Patna: The City Ancient
Patna is said to be one of the oldest inhabited places in the world and the history related to this city can be traced back 3000 years. However it carries more religious importance and religious tourism is the most common form of tourism observed here. This place is rich with religious history and Hindu, Buddhists, Christians and Islamic pilgrims from many parts of India and the world visit this place. The city is the capital of the Indian state of Bihar and it is not a surprise that approx. 2.5 million tourists visit the city every year.
This city was famous for religious tourism; however as the city has developed, so have many places of interest in and near the city. There are many religions whose pilgrims come to visit this place and many Buddhists from Japan and China come here every year. However the majority of the tourism is still religious in nature and the fact that the city is located on the banks of the river Ganges makes it the sanctum sanctorum among other such cities that witness religious tourism in India.
There are many places to visit and many activities to do in Patna compared to any other city in Bihar. The Bihar State Tourism Department even offers cruise rides on the river on a restaurant situated on a boat. However there are other places of interest such as archeological sites and parks and zoos for people who want to take a glimpse of the local wildlife. However temples and places of worship are the most visited places by pilgrims as well as tourists who can enjoy the architecture and the unique aura that the city provides.
Places of Interest
The documented history of Patna can be traced back to 600 B.C and the original name at that time of the city was Patliputra. This rich history has given birth to archeological sites that are thousands of years old and are unique and can only be found in this city.
Kumrahar: Located about 3 miles from the Patna Railway Station, this is an archeological site that has remains which date back to 330 BC belonging to the Mauryan period. Moreover, relics here date from 600 BC to 600 AD and the site was the ancient capital of Ajatshatru, Chandragupta, and Ashoka. Kumrahar has an ancient hall built in the hypostyle manner and 80 pillars support this hall. The actual excavation started in 1912 and a pillar of polished stone along with “pits” where the pillars stood were subsequently discovered. Other excavations revealed the presence of a temple by the discovery of a “stupa” with female cavings on both the sides. These carvings that were on both sides led to the temple being named “Durukhi” or “Durukhiya” which roughly translated means double faced. This temple is said to be in the place around the third century BC.
Didarganj Yakshi: This is a sculpture that is considered to be one of the finest examples of Mauryan art and is located in the Patna Museum. The sculpture which dates back 2000 years has immense historical importance since this place was the capital of India when the Buddhist era marked the golden age for this country. The sculpture itself is carved out of one stone and has exquisite carvings on it. Moreover, the presence of Bodh Gaya, which was where Buddha attained Nirvana is situated very close to Patna, makes the site very important for Buddhists around the world as well as in India.
This is the state museum of Bihar and has many artifacts including coins, paintings, archeological objects, sculptures, textiles, bronze images, terracotta images, and various instruments. There is also a unique collection of paintings depicting the life of the first President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The Didarganj Yakshi and the ashes of Buddha along with the fossil of a tree believed to be 200 million years old are situated here which makes the museum one of its kinds in the country.
The river Ganges
The city is located on the banks of the river Ganges which is considered holy by Hindus and many people usually visit these for religious purposes. However the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation has also started a restaurant on a boat for cruises on the river. Moreover, tourists can also hire the boat, which is actually a floating restaurant and cruise ship, for certain hours to enjoy the city from the river and take in the religious and unique atmosphere that the place provides.
Mahavir Mandir: The Mahavir temple is one of the most visited shrines of North-India and is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Thousands of people visit the temple everyday and especially on Saturdays and Tuesdays, days that are dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The Mahavir Mandir Trust is the second richest in North-India and many Hindu devotees donate here to show their dedication to the worship of Lord Hanuman.
Birla Mandir: Birla Mandir is built by the Birla family who were said to be advised by a Hindu saint to build temples. Birla Mandir (or Birla Temples) can be found in many cities and most of them are dedicated to Lord Lakshminaryayan, as is the case with the Birla Mandir in Patna. These temples are usually made using white stones and are worth a visit since the deities and carvings are mesmerizing and intricately designed.
Sikh Pilgrimages: Takht Shri Harmandir Saheb Patna is one of the holiest cities for Sikhs and the Takht Shri Harmandir Saheb is one of the five “Takths” or “Throne of authority” which is located here. Built on the banks of the river Ganges, this Gurdwara (place of worship for Sikhs) was constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in remembrance of the tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh.
Gurudwara Gobind Ghat: This place of worship is located on the banks of the river Ganges and is said to be the place where Guru Gobind Singh used to play when he was a child. However the river itself has receded to the north.
Christian Pilgrimages: Mansion of Padre: This place is also known as the Padare ki Haveli and St. Marys Church and is the oldest church of Bihar. The church was built when Catholics arrived in Bihar and the original one was very small when it was built in 1713. However the church underwent damage and destruction from the hands of Islamic rulers and was subsequently destroyed again in 1857 during the great Indian rebellion.
Islamic Pilgrimages: Pathar Ki Masjid: The name roughly translates to “a mosque of stone” since it is made using stones and is close to the Takht Shri Harmandir Saheb on the banks of the river Ganges. It is an important pilgrimage site for Muslims since it was made by Parvez Shah who was the son of Emperor Jahangir.
Sher Shah Suri Masjid: The Sher Shah Suri Masjid which is also known as Shershahi is made using Afghani style of architecture. Built in the 1540’s this Mosque was the creation of Sher Shah Suri who was a Afghani Islamic Invader and the establisher of the Suri empire. The Mosque was built by him to basically commemorate his reign.
Other Places of Interest:
Sanjay Gandhi Botanical and Zoological Garden: This is said to be one of the 16 largest botanical gardens in the country and strives to save endangered species. The garden which is also known as Patna Zoo also has a small snake house and an aquarium among which, the latter contains almost 35 species of fish and the former has five species of snakes.
The city is well connected to many other metropolises in India; however the nearest international airport is located around sixty miles from the city. Patna is also well connected to other Indian cities by rail and is strategically located and controlled by the East Central Railway. Four national highways pass through this city and the majority of them are connected to all the other major cities in the country which makes the city easily accessible by road.