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The city of the Taj Mahal, one of the...
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Spanning 5,750 m, the Mahatma Gandhi Setu (also known as Gandhi Setu and Ganga Setu) is India's second-longest bridge. Built across River Ganges, it connects Patna to Hajipur. It spans a length of approximately 5,750 m (or 18,860 ft) and was inaugurated by Indira Gandhi in May 1982, when she was the Prime Minister of the country. Today, it is estimated that over 85,000 vehicles along with 12,000 pedestrians use this bridge on a daily basis. It is almost a lifeline for the people of the state, making it easy for them to cover this long distance in a matter of minutes. There are 45 piers, 121 m in height, that support the bridge and the space left below it is enough to allow a ship to pass through.
The Martyr’s Memorial or Shaheed Smarak was constructed in the honour of seven young freedom fighters, who gave up their life during the Quit India Movement of 1942 in the struggle for India’s independence. It is a fairly modern structure that is located opposite the Patna Secretariat (also known as Patna Sachiwalaya or Old Secretariat) in the heart of the city.
This life-size sculpture of the seven bravehearts marks the location where these freedom fighters fell after being shot while attempting to hoist the Indian national flag atop the Assembly building. It is believed that Dr Anugrah Narain, a well-known follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals, was arrested while he tried to unfurl the tricolour in Patna. As a reaction to his arrest, the seven students attempted to hoist the national flag on their own but were killed by the British. The names of the freedom fighters are inscribed on the memorial. Umakant Prasad Sinha (Raman Ji), Ramanand Singh, Satish Prasad Jha, Jagatpati Kumar, Devipada Choudhry, Rajendra Singh and Ramgovind Singh… all of them were the victims of the bullets fired by British soldiers. It is said that the firing was not indiscriminate – the soldiers shot only at the person who was walking with the flag. But as one brave student fell, another came forward to take his place and carry the flag further. In the end, there were seven dead students and around 14 were injured.
Located approximately 7 km from the airport, on the banks of the Ganga River, the Sadaqat Ashram lies beside the main road of the Digha area in a peaceful area. The Sadaqat Ashram is where India's first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad lived after his retirement in 1962. The last days of his life were spent in the calm environs of this ashram. Today, there is a small museum called the Rajendra Smriti Sangrahalaya that displays his personal belongings as well as several items that were used in India’s freedom struggle. Besides, there are several grand paintings on display.
This ashram was established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. The land for the ashram, believed to be spread across 20 acres of lush greenery, is said to have been donated by Khairun Miya, who was a friend of Maulana Mazharul Haque, who in turn was a close associate of Gandhiji. Khairun Miya had donated this piece of land to help further the national movement and several important meetings of well-known freedom fighters were held here. Today, the premises also house the Maulana Mazharul Haque library, which has a reading room with a good collection of books.
A part of the National Council of Science Museums, the ShriKrishna Science Centre is Bihar’s only regional-level science centre, and also the country’s first. It was established in 1978 and was named after Bihar’s first Chief Minister. Since its founding, it has been promoting the idea of “science education for all” through non-formal means of instruction. It lies towards the south-east of Gandhi Maidan, in a quiet lane. The beautiful garden that lies alongside is also designed to showcase some principles of science.
At the entrance is a large and colourful display board with the rotating blades of a windmill prototype and echoes of dinosaur calls. One can see the time based on the location of the sun in the Sun dial at the entrance. Each of the three floors of the main building are dedicated to a specific themes related to science. In the Fun Science Gallery on the ground floor, one will come across several kinds of equipment demonstrating scientific principles. The energy ball, for instance, demonstrates the conversion of energy from one form to another with the help of balls that roll, turn wheels, hit bells and create melodies on a xylophone. Other exhibits include organ pipes, curving train and infinite train, magic tap, lazy tubes, illusive sphere, momentum multiplier etc. There is also a workshop and a conference hall on this floor. The first floor has many sections including the mirror section and the ocean life section. Besides, there is a floating ball that demonstrates Bernoulli’s principle and a vortex that is based on centrifugal force. Along with an auditorium, this floor also has an exhibit of the human evolution. On the third floor are clearly demonstrated the beginning of life on earth. A 3D show is held here during the day after every two hours.
The gorgeous Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library is located on the banks of River Ganges, next to the bustling Ashok Rajpath. It is a national library that was opened to the public in 1891. The beauty of its exhibits is that they are one man's collection – assimilated by Mohammad Baksh and then added to by his son Khuda Baksh. Mohammad Baksh gave a collection of 1,400 manuscripts to his son, who turned them into a passion.
A special person was hired by Khuda Baksh to travel to Arab countries to source manuscripts that could be added to this collection. In 1888, he got a two-storey building constructed for 4,000 manuscripts and opened it to the general public. Today, the library is visited by scholars from across the globe in search of research material.
