It is not often that Bihar finds a place in the itinerary of tourists in India. As we have shown, here and here, the state offers much to the brave traveler willing to overlook some real and many imagined issues with the state. A good place to start, if you are looking for a quick visit, is the state capital itself. The rich history of Patna, its distinctive food and its laid-back people make for a very relaxed and enjoyable trip – even if you are not surrounded by quaint relatives like the author.
Patna, once known as Pataliputra, is an ancient city that has been a prominent center of trade, politics and learning from at least 490 BCE, when Ajastshatru, the Magadh king, shifted his capital here from Rajgir. Megasthenes, the Greek historian, wrote about the city’s grandeur, and under the Mauryas and the Guptas the city had already reached the pinnacle of development when the growth of most other Indian cities was far in the future. The city saw its revival under Sher Shah Suri and later became a major commercial center under the British.
Since independence, corruption, political one-upmanship and rampant mismanagement have gradually eroded the sheen of this once beautiful metropolis, but things have taken a turn for the better in recent years. Very importantly, it still boasts of a number of sites in and around the city that should attract the discerning traveller. Here, then, are the top ten places that you should include in your visit to Patna.
Photo by Shivamsetu
1. Gandhi Maidan – A historical ground near the banks of the Ganga where the Champaran (1917) and the Quit India (1942) movements were launched. Some of the greatest leaders of the freedom movement addressed rallies here, and Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement opposing Indira Gandhi was launched here too. Club an expedition to this vast stretch of greenery with a visit to the Gandhi Sangrahalaya and the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the tallest in the world.
2. Golghar – Located close to Gandhi Maidan, this quaint stupa-like structure is a large granary built in 1786 under the order of Governor General Warren Hastings, and offers a commanding view of the area around it, including the Ganga’s banks.
3. Agam Kuan – Meaning ‘unfathomable well’, this circular structure dates back to the period of Emperor Ashok, and is believed to have been a part of his torture chambers known as Ashoka’s Hell. Many devotees also visit the adjoining Shitala Mata temple, with the deity known for curing poxes and sores.
Photo by Neelsb
4. Takht Sri Patna Sahib – This Gurdwara marks the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs. Built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, it is one of the holiest places in Sikhism. The city is dotted with many other important Sikh houses of worship, including Gurdwara Pahila Bara, where Guru Nanak and Guru Tegh Bahadur stayed during their visits to Patna, and Gurdwara Bal Leela, where Guru Gobind Singh spent a good part of his childhood.
5. Mahavir Mandir – The magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is a major pilgrimage center. The temple is supposed to be the second-richest in North India after Vaishno Devi, and it shows in its grandeur and the beautiful lighting in the evening.
Photo by Shivamsetu
6. Buddha Smriti Park – Inaugurated by the 14th Dalai Lama in 2010, this dedication to Lord Buddha stands at the site of the Bankipore Jail of British era. The park’s museum houses relics related to the Buddha brought here from countries like Japan, Myanmar, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and the evening laser show is a must visit for getting familiar with the history of Bihar and the life of Gautam Buddha.
7. Patna Planetarium – One of the largest planetariums in Asia, lines of visitors waiting for an entry would run for hundreds of meters when it was first opened in 1993. This beautiful domed complex still attracts many students and science enthusiasts from India and abroad with its film shows in English and Hindi.
Photo by Manoj nav
8. Patna Museum – Built in Mughal and Rajput style, this museum was opened by the British in 1917, andhouses so many mystifying artefacts collected from Patna’s that locals have named it Jadu Ghar (house of magic).
9. Ganga Ghat – After Varanasi and Haridwar, probably the best view of the Ganga and its banks can be had at Patna. With the recent cleaning drive, and the operation of an AC floating restaurant here, it is a great place to spend an evening. You can also take a motorboat to ride all the way to the Mahatma Gandhi Setu, the second-longest river bridge in India, and try and spot the very rare Gangetic River Dolphin.
Photo by Ayush980
10. Maner Sharif – A satellite town of Patna, this holy site is just 24 km away from the city, and is home to the dargahs of sufi saints Makhdoom Yahya Maneri and Makhdoom Shah Daulat. It also has a mosque dating to 1619, and was also the location where the famed Sanskrit grammarian Panini studied. If you visit the place, carry back packs of the yummy Maner ka laddoo, which is supposed to earn its sweetness from the sweet waters of River Sone.
This short trip through Patna does not even begin to cover the many places around the city that are equally unmissable, including Vaishali (65 km), Nalanda (70 km), Pavapuri (100 km), Rajgir (100 km) and Bodh Gaya (125 km).
Patna’s Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan Airport handles only domestic flights currently and is connected with major Indian cities. The closest international airport is in Gaya, which is 100 km away. Patna railway station is an important point on the East Central Railway line, well-connected with all Indian cities. The city also serves as the junction of major National Highways and getting around by road is very convenient. Hotels suiting all budgets are easily available in the city. The best time to visit is between October and March.
Featured Photo (Golghar) by Wikirapra