Patna, the capital of Bihar, is a famous tourist spot for Indian and International tourists alike. It is situated at the confluence of the two rivers- The Ganges and the Sone. The holiest and the largest river of India, the Ganges flows across the North of the city. Patna is well known among the tourists because of its diversified culture, fusion of various religions and numerous historical monuments. Besides, it has also been an important seat for learning and education since ancient times.
A group of five people, including me, embarked on our tour to Patna. The most convenient means to reach Patna for the national tourist is by train. However, there is an international airport as well. People from the nearby districts prefer to travel by bus. But for distant travelers, train remains the most economical and convenient means of travel. The city enjoys a sub-tropical climate, which is prevalent in most parts of Northern India. The most favorable time to visit is the months of March and October, when the temperatures are moderate.
We began our journey from the heart of Patna, represented by an extremely large circular field known as Gandhi Maidan. The ground is a usual spot for fares, exhibitions and political speeches. Towards the eastern end is the Kargil Chowk, depicting an army gun with a helmet over it- a typical sight that reminisces of an Indian Soldier. It was built to commemorate the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Kargil War. The area is thronged by various hotels among which the renowned ones are The Maurya Patna, Chanakya and Samrat International. These hotels offer full-fledged amenities for the lodging and fooding to the tourists. In close vicinity of Gandhi Maidan is the Golghar, a dome shaped building. Its dome is so high, that the major portion of the city can be viewed from its top. It is said that the British used it as a granary.
Patna has been called by several names- Pataligram, Patliputra, Kusumpur, Pushpapura and Azimabad. Patna owes its name to Sher Shah Suri. Around 15 kilometers away from the Gandhi Maidan, is the Kumhrar Park. The most convenient and economical means of conveyance is the auto-rickshaw. Kumhrar Park houses the remains of the Mauryan Empire, particularly of Emperor Ashoka. The weapons and clay figures, the Buddhist Monastery and an eleven pillared hall are worth watching.
After a delightful insight of the Mauryan cultural heritage, we headed towards the Mahatama Gandhi Setu. It is the longest bridge in the world, across a river. It is 8.5 kilometers long and stretches over the Ganges. Our journey over the bridge seemed endless with waters all around us. It connects Patna to the other bank of the river, to a locality called Champaran. Bihar has always been a burning center in the struggle for Indian Independence. Most notable ones are the Champaran Movement against the indigo plantation and the Quit India Movement of 1942.
From here, we headed towards Patna City or Patna Sahib. It is famous for its temples, churches and gurudwaras. About half a kilometer away from the Gandhi Setu, is the renowned Patan Devi Temple. It is said that when Goddess Parvati felt that her father insulted Lord Shiva by not inviting him to a religious ceremony, she jumped into the fire. Then, Lord Shiva carried her burnt body on his shoulders. During this course, her body parts fell at certain places. It is at this place that her back or “Peeth” or “Pat” fell, and hence this temple has been erected. The modern name of the city “Patna” is coined herein.
Next, we reached a church called Padri Ki Haveli, situated about four kilometers from the Patan Devi Temple. It is deemed of being the oldest church in Bihar. Heading another five kilometers, we reached the very famous Shri Harmandir Gurudwara, built purely in white marble. It is an important place of pilgrimage of the Sikhs, only next after the Golden Temple. It is here that Guru Govind Singh Jee, the tenth Guru of Sikhs had spent his childhood days. It also houses a museum on its third floor.
Besides touring in Patna, we also toured the nearby areas. The remains of the very renowned Nalanda University, founded by the Gupta’s, were marvelous. Its name derives is origin from a Sanskrit word that means ‘giver of knowledge’, It was established in 450 CE under the patronage of the Gupta emperors, notably Kumaragupta.
We then headed towards Rajgir or Rajgriha, the land of Lord Budda. Also called the city of seven mountains, it is known for its numerous Buddhist Temples and monasteries. A ropeway used to reach one of the Buddhist Temples over the mountains is a special attraction.
Another place of pilgrim was Pawapuri ,about 38 kilometers from Rajgir. It is the place of Nirvana of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of the Jain community. It has a marble temple built in the center of a pond.
Last but not the least, we went to Sasaram which is about 148 kilometers from Patna to view he very famous Sher Shah Tomb built in the memory of Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan Chieftain who defeated the Mughal Emperor Humayun and established his control over Delhi.
As far as the eating habits of the people are concerned, the custom of eating Khichri on Saturday along with Chokha, consisting of boiled mashed potatoes mixed with salt, chilly, pepper and oil. People in Bihar are very fond of sweets, the famous ones being Khaja, Parwal ki Mithai and Chena Murkhi. We enjoyed Sattu ki Litti, the best representative dish of Bihar besides Chokha. It consists of balls of flour stuffed with Sattu, i.e. powdered baked gram, a high energy source.
We loved our journey to such educational and enlightening places. As the sun showed its last beams on the horizon, I wondered why this state is thrown into so much of chaos, when nature has made it so special with a perfect blend of history, culture and all the religions.
It was a beautiful excursion with friends and a memorable experience of the lifetime. Though the tour was over, the memories of it are as fresh in my mind as the post-lyrical ballads of the Solitary Reaper lingered in the heart of William Wordsworth:
“The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more…”