The Indira Gandhi Planetarium, also known as Taramandal (or a circle of stars) and Patna Planetarium, is one of the largest planetariums in the country. It showcases many exhibits relating to astronomy and galaxies, along with film shows on astronomy throughout the day. The planetarium boasts a state-of-the-art auditorium, meeting halls, workshop zones and exhibition rooms. There is a dome-shaped projection screen on which the films are screened. The audience needs to look up to see films about the night sky, the stars and the planets, making for a mesmerising experience. These scientific documentaries, about the creation and evolution of planet earth and other celestial bodies are accompanied by good-quality sound systems to enhance the impact. These regular film shows are held four times every day - at 12.30 pm, 2 pm, 3.30 pm and 5 pm. They are known for their educational value besides providing entertainment. Open to general public, the sky theatre where these films are screened has a seating capacity of 276 people. The Indira Gandhi Planetarium is situated inside the Indira Gandhi Science Complex which organises regular seminars and exhibitions, adding to the attractions in the area.
While the foundation stone was laid in 1989, the planetarium was officially inaugurated in 1993 by Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was the chief minister of Bihar at that time.
Kesaria is located about 114 km from Patna and is an important centre for Buddhist heritage, located on the Buddhist Circuit, in the Champaran district (east). It lies 40 km from Vaishali, while Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh is a further 150 km away. It is home to one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, with a height of 104 ft and a base circumference of 1,400 ft.
Kesaria is also revered because it was the place where Lord Buddha spent one night before he attained Nirvana (enlightenment). It is believed that the Lichhivis, who were asked to return to Vaishali after his death, built this stupa to commemorate the end-life of Lord Buddha. It is estimated to have been built between 200 AD and 750 AD.
About 30 km from Patna lies the small town of Maner, an ancient seat of learning. Among other monuments at Maner stand two important Mohammedan tombs. The first one is that of Makhdoom Yahia or Sheikh Yahia Maneri, known as the Bari Dargah and the other is that of Shah Daulat or Makhdum Daulat, and is called Chhoti Dargah. Ibrahim Khan, the then governor of Bihar, was a disciple of Makhdum Daulat and so, he constructed the monument in 1616 after the death of his spiritual leader in 1608.
A gorgeous dome, a ceiling covered with inscriptions from the Quran, an ancient mosque built by Ibrahim Khan back in 1619, and other characteristically Jehangir-era architectural styles can be seen at this mausoleum. The carvings on the walls are exceptionally intricate and beautifully finished. In fact, it is considered to be the finest Mughal monument in Eastern India. It is said that the red and yellow stones used in the construction were brought all the way from Chunar district in Uttar Pradesh. The tomb of Yahiya Maneri lies in a mosque and is connected to the old bed of River Sone through a 400-ft-long tunnel. These tombs are well-known pilgrimage destinations where devotees come to offer a 'chadar' as a mark of their devotion. It is said that the waters of the river are as sweet as sugar and are used to make delicious ghee ladoos. One will also find a Buddhist temple and a Jain temple in Maner.
One of the most important early archaeological remains in Patna, the Agam Kuan (well) is located close to the Gulzarbagh railway station. The name means unfathomable well and it is widely believed to be associated with Mauryan emperor Ashoka. It is said that the Agam Kuan was part of king Ashoka's hell chambers and used for purposes of torture. Apparently, fire used to emanate from the well and offenders were thrown into this fiery well. A legend says that it is the site where emperor Ashoka killed his 99 brothers by throwing them into the well. His aim was to be the master of the throne of the Mauryan empire.
Another myth says that the bottom of the well is connected to River Ganges. A saint once found a heavy log inside the well which had been lost in the sea earlier and so it was inferred that that the well is connected to the netherworld or patala (hell). There are eight arched windows that offer a peek at the deep waters. Apparently, during emperor Akbar's rule, a roofed structure was built around the well. There are several other fascinating tales related to this well. The Jain monk, Sudarshana, was thrown into the Agam Kuan by king Chand, but legend has it that he floated to the surface, seated on a lotus. The depth was believed to be 105 ft, but during a cleaning project in the 1990s, it was found to be 65 ft. It is said that this well never dries up and the water level fluctuates between 1 and 5 feet.
Located on the outskirts of Patna, Kumhrar is the site where the archaeological remains of the ancient city of Pataliputra were found. The most striking ruin found is that of an 80-pillared hall made of sandstone, dating back to around 300 BC (the Mauryan period), which is said to be the location of the third Buddhist Council.
