Patna is the capital of the Indian state of Bihar and the most populous city in Bihar. Patna is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world. Ancient Patna, known as Pataliputra, was the capital of the Magadha Empire under the Haryanka, Nanda, Mauryan, Sunga, Gupta, Pala and during the Islamic period the seat of power for the Suri dynasty.
Pataliputra was also a seat of learning and fine arts. Its population during the Maurya period (around 300 BCE) was about 400,000.
In June 2009, the World Bank ranked Patna in second place in India, after Delhi, in terms of the ease of starting a business. As at 2004-2005, Patna had the highest per capita gross district domestic product in Bihar, at Rs31,441. On the basis of, assumed average annual growth, Patna has been ranked as 21st fastest growing city in the world and 5th fastest growing city in India by City Mayors Foundation. Patna registered average annual growth of 3.72%,for the period of 2006-2010.
The Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain pilgrim centres of Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda, Gaya, Bodhgaya, and Pawapuri are nearby and Patna is also a sacred city for Sikhs as the last Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, was born here.
Origin of name
Being one of the oldest cities of India the name of this city changed with time. There are several theories regarding the source of the modern name Patna (Devanagari:पटना ):
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 BCE.
Patna became significant around the year 490 BCE when Ajatashatru, the king of Magadha, wanted to shift his capital from the hilly Rajagrha 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. 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.
Megasthenes, the Greek historian and ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, gives the first written account of the city. He wrote that the city was situated on the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Arennovoas (Sonabhadra - Hiranyawah) and was long and wide. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to India, described the city as the greatest city on earth during its heyday. The Sungas ultimately retained control of Pataliputra and ruled for almost 100 years. The Sungas were then followed by the Kanvas and eventually the Guptas. There has been academic controversy regarding whether or not the Indo-Greeks occupied the area around 185 BCE.
A number of Chinese travellers came to India in pursuit of knowledge and recorded their observations 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.
Gupta and Mughal empires
In the years that followed, many dynasties ruled the Indian subcontinent from the city, including those of the Gupta empire and the Pala kings. With the disintegration of the Gupta empire, Patna passed through uncertain times. Bakhtiar Khilji captured Bihar in the 12th century and destroyed many ancient seats of learning, and Patna lost its prestige as the political and cultural center of India.
Guru Gobind Singh (22 December 1666 – 7 October 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, Patna Sahib, 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 the Pashtun emperor 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, although the Sher Shah Suri Masjid mosque, built in Afghan architectural style, does. Mughal emperor Akbar came to Patna in 1574 to crush the Afgha 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. The mansions of the Maharaja of Tekari Raj dominated the Patna river front in 1811-12.
During the 17th century, Patna became a centre of international trade. In 1620, the English East India Company established a factory in Patna for trading in calico and silk. Soon this became a trading centre for saltpetre. Francois Bernier, in Travels in the Mogul Empire (1656–1668), says "...a prodigious quantity of saltpetre was imported from Patna. It was carried down the Ganges with great facility, and the Dutch and English send large cargoes to many parts of the Indies, and to Europe". This trade encouraged other Europeans, principally the 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". After the decisive Battle of Buxar of 1764, Patna fell into the hands of the East India Company, which installed a government. It was ruled during the years of British India by a series of governors, including Rahul Gunderjaharagand.
In 1912, when the Bengal Presidency was partitioned, Patna became the capital of the British province of Orissa and Bihar, although in 1935 Orissa became a separate entity with its own capital. Patna soon emerged as an important and strategic centre.
Some buildings constructed during the period of British control remain, many designed by I. F. Munnings. Most of these buildings reflect either Indo-Saracenic influences - for example, the Patna Museum and the State Assembly - or overt Renaissance influences, as seen with the Raj Bhawan and the High Court. Some buildings, like the General Post Office 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.
Indian independence movement
People from Patna were involved in the Indian independence movement. Most notable were the Champaran movement against the Indigo plantation and the 1942 Quit India Movement. National leaders who have come from the city include 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 and Sarangdhar Sinha (Singh)
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 became a separate state of the Indian union.