra replete with multistoreyed 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 aroulnd 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
¤ Transformed To Stone City
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. Mauryan
architecture is one of the least known subjects in Indian history,
though Literary references to palace, forts, halls and stupas are
aplenty but archaelogical evidences are scarce, Kumrahar site at
Patna is associated with the ancient Palace site of Patliputra.
¤ Attractions of The City
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 resmbles 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 Ashokas
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
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 hass 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 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 Shahs
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 nawabs haveli but now a private residence that
houses an intersting museum famous for its jade collection and Chinese
Regaining of Lost Glory During
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 Hajjams
mosque for the reason it was repaired in 1646 by a barber of this
It was in August 1574 when Akbar came to Patna to crush the Afghan
Chief, Daud Khan. His successful seige resulted in an enormus 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
Akbars Secretary of State and author of Aini-Akbari refers to
Patna as a flourishing center for paper, stone and glas 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
then glass, lighter than paper and highly scented.
Shah Jahan 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 the Ganga. It was built by
Saif Khan, the Mughal constructions include the Idgah and a seraj 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 was a young prince who aspired
to make Patna, a second Delhi but his ambition was cut short by the
patriachal war. With the decline of Mughal power, Patna slipped into
the hands of the Nawabs of Bengal, who maintained its commercial
Flourished as a Centre of International Trade
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 the Portuguese to compete in the
lucrative business. Various European factories and godowns started
mushrooming 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. Todays Patna College administrative
block was said to be the Dutchmans residence. Other important
European landmarks are the Padri Ki Haveli, deemed to be the oldest
church in Bihar dating back kto 1772. Nearby is the Patna cemetery
which was once the haveli of the Bengal nawabs. The cemetery is marked
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.
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 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, through it lies inl the
centre of a paddy field while the adjoining garden mosque and Imambara
have given way to fields.
¤ Other Attractions of The City
The first Nawab of Oudh, Saadat Ali Khan lies buried at Patna, some
distance from the mainl 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 Paninis ashram.
Golghar is Patnas granary built in 1786 by Captain John Garstin
following a terible famine in 1770, to serve as a state granary. A
flight of steps winds roulnd 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, making 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 Ashrfs
mosque dating back to 1773 and admired for its beautiful tank just
outside the mosque. A unique and Patnas only single domed mosque
built during Shah Jehans period can be seen around the Mangal
Talao. Mirza Masooms mosque, built in 1616 is appreciated for
its beautiful black baslt door that possible belonged to a Buddhist
shrine as evident from its rich carving.
A decade later was erected Pathar Ki Masjid by Perves, the elder 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 Mann
Sing, 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
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 museums 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 perferably
the festive occasion of Chaath (a week after deepavali ) or during the
cattle fair at Sonepur which is not very far from Patna.