Patna, ancient Patliputra: The capital of Bihar

Golghar at Patna

The ancient and modern capital of Bihar, Patliputra was the seat of Mauryan rule.Patliputra is  the ancient name of Patna, the present day capital of Bihar. it has had, in fact, many names throughout its continuous history-Patligram, Patliputra, Palibothra, Kusumpur, Pushpapur, Azeemabad and Patna. The name Patliputra may have been derived from the Patali, a legendary queen. Two of the city’s other names, Pushpapur and Kusumpur, mean city of flowers. Ancient Chinese texts refer to Patliputra as Pa-lin-fou.

The ancient city of Patliputra stretched along the south bank of the Ganga river. The Gandak river empties into the Ganga from the north at Patliputra, and the Sone merges with the Ganga from the south, a few-km to the west of the city. A smaller river, the Punpun , also enters the Ganga from the south at Pataliputra. Because of the city’s location near the confluence of three large rivers, trade has always been an important part of its economy.


Spring arrives in Bihar in March, but the pleasant temperatures are short-lived as summer begins in April, lasting through late June or early July. Summer temperatures can reach as high as 46 degree Celsius and the city’s proximity to so many rivers makes it humid throughout the year. The monsoom season lasts from July to early October. The annual rainfall in the area is 43 inches.


Legend has it that Pataliputra was magically created by the mythological king Putraka for his queen, Patali. Ke named the place Pataligram for her. When she had their first son, the city was renamed Pataliputra. In Sanskrit, “gram” means village, and “Putra” means son.
Pataliputra’s recorded history began with Ajatshatru, the second of the Magadhan kings, who established a small fort in 490 BCE in a better way at Pataligram, where the Ganga and Sone rivers met, in order to fight his enemies, the Lichchhavis, according to Buddhist text, Lord Buddha visited Pataligram during the construction of this fort on his last journey north.


Chandragupta Maurya(322-301BCE) ruled his kingdom from Ptaliputra. Megasthenes, a Greek ambassador from Taxila to the Mauryan court, described Palibothra, as he called it, as the greatest city in India. He said that the city was laid out in the shape of a parallelogram. The city was surrounded by a wooden wall which had slots from which arrows could be shot. This wakk gad 570 towers and 64 gates. Beyond the wall was a deep trench which was used for defence and as a sewage system.
Megasthenes described life at the Mauryan as one of “splendour and luxury”. He gave an idea of agriculture in the area when he described “reeds which produced honey without bees” (sugarcane) and “trees which grew wool”(cotton). Megasthenes also wrote of the social divisions among the populace , mentioning philosophers, soldiers, councilors, traders, artisans, peasants, and shepherds.
During the reign of Chandragupta’s grandson Ashoka(273-232 BCE), the government became highly centralized. Ashoka’s edicts were carved onto stone pillars, rocks and the walls of caves for all to see. He maintained a large standing army and established a network of spies and agents who spread the king’s edicts and reported to him on public opinion, and kept Ashoka informed about events throughout the kingdom.
The government bureaucracy was administered by salaried civil and military officials. A system of taxation on real estate, agricultural production and trade was established. Ashoka maintained a paternalistic attitude towards his subjects, but for the most part, treated them equally and fairly.
During the reign of Ashoka, many of the wooded buildings in Pataliputra were replaced with stone structures. The royal palace is reported to have covered an area of four square miles. Ashika built universities and monasteries. He banned hunting for sport and even set up animals hospitals. 
He brought new fields under cultivation developed irrigation systems. Trades routes linked Pataliputra with the port at Champa, and from there to Ceylon, Malaysia and the Far East. Ashoka built a s\ystem of roads which connected the entire subcontinent, the most important of which was the one thousand mile ling Royal Highway from Pataliputra to Taxila in the north. Today’s Grand Trunk Road basically follows the route of the ancient Royal Highway.
The Mauryan Empire began to decline after the reigh of Ashoka, though the Mauryas continued to rule Magadha from Pataliputra for another fifty years before the city fell into obscurity for three centuries.


