Patna, the capital city of Bihar, in its modern avatar is a chaotic city, doing little to live up to its past glory as the seat of learning and culture. Once called Patliputra, the city has a rich historical past and has seen rise and fall of many empires. It traces its heritage 3000 years back to its founding as the capital of the great Mauryan and Gupta empires.
Situated on the southern bank of the River Ganges, Patna today is a sprawling business town teeming with people and is the gateway city for the Buddhist circuit. So travel to Patna and explore its historical allure first hand.
How to Reach Patna?
By Air : Patna is connected with Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata by daily flights. Tourist taxis and buses are readily available to provide transport to the city from the airport, a distance of 7 km.
By Rail : Since Patna lies on the Eastern railway network, many important trains like Rajdhani, Magadh, Brahmaputra, and Northeast Express connect Patna to major cities of Delhi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Varanasi, Amritsar, Mumbai, Siliguri and Guwahati.
By Road : Patna is well connected to all major cities and is located on NH 30. Patna is also the gateway city for the Buddhist circuit of Nalanda and Rajgir. The state is also not the safest of places for the road –traveller and mugging and thefts are rampant, so it maybe advisable to drive in daylight hours and avoid highway driving after dark.
Best Time to Visit Patna
From October through February, is the best time to visit Patna as the weather is fairly pleasant, in turn, giving you the advantage to explore the many wonders of the city. Festivals such as the Rajgir Mahotsav in October and Sonepur Animal Fair in October-November will also provide a glimpse into the city’s culture, making your trip worthwhile. If you don’t mind visiting Patna when spring sets in, you will be able to witness the Patliputra Mahotsav in March.
Like most parts of India, summers (March to June) in Patna are burning hot and monsoon months of July and August is the time when rain gods ‘bless’ the city with the seasonal showers. However, rainfall also leads to an increase in the precipitation levels in the city.Summer and the monsoons are avoidable months when planning a visit to this city.
Things to do in Patna
Patna the capital city of Bihar is a busy city with not too much on its things to do list. Patna once upon a time was Pataliputra the capital of the Maurya kings. A visit to the Patna museum will be interesting and if you are the literary sort interested in history, a ride out to Nalanda some 90 kms away, will give you an insight as to why Nalanda was known as the seat of higher learning in the days of yore.
Places Near Patna
Some of the interesting places near Patna that you can visit are mentioned below.
Vaishali 55 km from Patna is where Lord Mahavira was born, and where Buddha delivered his last sermon. Lord Mahavira the last Tirthankara’ (spiritual leader) of the Jains was born here. Ancient ruins, an Ashoka Pillar, and a stupa with Buddha’s relics are the other attractions in this mainly pilgrimage centre.
Situated at a distance of 60kms from Patna, Rajgir was the ancient capital of the Magadha Kings. Both Buddha and Lord Mahavira spent many years here, making it an important pilgrimage site. Monasteries and Jain temples abound.
Other interesting sights are the fort of Ajatashatru, Swarana Gufa or the ‘Cave of Gold’ and Griddhakuta or Vulture’s Peak where the Lord Buddha meditated. Saptadhara in the middle of the town has seven hot springs. It is said that Buddha used it to heal arthritis. Pilgrims still come looking for a cure.
Nalanda, one of the world’s oldest known universities, is 90 km from Patna. The ruins indicate the presence of more than 2000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the world, who lived and studied here. The most famous of them is the celebrated traveller Hiuen Tsang, who both studied and taught here. One can see the remains of viharas, stupas, and the living quarters that made up the university premises.
Hundred kilometres south of Patna is Gaya – a major pilgrimage site for both Hindu and Buddhist devotees. It can be reached by road through taxis or buses from Patna or by trains available from Delhi, Calcutta, Patna, or Varanasi. Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree inside the Maha Bodhi temple premises here.
The temple has figures of the Buddha in different postures and well-delineated tall stone lotuses. The Buddha’s footprints are etched on the walls along with inscriptions describing the visits from different pilgrims. There is a Shaivite monastery near the temple with cells of the monks and the samadhis (memorial) of the dead gurus.
Hotels in Patna – Choice is Yours
There are numerous hotels in Patna ranging from 3-star, 4-star and 5-star deluxe to budget hotels.