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PATNA Patna (Pataliputra), the capital of Bihar state, is a historic city located at the confluence of three rivers, the Ganga, the Gandak, and the Sone. The Ganga flows all along its northern boundary. The area in the south is generally low-lying and as such is prone to floods from the rivers Punpun and Sone. The city has a mean elevation of 173 feet (53 m) above sea level and is situated at 28°37′ north latitude and 85°10′ east longitude. It has been a center of learning, religion, and art since time immemorial. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism are deeply connected to this city. It is one of the longest and the narrowest among the largest cities of the country, with a population of over a million and a half spread over an area of about 30 square miles (77.7 sq. km).

The ancient city of Pataliputra was a mere village—Pataligram—in the time of the Buddha in the sixth century b.c. However, Ajatasatru realized its great strategic value for the growing kingdom of Magadha, facing the rival Licchavis republic of Vaisali on the northern bank (other side) of the Ganga, and erected a military outpost there. The natural advantage of the site made it commercially important and also helped its growth. The Magadhan king Udai transferred his capital from Rajgriha to Pataliputra. It remained the imperial capital under the Nandas, the Mauryas, and the Guptas. It was a prosperous and populous city when Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, visited it twice.

Pataliputra acquired the status of a capital city during the reign of Emperor Ashoka (ruled c. 268–231 b.c.). However, it later faced Indo-Greek invasion, and the city was sacked in a.d. 185. But its glory again revived under the Guptas. Fahsien, the Chinese pilgrim who studied there for three years during the reign of Chandragupta I in the early fifth century a.d., not only considered it a famous center of learning but also the most beautiful and largest city of the world. The city again suffered destruction, and when Hsieun Tsang visited the city in a.d. 637, it had become desolate and deserted.

Pataliputra emerged from its political obscurity when Sher Shah, the great Pathan ruler, built a fort there in 1541, transferred the provincial capital from Bihar Sharif, and gave it the new name of Patna. It became an important commercial center during the seventeenth century. Mughal emperors further extended the city in 1704. Prince Azimusshan, the grandson of Aurangzeb, the new governor (subedar) of Bihar, renamed Patna as Azimabad. With the coming of the Europeans, the city had expanded beyond its fortified walls and became famous in Southeast Asia as a source of sugar and salt-peter. The importance of Patna was further enhanced when it was made the capital of the newly created province of Bihar in 1912. It also contributed significantly to India's freedom struggle against British imperial rule. More recently, Jaya Prakash ( J. P) Narayan launched his "Total Revolution" against corruption from Patna in 1974.

Yuvaraj Prasad


Ahmad, Qeyamuddin, ed. Patna through the Ages: Glimpses of History, Society, and Economy. Patna: Janaki Prakashan, 1988.

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Patna (păt´nə, pŭt´–), city (1991 pop. 1,099,647), capital of Bihar state, NE India, on the Ganges River. It is the hub of a rice-growing region and is an administrative, commercial, and educational center. There is good transportation by road, rail, and air. The ancient name was Pataliputra. It was an imperial city during the Maurya (c.325–185 BC) and Gupta (c.320–AD 545) eras. Asoka (270–230 BC) built a large palace there, and some ruins of the period remain. The city was revived during the rule of Afghans and Mughals. In the 18th cent. the East India Company made Patna a seat of trade.