Names of Patna
There are several theories regarding the source of the name Patna
- It is etymologically derived from Patan , the name of the Hindu goddess, Patan Devi.
- It comes from Pattan (meaning "port" in Sanskrit), since the city, located near the confluence of four rivers, has been a thriving river port.
- It may be a short form of Pataliputra , one of the most ancient names of this city.
- The Greeks called it Palibothra. Megasthenes (350-290 BCE), the Greek historian, referred to it in Greek as Palibothra or Palimbotra.
- The place appears in the records of the Chinese traveller, Fa Hien, as Pa-lin-fou.
- The city has been known by various names during its more than 2,000 years of existence – Patligram, Patliputra, Kusumpur, Pushpapura, Azimabad, and the present-day Patna.
- Patna received its current name during the reign of Sher Shah Suri, whose tomb is at Sasaram, near Patna
View of the Ganges from Patna.
Legend ascribes the origin of Patna to a mythological King Putraka who created Patna by magic for his queen Patali, literally "trumpet flower", which gives it its ancient name Pataligrama. It is said that in honour of the queen's first-born, the city was named Pataliputra. Gram is Sanskrit for village and Putra means son.
Legend also says that the Emerald Buddha was created in Patna (then Pataliputra) by Nagasena in 43 BC.
From a scientific historical perspective, it would be appropriate to surmise that the history of Patna started around the year 490 BCE when Ajatashatru, the king of Magadha, wanted to shift his capital from the hilly Rajagaha to a more strategically located place to combat the Licchavis of Vaishali. He chose the site on the bank of the Ganges and fortified the area. From that time, the city has had a continuous history, a record claimed by few cities in the world. When founded, it was known as "Pataligrama" and in later years it was "Pataliputra" which is today's Patna. Gautama Buddha passed through this place in the last year of his life. He prophesied a great future for this place, but at the same time, he predicted its ruin from flood, fire, and feud. It is said that Buddha made a halt here when he was on the last journey to his native land of Kapilavastu.
With the rise of the Mauryan empire, the place became the seat of power and nerve centre of the sub-continent. From Pataliputra, the famed emperor Chandragupta Maurya (a contemporary of Alexander) ruled a vast empire, stretching from the Bay of Bengal to Afghanistan.
View of Gai Ghat from Gandhi Setu Bridge, Patna.
Early Mauryan Pataliputra was mostly built with wooden structures. Emperor Ashoka, the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, transformed the wooden capital into a stone construction around 273 BCE. Chinese scholar Fa Hein, who visited India sometime around 399-414 CE, has given a vivid description of the stone structures in his travelogue.
Megasthenes (350-290 BCE), a Greek historian and ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, gives the first written account of Pataliputra. In his book Indika, he mentions that the city of Palibothra (Pataliputra, modern day Patna) was situated on the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Arennovoas (Sonabhadra - Hiranyawah) and was 9 miles (14 km) long and 1.75 miles (2.82 km) wide. Michael Wood, in The Story of India (2007), describes this city as the greatest city on earth during its heyday.
Much later, a number of Chinese travellers came to India in pursuit of knowledge and recorded their observation about Pataliputra in their travelogues, including those of a Chinese Buddhist Fa Hien, who visited India between 399 and 414 CE, and stayed here for many months translating Buddhist texts.
In the years that followed, the city saw many dynasties ruling the Indian subcontinent from here. It saw the rules of the Gupta empire and the Pala kings. However, it never reached the glory that it had under the Mauryas.
Harmandir Saheb, Patna City
With the disintegration of the Gupta empire, Patna passed through uncertain times. Bakhtiar Khilji captured Bihar in the 12th century AD and destroyed many ancient seats of learning, and Patna lost its prestige as the political and cultural center of India.
Guru Gobind Singh(December 22, 1666 – October 7, 1708), the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, was born as Gobind Rai in Patna to Teg Bahadur, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, and his wife Gujri. His birthplace, Harmandir saheb, is one of the most sacred pilgrimages for Sikhs.
The Mughal period was a period of unremarkable provincial administration from Delhi. The most remarkable period during these times was under Sher Shah Suri, who revived Patna in the middle of the 16th century. He built a fort and founded a town on the banks of the Ganges. Sher Shah's fort in Patna does not survive, but the mosque, Sher Shah Suri Masjid, built in Afghan architectural style, survives.
Mughal emperor Akbar came to Patna in 1574 to crush the Afghan Chief Daud Khan. Akbar's navratna and state's official historian and author of "Ain-i-Akbari" Abul Fazl refers to Patna as a flourishing centre for paper, stone and glass industries. He also refers to the high quality of numerous strains of rice grown in Patna, famous as Patna rice in Europe.
By 1620 the city of Patna was the great entrepot of Northern India - "the largest town in Bengal and the most famous for trade".This was before the founding of the city of Calcutta.
Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb acceded to the request of his favourite grandson, Prince Muhammad Azim, to rename Patna as Azimabad, in 1704 while Azim was in Patna as the subedar. However, very little changed during this period other than the name.
With the decline of the Mughal empire, Patna moved into the hands of the Nawabs of Bengal, who levied a heavy tax on the populace but allowed it to flourish as a commercial centre.
City of Patna, on the River Ganges, 19th century painting.
The mansions of the Maharaja of Tekari Raj dominated the Patna riverfront in 1811-12.
During the 17th century, Patna became a centre of international trade. The British started with a factory in Patna in 1620 for trading in calico and silk. Soon it became a trading centre for saltpetre, urging other Europeans—French, Danes, Dutch and Portuguese—to compete in the lucrative business. Peter Mundy, writing in 1632, described Patna as "the greatest mart of the eastern region".
Shaheed Smarak or Martyr's Memorial Patna
After the decisive Battle of Buxar (1765), Patna fell into the hands of the East India Company, which installed a puppet government. It was ruled during the Raj by a series of ineffectual Viceroys, of whom the best-known was Rahul Gunderjaharagand. During this period it continued as a trading centre.
In 1912, Patna became the capital of Orissa Province and Bihâr when Bengal Presidency was partitioned. It soon emerged as an important and strategic centre. 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 building the imperial capital, New Delhi. Orissa was created as a separate province in 1935. Patna continued as the capital of Bihar province under the British Raj.
Gol Ghar, Patna 19th century painting.
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. Patna's contribution in the freedom struggle has been immense with outstanding national leaders like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, the first President of the Constituent Assembly of India; Dr. Sachidanand Sinha; Dr. Rajendra Prasad; Bihar Vibhuti (Anugrah Narayan Sinha);Basawon Singh (Sinha); Loknayak (Jayaprakash Narayan); Sri Krishna Sinha; Sheel Bhadra Yajee; Sarangdhar Sinha (Singh); Yogendra Shukla; and many others who worked for India's freedom relentlessly. Shrii Anandamurti formed the Ananda Marga movement in Patna in 1962 to work for world unity and justice. He modernized the ancient practices of yoga and made the most advanced practices of meditation available to the general public. He spoke about the inequality of women (both in India and worldwide). As an example, he questioned the morality of the dowry system of marriage and the Indian caste system. His Ananda Marga organization spread worldwide and teaches both neo-humanism (oneness of family of life) and PROUT (Progressive Utilization Theory) for overall economic development. He is considered a leader in the field of philosophy and morality.
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.