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Patna, the busy and bustling the capital of Bihar State has a fascinating 2500 years old past during which it has been variously named as Pataligram, Pataliputra, Kusumpur, Pushpapura, Azeemabad and finally Patna. It is referred to in Greek history as Palibothra. Some scholars believe that the present name, Patna, is derived from the name of Hindu goddess, Patan Devi. Some other scholars have a theory that the name is derived from Pattan, an important commercial port referred to in Sanskrit ancient literature as being located at the confluence of four major rivers. According to a popular legend its name is derived from a mythological ruler called Putraka who created the city by magic to please his queen, Patali, the word literally means Trumpet flower. Its original name Pataligram emerged from Patali. In honor of the first born male heir to the throne the city was renamed as Pataliputra that literally means the son of Queen Patali. It is one of oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world. The Ghagra, Son and Gandak join Ganga before it arrives at Patna and the river looks more like a sea than a river at Patna. About one and a quarter million people reside in this ancient historic city. Patna is the focal point to places sacred to followers of Buddhist, Jain and Sikh religions. These places are associated with Siddharth Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism; Vardhaman Mahavir, the twenty-fourth Tirthankar (enlightened teacher) of Jainism and Guru Govind Singh, the tenth and last Guru of Sikhism who was born in this city. The city is not only the administrative and political capital of Bihar State; it is an important educational center that used to be well regarded in India. Unfortunately because of caste based political infighting combined with apathy of the State and Central Governments, its oldest and most prestigious institutions of learning have fallen behind the rest of the country. The walled area of the city is popularly called the Patna City by local people and it is a major trading center of agricultural and industrial products.

Archaeological and historical evidence of the existence of Patna is universally believed to start in 490 BCE when Ajatshatru the Raja of Magath decided to place his capital at a place that was advantageous from military point of view to confront the rival tribe of Licchavis who dominated the Vaishali region. He fortified the city for the first time. From this period onwards there is historical evidence of Patna, Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira both visited this city. It is said that Lord Buddha had prophesized a great future for this place on the one hand and on the other hand he said that it will face ruin from flood, fire and feud. The city became the capital of a powerful empire when the Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta conquered most of the Indian subcontinent extending from Bay of Bengal in the east to Afghanistan in the northwest and also quite far south in the Deccan peninsula. He ruled from 322 to 298 BCE. He was contemporary to the great Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great (July 21, 356 to June 13, 323 BCE). Some scholars believe that the two had even personally met each other. The original Pataliputra of the period of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya was built mostly with wooden structures. Megasthenes, the Greek historian, accompanied Alexander the Great in his Asian campaigns and remained behind to travel to many places in India. Seleucus was the governor of Mesopotamia and Persia appointed by Alexander when he returned to Greece. Selucus sent Megasthenes as his ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra. Chandragupta married a Greek princess to signify the diplomatic relations between the two great empires. Megasthenes described the Pataliputra city for the first time in history in his memoirs. The grandson of Emperor Chandragupta, Piyadasi Ashoka the great, renovated the city with stone construction in about 273 BCE. In about 399 to 414 CE Fa-Hein, the famous Chinese traveler, also wrote a vivid description of the city. The city remained an important center of political and military power under later Gupta and Pala Dynasties but it never reached the glorious peak that it witnessed under the Mauryan Emperors Chandragupta and Ashoka. The ruin of the Patna came when the Islamic commander, Bakhtiar Khilji, conquered it in twelfth century CE. He destroyed the great centers of learning in eastern India making Patna an insignificant city of eastern India. The glimpse of hope and development came to the city under the interim rule of Sher Shah Suri. His sixteenth century fort did not survive but a mosque constructed under his patronage reminds us of his efficient reign.

The third Mughal Emperor Akbar led a campaign in 1574 to defeat the Afghan commander Daud Khan. Abul Fazl, the official historian of Emperor Akbar described Patna as a flourishing commercial and industrial city that was known for its paper, stone and glass industries. He refers to the Patna rice that had become famous as far away as Europe. The Mughal Prince, Muhammad Azim, the favorite grandson of the sixth Mughal Emperor, was allowed to rename the city as Azimabad in 1704 when he was the provincial governor of Bihar. After the sixth Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire dwindled very fast and provincial governors asserted their influence. Bihar along with its capital city, Patna, fell under the territory of the Nawab of Bengal. The industries of Patna city and Bihar still flourished under Nawab of Bengal bringing fortune and affluence to its dwellers.

In 1620 already the British were able to get Mughal permission to build a factory in Patna for trading in calico and silk. It was a major trading center for saltpeter very soon and major European trading countries like the French, Danes, Dutch and Portuguese were competing for this very lucrative business of that era. In 1765 the British East India Company won the Battle of Buxar and strengthened its stronghold on the region around Patna. In 1912 the British government under its Viceroy Lord Curzon partitioned the Bengal Presidency making Patna the capital of Bihar and Orissa provinces.

It soon emerged as an important and strategic center. A number of imposing structures were constructed by the British. Credit for designing the massive and majestic buildings of colonial Patna goes to the architect, I. F. Munnings. Most of these buildings reflect either Indo-Saracenic influence (like Patna Museum and the state Assembly), or overt Renaissance influence like the Raj Bhawan and the High Court. Some buildings, like the General Post Office (GPO) and the Old Secretariat bear pseudo-Renaissance influence. Some say, the experience gained in building the new capital area of Patna proved very useful in the subsequent building of the imperial capital of New Delhi.

