Wednesday 23 Apr 2014

Ancient Pataliputra

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Patna has a glorious past like none other city in the Indian History. A city whose administrative power controlled vast region stretching from modern Afghanistan in the east to beyond Bengal in the west, from Kashmir in the north to Deccan in the south, and which brought the golden period of Indian art, culture and power, has a recorded history of more than 2000 years. A city which saw the rise and fall of powerful dynasties like of Mauryan's and Gupta's, was once considered at par with the glorious Mesopotamian city of Susa and Ecbatana. A city which welcomed and amazed the great travelers like Megasthanese and Fa-hein, proudly witnessed the brilliance of Chanakaya, Panini and Kalidas, to name a few.The legendary kings like Ajathshatru, Chadragupta, Ashoka and Vikramaditya ruled from the ancient land of modern Patna. The city was associated with the two most ancient religions of the world, Buddhism and Jainism.

The city kept on changing its name as the time progressed. Ancient literature refers it by various names like Pataligrama, Patalipur, Pushpapur, Kusumpur, Kusumvati, Palibothra, Pataliputra, Azimabad etc. (read : name change proposal question in state assembly) In 6th Century BC, it was a small village where Buddha, sometime before his death, had noticed a fort being constructed under the orders of king Ajatshatru (491 - 461 BC) of Rajgriha for the defense of Magadha Kingdom against the Lichchavis Republic of Vaishali. Impressed by its strategic location, successors of Ajatshatru, Udayabhadra shifted the capital of Magadha kingdom from Rajgriha to Pataliputra in the middle of the 5th century BC. Since then for about one thousand years Pataliputra remained the capital of great Indian empires of Nanda, Maurya, Sunga and Gupta dynasties. The place has also been an important center of activity in the fields of learning, commerce, art, culture and religion.

Maurayan empire under Ashoka

With the rise of Mauryan empire (321-185 BC), its glory and power increased manifold and it became the nerve center of the Indian subcontinent. Chadragupta ruled a vast empire  and established a strong centralized state with a complex administration under KautilyaMegasthanese, who visited the city in 4th Century BC mentioned it as a city with 64 gates, 570 domes, 100 feet wide and 30 feet deep moat for security and sewage, with the buildings of wood studded with gold and silver in his book called Indica. Ashoka, the grandson of Chadragupta took the empire to its zenith during his tenure. The city prospered in an era of peace and development. Fa-Hein, the Chinese scholar who visited during Ashoka's rule, gave a vivid account of the city. The ruins of Mauryan 80-Pillared Hall has been excavated at Kumhrar in Patna. The Mauryan rule also provided the city with great scholars like Aryabhatta, Ashvaghosha, Chanakya(Kautilya), Panini & Vatsyayana. Didarganj Yakshi, the life size Chauri bearer sculpture found at Didarganj is a high watermark of the Mauryan era art.

With the fall of Mauryan dynasty in 184 BC, the empire disintegrated, but the city continued to be important one. The rise of Gupta dynasty gave the golden age of the Indian culture. Chadragupta I (320-335 AD) conquered the Magadha kingdom and made Pataliputra as its capital. The kingdom was further consolidated by his son, Samudragupta (335-376 AD), and his grandson, Chandragupta II , also called as Vikramaditya. The Gupta era was marked by magnificent and creative architecture, sculpture and painting.The paintings at the Ajanta caves and Elephanta caves are excellent remnants of the period. Kalidas was the renowned writer in Gupta court. The Gupta dynasty ended in 550 AD by the constant attack of the Huns from the North.

The conqueror from the Afghanistan and Middle east started the Muslim rule in India, with Pataliputra also facing the brutal attack. The most notorious was the attack of Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 12th Century AD, which destroyed the renowned learning center at Nalanda, 120 km from it. The constant brutal attacks on its cultural and educational centers gradually reduced it reputation as a center of learning. The city was again revived during the 16th Century AD by Sher Shah Suri, the warrior from Sasaram, 160 km from Pataliputra, who became the ruler of India for a short time. The mausoleum of Sher Shah at Sasaram is a masterpiece of architecture. Mughal emperor Akbar visited Patna in 1574 AD to crush the rebellion of Daud Khan. Ain-Ae-Akbari referred Patna as a flourishing center for paper, stone and glass industry.

After the decline of Mughal empire, the city went into the hand of Nawabs of Bengal. In the famous battle of Buxar, 115 km from Patliputra in 1764 AD, English defeated the Nawabs and that changed the course of history for the next two century. The city went into the hand of East India company. Patna played an important role in the 1857 struggle movement. Pir Ali, a book-seller, led the movement from Patna. He was later caught and hanged along with his fellowmen. Many soldiers of the Danapur Cantonment deserted the British army and joined the Kunwar Singh brigade at Arrah. The region was an active belt of the revolt.

In 1912, when Bihar and Odisha were carved out of Bengal presidency, Patna was made the capital of Bihar and Odisha. The British made administrative building, like High Court, GPO, Assembly building etc. for effective administration.The City also played an important role in the National movement for independence. The Champaran movement and the Quit India movement, in which many people sacrificed their life are worth mentioning.


[Reference : Wikipedia, history books and others]