Patna (Buddhist Pilgrimages)
History of Patna is one of the oldest cities to be found in India, and has been an active part of many of the most influential dynasties to rule the land. The city has seen several changes in its name, such as Pataligram during the rule of King Ajatashatru of the Magadha Empire, and Pataliputra during the reign of the Mauryan Empire. For a brief period of time during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb, it was renamed Azeemabad, after his nephew. During the reign of the Mughal Empire, and particularly under the rule of King Akbar, Patna was an industrial centre for glass, stone and paper. By the 17th century, Patna was the biggest city in all of northern India. The city continued to flourish even under British rule, having been transformed into a production centre for calico and silk, which was in turn used for international trade. Today Patna is the capital and the largest city of the state of Bihar.
Geographical Information - Patna is the capital of Bihar, located in the northern part of India. Since it is located in a tropical region, Patna experiences intense summers, although the winters are rather pleasant for outdoor travel and vacationing. The best window to visit Patna would be between the months of October and February. The languages spoken here include Bhojpuri, Urdu, Hindi, and English is spoken widely.
Buddhism in Patna - The name Bihar is believed to have been derived from the word vihara, illustrating the prominence it experienced at the peak of Buddhism’s popularity as a centre for teaching. As a result of this prominence, in addition to its long standing status of a flourishing centre for commerce and culture of course, many influential figures in Indian history were compelled to turn their attention to Patna. King Ashoka made several architectural contributions to Patna to commemorate its status as a centre for learning with respect to the Buddhist faith. Gautama Buddha passed through Patna in the last year of his life, stopping here for a brief period of time. There happened to be some officials of the King of Magadha present at the time for his arrival, and they extended to the Buddha the invitation of a meal the following afternoon. As the Buddha left, it was announced that whichever city gate he left by would thenceforth be known as Gotamadvara (“Gautama Gate”) and the spot where he crossed the river Ganges to continue on his journey was also renamed Gotamatittha (Gautama Ford).
Attractions - Patna offers lots of things for the enthusiasts of ancient art, culture and the religious minded. The Gol -Ghar for a fantastic view of the river Ganga, The museum for Maurya and Gupta period artifacts, The Harmandirji shrine for the Sikh devotees, The Khuda Baksh oriental library for Arabic literature experts, the Jalan museum for Chinese paintings are some of the places not to miss.
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Patna Museum ||
Gol Ghar ||
Khuda Baksh Library ||
Tourist Attraction in Patna :
Patna serves as the best place to start one’s exploration of the Buddhist tradition and art that is spread throughout the state of Bihar. There are several sites within Patna itself, however, which are worth a visit for their sheer cultural value.
Patna Museum: the museum houses some brilliant examples of the craftsmanship flourishing in the Pala period, between the 8th and the 12th century, particularly with respect to Buddhist art. Statues of Maitreya and Avalokitesvara of unparalleled finesse can be found here, along with a modest collection of Tibetan thangkas.
Gol Ghar: this is a granary built by Captain John Garstin in the late 1700s. A spiral staircase leads to the top of the Gol Ghar, from which one is offered an immaculate view of the Ganges.
Khuda Baksh Library: the library, founded in 1990, houses rare treasures such as Arabic and Persian manuscripts and prominent art work from the Rajput and Mughal eras. One can also find some of the few works from the University of Cordoba, Spain which have survived destruction by moors here.
Vaishali: a highly revered site in the Buddhist faith, Vaishali is where the Buddha spent many years of his life, including the first five outside of princely luxury. It is also the place where the Buddha, in addition to many others, delivered his last sermon ever before announcing his departure from his earthly form within the next three months. There are several noteworthy Buddhist architectural efforts of interest to be found here, including an Ashokan pillar, the Vishwa Stupa, and the Buddha Stupa. The distance from Patna to Vaishali is roughly 65 km.
Rajgir: the famous Groddkuta Hill, or “Vulture Hill”, is located in Rajgir. It was one of the Buddha’s favourite places to meditate. It was also here that the Magadha Emperor Bimbisara was converted to the faith by the Buddha himself. The merchant community residing in the area is said to have undergone a mass conversion to Buddhism upon his arrival. Shortly after the Buddha, it evolved into a flourishing monastery. Architectural interests found here include the Shanti Stupa, Venuvana, the monastery built by King Bimbisara, and one also finds certain hot springs here believed to possess medicinal qualities and sacred to three faiths; Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. The distance between Patna and Rajgir is around 95 km.
Kushinagar: Kushinagar is the site the lord Gautama Buddha chose for the attainment of parinirvana, and as a result, holds great importance for the patrons of the Buddhist faith. Examples of historical Buddhist presence here include the Ramabhar Stupa, which is believed to be the site where the Buddha’s body was cremated, and the Mahaparinirvana Temple, which was built by the Indian government in 1956 to commemorate the passing of 2500 years since the Buddha attained nirvana, among others. Kushinagar is located approximately 230 km away from Patna.
Bodhgaya: Bodhgaya, where prince Siddhartha became Buddha. Lies 10 kms away from another sacred Hindu city; Gaya ( gone ), the city where ghosts get rid of this life. Situated on the bank of river Niranjana, a small village, slowly getting converted to a real multinational / multi monastic zone city where one can find either monasteries from many Buddhist countries – Thai, Myanmar, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Tibet, Nepal and many more or the hotels ( about 100 hotels, guest houses or dharmshalas ) and shops to supply everything to every one – handicrafts, decorative items, flowers, food, vegetables anything you need at a place like this pilgrims as well as tourist place.
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How to reach Patna:
Airways - Patna has its own airport, which is fairly well connected to the rest of the country and beyond, and so is as good an option as any to reach here.
Railways -Patna has a major station that is connected to all the major metros and important cities in the country via the broad gauge network, and hence, railway travel should pose no challenges when getting to Patna.
Roadways - good, reliable roads create a well connected network through important cities and towns within the state as well as to facilitate interstate travel. NH 30 is the highway one needs to take to reach Patna by road.