There are several prestigious educational institutions in Patna like Patna College, Patna Womens College, Patna Science College, Bihar National College, Bihar College of Engineering, Patna Medical College (formerly, Prince of Wales Medical College), Nalanda Medical College, Patna Dental College and the Patna Veterinary College.

Orissa was created as a separate province in 1935. Patna continued as the capital of Bihar province under the British Raj. Patna played a major role in the Indian independence struggle. Most notable are the Champaran movement against the Indigo plantation and the 1942 Quit India Movement (Bharat Chodhro Andolan). Patna continued to be the capital of the state of Bihar after independence in 1947, though Bihar itself was partitioned again in 2000 when Jharkhand was carved out as a separate state of the Indian union.

Golghar: Following a terrible famine in 1770, Captain John Garstin constructed this huge and impressive beehive-shaped structure in July 1786 to serve as a state granary. A flight of steps winds round this 95 feet or 29 meters high building to its top. One has a panoramic view of the river Ganga and Patna City from the top of Golghar.

Patna Archaeological Museum: It contains metal and stone sculptures of the Maurya and Gupta Periods, terracotta figurines and archaeological artifacts from different excavation sites in Bihar. Among its prized exhibit are the Ashes of Lord Buddha, the image of Yakshi from 3rd century BCE, and a 53 feet or 16 meters long fossilized tree. This museum is of great significance for Buddhists.

Harmandirji: This shrine consecrates the birthplace of the tenth religious preceptor of the Sikh faith, Guru Gobind Singh. Originally built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a ruler of Punjab, Harmandirji is one of the holiest Sikh shrines. Standing in the Chowk area of Old Patna, this dome-shaped structure contains Sikh scriptures and the personal belongings of the last Guru of Sikh religion.

Khuda Baksh Oriental Library: Established at the turn of the 20th century, the library has a distinguished collection of rare Arabic and Persian manuscripts, Rajput and Mughal paintings and oddities like an inch wide Quran. It also contains the only books rescued from the plunder of the University of Cordoba in Spain. It is one of the most important national libraries of India.

Kumrahar: The site of the ancient city of Pataliputra lies 3 miles or 5 kilometers from Patna Railway Station on the Kankarbagh Road. Archaeological excavations here have revealed relics of four continuous periods from 600 BCE to 600 CE and of a fifth period that begins from 1600 CE. An important find is the ruin of an 80-pillared huge hall from the Mauryan dynasty period.

Jalan Museum is a private collection in a building at the site of Shershah Suri's Fort in Patna city. The building in which the museum is housed is a private residence and the collection was assembled by its founder, Dewan Bahadur Radha Krishna Jalan in 1919. It has a large collection of Mughal-period glass & filigree carvings, silverware and weaponry, wooden bed of Napolean III, Marie Antoinette's Sevres Porcelein, Louise XV and XVI furniture, Crown Derby dinner service painted in bright colors for the failing eyes of George III, a unique collection of Chinese jade ornaments and plates from Ming Dynasty, Chinese paintings, Tipu Sultan's ivory palenquine, Persian Carptes and Mithila paintings among much else. The large hall or main hall, which is also the main drawing room of the family, is where most of the formal ceremonies of the family take place. In it can be found examples of French Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture; Mughal and European silver; German, French, English and Chinese porcelain; Russian relief-embroidered panels on the life of Christ; Tibetan and Nepali wood carvings; French tapestries; ivory pieces and fine clocks; chandeliers; and Persian and Indian carpets. In the entrance hall, 15th century Tibetan manuscripts together with Newari palm leaves of the 12th century are arranged in between two rows of display almirahs containing a variety of coloured and cut glass from Venice,Turkey, France and Ireland, along with Persian, Indian and European porcelain. This is a private museum located at Jalan Avenue in Patna. Admission is free but by appointment only, for prior permission to visit call telephone number 0612-264-1121. They require a photocopy of passport and visa pages.

Patna has flights to Kolkata by Air Sahara and Air Deccan as well as to New Delhi by Air Sahara, Air Deccan, Jet Airways and Indian. There are scheduled flights to other cities like Mumbai, Lucknow and Ranchi.

4-star hotels:

Maurya Patna Hotel – 75 rooms

3-star hotels:

Hotel Pataliputra Ashok – 46 rooms
Chanakya Patna Hotel – 67 rooms
Gargee Hotel - 32 rooms
Panache Hotel - 10 rooms
Patliputra Exotica Hotel - 70 rooms
Patliputra Nirwana Hotel - 108 rooms

Distance from Patna:

Bodhgaya: 181 kilometers or 113 miles
Gaya via Rajgir: 169 kilometers or 105 miles
Nalanda: 86 kilometers or 54 miles
Pavapuri: 89 kilometers or 55 miles
Rajgir: 102 kilometers or 63 miles
Vaishali: 54 kilometers or 34 miles
Varanasi: 235 kilometers or 146 miles
Madhubani: 170 kilometers or 106 miles

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