|Facts and Figures|
|Languages||Hindi, Urdu, Bhojpuri, Maithili, and Magahi|
|Best time to visit||October to February|
Located on the southern bank of the Ganges (also Ganga), Patna is the capital of the northern state of Bihar. It is an old city steeped in history. The present-day Patna is, however, crowded and polluted. The Mahatma Gandhi Setu, one of the longest bridges in the world at 7.5 km, crosses the Ganges 5 km west of the city center.
Patna is hot and humid in summer and cold in winters. Temperature varies from a maximum of 43°C in summer to a minimum of around 5°C in the winters. Relative humidity can go up to 100% during summer. It receives medium to heavy rainfall in the monsoon.
The history of Patna starts from the year 493 bc when Ajatshatru, the king of Magadh, fortified a small village Pataligrama, which latter came to be known as Pataliputra. Located on the high bank of the river Ganges, the city was established by the son of Ajatshatru, Udayi. In the years that followed, the city saw many dynasties that ruled the Indian subcontinent from there. Pataliputra reached its pinnacle of glory under the Mauryas and became one of the most important capital cities. Patna became the capital of Bihar when India attained independence in 1947.
SITES TO VISIT
Patna has many sites of historical importance that can be visited.
The Khuda Baksh Oriental Library is a treasure trove of medieval manuscripts. It is famous for its rare collection of Arabic and Persian manuscripts, including volumes saved during the sacking of the Moorish University of Cordova.
Patna Museum is noted for its collection of statues and the world’s oldest fossilized tree, 16 m high and 200 million years old.
Close to the museum is Golghar, the 29-m-high beehive-shaped structure constructed in 1786 following a terrible famine.
Patna Cemetery is a historically important European monument situated in what was once a haveli (now a hospital). The cemetery is noted for an obelisk that was erected to mark the cold-blooded murder of 47 Englishmen by Samru in 1763. A short distance away from the cemetery is Padri-ki-Haveli, now a Catholic church with an imposing façade.
The remains of Pataliputra, as well as the ancient capital of Ajatshatru and Ashoka have been uncovered at Kumhrar. A few large pillars and the foundations of a Buddhist monastery, known as Anand, are all that remain now.
At the eastern end of the city, in the Chowk area of old Patna stands the Har Mandir, one of the holiest Sikh shrines. Built of white marble by Ranjit Singh, it marks the place where Gobind Singh, the 10th and last of the Sikh gurus, was born in 1660.
One can still see Agam Kuan (the fathomless well), which was part of Ashoka’s hell for prisoners. The famous Mahendru Ghat in today’s Patna is the reminder of Mahendru (Ashoka’s brother) who had sailed from here to preach Buddhism in Ceylon.
Vaishali, the birthplace of Mahavira, seat of the first republic in the world, and the place where Buddha gave his last sermon, is a one-hour drive from Patna. It has an Ashoka pillar, a few stupas and a small museum.
Founded in the 5th century bc, Nalanda is 90 km away from Patna. It gave the world one of the earliest great universities. The extensive remains today include the Great Stupa, an archeological museum, and Xuan Memorial Hall, built as a peace pagoda by the Chinese.
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS
All the festivals of North India are celebrated in Patna, but Chatta, which is celebrated six days after Diwali, is the most famous. Pataliputra Mahotsav features parades, sports, dancing, and music.
HOW TO REACH
Patna is well connected to Delhi, Calcutta, Varanasi, Ranchi and Lucknow by regular flights. It is conveniently linked to all the major cities of India through trains. It takes 15 hours to reach Delhi from here by train. For excursions of the nearby places, one can take buses from Harding Park that is 1 km away from the railway station.
The state tourist office (Ph. 210219) is in the Loknayak Jaiprakash Bhawan on the Dak Bungalow Road. The Government of India (GOI) tourist office (Ph. 345776) is located south of the railway line. All medical (chemists, hospitals) and communication (phone, fax, e-mail) facilities are available here. Patna is a crowded city and one should be careful when visiting the place.