Pataliputra was ruled by great kings like Ajatasatru (491–459 BC), Chandragupta (321–297 BC) and Ashoka (274–237 BC). Excavations have proven that this magnificent city flourished between 600 BC and 600 AD. For about 1,000 years Pataliputra served as the capital of several great Indian dynasties like Saisunaga, Nanda, Maurya, Sunga and Gupta. It was also one of the most important centres of education, art and culture, commerce and religion. The first prominent account of Pataliputra is found in Indica, a book authored in 300 BC by Megasthenese, the Greek ambassador at the court of Chandragupta Maurya, who mentions the city as Palibothra. According to Megasthenese, the city was shaped like a parallelogram, spreading about 14 km east-west along the Ganges. Its circumference was about 36 km. The city was protected by gigantic wooden stake-walls and a broad and deep moat. Remnants of the wooden stake-wall have been excavated at several locations in Patna, including Lohanipur, Bahadurpur, Sandalpur, Bulandibagh and Kumhrar.
Padri Ki Haveli is the oldest church in Bihar and is an important landmark in Patna. It is also known as Visitation of the blessed Virgin Mary and Mansion of Padre. People from all faiths flock to this church for prayer regularly. During Christmas, the Padri Ki Haveli has a festive look and sees a stream of devotees coming in to offer prayers.
Padri Ki Haveli was built in 1713 by the Roman Catholics when they came to Bihar. It was re-designed to its present form in 1772 by a Venetian architect called Tirreto who came from Calcutta (now Kolkata) especially for this purpose. Also known as St Mary’s Church, its foundation stone measures 70 ft in length, 40 ft in width and 50 ft in height. It has witnessed many battles like the one between British traders and Nawab Mir Qasim (the ruler of Bengal) and the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The most fascinating part of this institution’s history is that Mother Teresa received her formal training as a nurse here, in the year 1948.
The Buddha Smriti Park was developed by the Government of Bihar to commemorate the 2554th birthday of Lord Buddha. It is an urban oasis sprawling across a generous area of 22 acre. The highlight of the park are two Bodhi trees, planted by the Dalai Lama, which flank a statue of Lord Buddha.
Also known as the Buddha Memorial Park, it is located on Frazer Road near Patna Junction, opposite the Mahavir Mandir. Aimed at highlighting the life and teachings of Lord Buddha, the multi-purpose park comprises the Pataliputra Karuna Stupa, a meditation centre, a library with numerous books on Buddhism, a museum as well as a Park of Memories.
The rich heritage of the region is well-documented in its many museums, spread across Patna city. To start with, the Bihar Museum is a swanky steel and granite building that has been created by a Japanese design firm in collaboration with an Indian company. Located on a 13.5-acre-plot, it has a gallery area of 9,500 sq m, with different sections like the Orientation gallery, the Children’s gallery, History galleries and one on the Bihari diaspora.
There is an intriguing Visible Storage gallery that showcases terracotta and coin artefacts, among others. The only prominent museum in the city before the Bihar Museum was built, is the grand Patna Museum. It sits in a calm, green garden and is an ideal place to reflect and also learn about the grand history of the city. Built during the British era, the museum houses a splendid collection of Mauryan and Gupta stone sculptures, some beautiful bronze Buddhist statues and early 19th century landscape paintings by Thomas and William Daniells. Jalan Museum, also called Qila House, is built on the foundations of the fort of Sher Shah Suri. It houses the private collection of the Jalan family and some of its famed exhibits include a dinner service set that belonged to George III, Napoleon’s four-poster bed, Marie Antoinette’s Sevres porcelain, and several fine examples of Chinese jade and Mughal silver filigree artwork. Prior permission is required to visit the museum.
A sprawling ground at the centre of the city, spread across 62 acre, the Gandhi Maidan is Patna's most popular landmark. It was here that Mahatma Gandhi held his prayer meetings, when he visited the city. Rows of handsome trees line the periphery of the ground. Today, surrounded by a busy market area, offices and hotels, it hosts several exhibitions and fairs throughout the year, one of the most iconic among them being the annual Patna Book Fair that lasts a fortnight and sees streams of visitors throughout its duration. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi, after whom the ground is named, stands towards the south of Gandhi Maidan. The Republic Day parade as well as the Independence Day ceremony are organised here. Till date, major political rallies are organised from this venue. It is the entry/exit for several major roads of Patna city including Exhibition Road, Frazer Road and Ashok Rajpath. Known as Patna Lawn during the British era, it used to be a golf course from 1824 to 1833. Horse racing was another popular sport that was started here.
Resembling a beehive, this impressive building is situated near the Gandhi Maidan, at the heart of Patna. Literally translated, 'gol ghar' means round house, as the building has a circular shape, with amazingly, no pillars to support it from within. It stands tall at 29 m, with 3.6-m-wide base walls, making it an architectural marvel that’s worth a visit.
The structure was built by British army's captain, John Garstin, as a huge granary for his soldiers, when a famine struck this region in 1770. Thousands of people were fed from this giant granary as at one time, it could hold over 13,000 tonne of grains.