Patna is the capital city of the state of Bihar in India. It is situated on the southern bank of holy river Ganges and has a history of been called by different names – Pataliputra, Palibothra, Azimabad and the present day Patna. The history of this city dates back to 490 BC when it was founded by, Ajatshatru, the King of Magadha, who out of his need to relocate his capital, identified a site adjacent to the modern day Patna, and built a city called Patliputra.
Pataliputra gradually evolved under the Haryanka, Nanda, Mauryan, Gupta and Pala period. Rajagriha was the capital of Haryanka Dynasty founded in 684 BC. The dynasty was overthrown by the Nanda Dynasty in 424 BC. It was during this period that boundaries of this kingdom expanded to form the city of Magadha. Ajatshatru who later became the King of Magadha, imprisoned and killed his father Bimbisara and went to war with the Licchavi’s. Ajatshatrau, who ruled from 491-461 BC, moved the capital of Magadha from Rajagriha to Pataliputra, which eventually became the largest city in the world.
The Nanda Dynasty was succeeded by Maurya Dynasty (321-185 BC) which extended from the Bay of Bengal to Afghanistan under Chandrgupta Maurya, who ruled from Pataliputra. The city under his rule witnessed wooden structures and high rise palaces surrounded by parks and lakes and most distinctively a well managed drainage system. The city grew as a centre of learning and Megasthenes, who was a Greek Ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, wrote detailed account of this magnificent city, which gradually developed as a Buddhist centre comprising of a number of important monasteries. Patna emerged as an effective capital of the Indian Subcontinent under the rule of Emperor Ashoka, the grandson of Chandrgupta Maurya. All wooden establishments erected during early Mauryan period were replaced by stone structures during his regime.
The Mauryan Dynasty was then succeeded by the Gupta Dynasty and Chandragupta I (320-335), after conquering Magadha, revived many of the principles of Government established during the rule of Emperor Ashoka. Thereafter, it was his son Samudragupta and his grandson Chandragupta II, called as Vikramaditya, extended the empire over the whole of North and Western Deccan. The cultural creativity and architecture flourished to a great extent during this period, which is regarded as the Golden age of Indian Culture.
Thereafter, Gupta Empire disintegrated and with continuous invasions of the Indian Subcontinent by foreign armies, like the most of North India, Patna too passed through uncertain times. The city suffered damage to a great extent in the 12 century when it was invaded by Xuanzang and afterwards by Muslim raiders which marked the decline of Buddhism in India. Many ancient seats of learning were also destroyed and Patna, the capital city of the Mauryan and Gupta Empire, lost its grandeur.
The city was rediscovered in the 16th Century by Sher Shah Suri who changed the name of Pataliputra to modern Patna. Most of the architecture build in Afghan style during his regime still exists, however Sher Shah’s fort, on the banks of the river Ganges in Patna, doesn’t exist anymore. After Sher Shah Suri’s death in 1545, Patna and Bihar came under the regime of the Mughals.
Akbar reached Patna in the year 1574. Abul Fazl, one of Akbar’s navratans, mentioned Patna as a centre acknowledged for having paper and stone and glass industries. The rice cultivated in Patna was famous as Patna Rice in Europe. The city continued to flourish under the Mughal Empire and by 1620, it was acknowledged as the largest city of Bengal and became famous for trade, much before Calcutta was discovered.
Patna was also renamed as Azimabad in 1704, on the recommendation of Prince Muhammad Azim-us-Shan, the Governor of Patna and grandson of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Eventually, the name Azimabad got replaced by Patna, the name given by Sher Shah Suri. However, it is said that a colony inside Patna is still called as New Azimabad which is inhabited primarily by Muslims.
Patna or Azimabad witnessed violent activities during the reign of Aurangzeb who restored the poll-tax (Jazia) on those not having religious belief. However, after the death of Aurangzeb and with the decline of Mughal Empire, Patna gradually went into the hands of the Nawabs of Bengal who allowed the city to flourish but imposed a much heavy tax on the public.
The trading capacity of the City of Patna was soon acknowledged by the British East India Company which established a Factory in 1620 to trade in Calico and Silk and soon Patna became a centre for International Trade. A phenomenal amount of saltpetre started to be imported from Patna, encouraging other Europeans to get involved into this lucrative business and soon various other European Factories started mushrooming in Patna. The Nawabs of Bengal, by this time had lost effective control over the territories constituting the province of Bengal, comprising of Indian States West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orrisa and some parts of Bangladesh.
Gradually, prominently after the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the East India Company established its dominance over the city of Patna, which emerged as one of the most important commercial and trading centres of East India, followed by Calcutta (presently Kolkatta). The city attained its lost glory under the British Raj and was made the capital of the new province of Bihar and Orissa subsequent to partitioning of the Provinces of Bengal in 1912. In 1935, however, Orrisa became a separate entity with its own capital and Patna continued as the capital of Bihar under the British Raj.
The city of Patna houses several colonial establishments built during the British Rule. The Patna Secretariat with Clock Tower and the Patna High Court are landmarks amongst several other noted buildings like Patna College, Patna Science College, Prince of Wales Medical College and the Patna Veterinary College.
Patna is also acknowledged for the major role it played during the fight for Indian Independence and for the extraordinary role of the City of Champaran in Bihar in the Quit India Movement of 1942.
The city has produced some eminent world class scholars like Aryabhata (famous astronomer and mathematician), Ashvaghosha (poet and influential Buddhist writer), Chanakya or Kautilya (the Indian Machiavelli, the author of Arthashastra, the guru of Chandragupta Maurya), etc. Gautam Buddha is said to have been passed through this place in the last years of his life. Besides, Patna has also been the birthplace of Guru Gobing Singh (1666-1708), the tenth Guru of the Sikhs and Patna Sahib, his birthplace, is a sacred pilgrimage for the Sikhs, even today.
The Cultural heritage of Bihar and noted historical events and establishments in the city of Bihar has turned it into a major tourist attraction. The ruins of Ashokan Pataliputra, the existing Takht Sri Patna Sahib, famous pilgrimage of the Sikhs, Padri Ki Haveli, High Court, the Golghar are amongst some of the prominent tourist destinations.