Chandragupta(320-335CE) married a woman of the Lichchhavis who were then in control of Patliputra, which his bride brought to him as her dowry. He established his captible at Patliputra and used this foothold to expanded the Gupta influence over twenty more kingdoms.
Samudragupta was a patron of arts,and practiced religious tolerance , even allowing the king of Ceylon to build a Buddhist monastery at Bodh Gaya. Chandragupta ||(375-415CE), the grandson of Chandragupta|, continued the expansion of the empire westward, eventually establishing a second capital at Ujjain in cental India.
The Gupta era is considered to have been the Golden Age of Indian culture, a time in which scholarship and arts flourished.  The ancient university at Nalanda was founded in the fifth century by Guptas.  
Fa Hien, a Chinese Buddist monk, travelled to India and Ceylon from 399 to 414 CE. He visited patliputra several times and described the city in his account of his journey. Fa Hien admired the “elegant carving and inlaid sculpture work” of Ashoka’s palace , which the monk thought might have been built by spirits, so beautiful it was.
Fa Hien saw the inhabitants of the region as “rich and prosperous”, and recounted that they “vie with one another in the practice of benevolence and righteousness”. The traveller also found it remarkable that there was no capital punishment and he reported the lack of toll and land taxes, as well as the presence of a well-established caste system. He noted that most citizens did not consume onions , garlic, meat or wine. 


In the late fifth century, the Gupta Empire disintegrated in the face of continued foreign invasions, notably by the Huns. A minor branch of the Guptas kept their hold on Magadh and Pataliputra for another hundred years until they were overcome by the Vardhanas. By the mid-12th century, Pataliputra had become a part of Delhi Sultanate. During the Mughal period, pataliputra continued to be ruled from Delhi. As the  Mughal Empire declined in the 17th century, the city become an international trading center under the control of the Nawabs of Bengal.
Under the British Raj, Pataliputra, called Patna from 1704, rose once more a center of learning and trade. Today, Patna is a thriving city of over one million people, a business center and a popular tourist and pilgrimage destination.


The seat of mighty empires, Patna, the capital of Bihar state, has a fascinating past. And in each chapter of it’s history, it has been crowned by a new name –Kusumpur, Pushpapur, Pataliputra and Azeemabad. 
Turning over the pages of early Indian history one comes across the name of Pataliputra. Located at the site where Patna is today, this city saw the rise and fall of India’s first major kingdoms. It’s period of glory spanned thousand years, from the 6th century BC to 5th century AD. Ajatshatru, second in the line of Magadh kings, built a fort at Pataligram on the bank of the river Ganga.
This later become the famous Mauryan metropolis of Pataliputra and was ruled by Chandragupta Maurya(a contemporary of Alexander) and his grandson Ashok, acclaimed for the speed of Buddhism in other countries. Other emperors who ruled from Pataliputra were the Gupta and Pala kings, Sher shah suri(16th century) and Ajimush Shah(18 century)grandson of Mughalwmperor Aurangzeb, who renamed it Azeembad. Vestiges of this ancient city can be seen at Kumhrar, Bhikhna Pahari, Agamkuan, Bulandi Bagh etc.


In Patna Sahib is the holy shrine of shikhs. This is said to be the second- most important Gurdwara in India. It is the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs. It is built in white marbles, with kiosks on the terraces. It is interesting to trace the name of the place Patna, which is supposed to have been derived from two temples that exist in Patna. The temples are known as Badi Patan Devi and Chhoti Patan Devi.
The name Patna is popularly believed to be derived from these two Patan Devi temples. The Badi Patan Devi temple is located at Maharajganj, about six miles east of Patna Junction. Gulzarbagh railway station is at a distance of half a mile.the Chhoti Patan Devi temple is located at Patna City Chowk, about two miles from Patna City railway station.   
District  Patna
Area  3,202 sq. kms.
Population  36,18,211
Sub Divisions  Barh, Danapur, Masaurhi,   Paliganj, Patna City, Patna Sadar.
Blocks  Patna, Dhanarua, Phulwarisharif, Bihta, Naubatpur, Paliganj, Barh, Mokama, Masaurhi, Punpun, Maner, Danapur, Bikram, Bakhtiyarpur, Pandarak, Fatuha, Daniawan, Khusrupur, Athmalgola, Belchhi, Ghoswari, Dulhinbazar, Sampatchak.
Agriculture  Rich Paddy fields, Potato, Onion, Vegetables.
Industry  Sugar, Fire-Works, Biscuit, Flour Mills, Light-bulb, Shoes and Wagon Factory.
Rivers  Ganga, Sone and Punpun.