THE CAPITAL OF BIHAR is a modern city with ancient roots going back to 600 BC. During the reign of the Maurya and Gupta empires Patna, then known as Pataliputra, was renowned as one of the great cities of Asia, but today it is a congested urban sprawl, stretching along the banks of the Ganges. West Patna, laid out by the British, has gracious mansions and administrative buildings, while the eastern end comprises the old city, a warren of crowded lanes surrounding medieval monuments and bustling bazaars. built
Patna’s signature landmark, the Goighar (literally “round house”), is an extraordinary dome that resembles a giant beehive. Built in 1786 by Captain John Garstin as a silo to store grain during the famines that occurred frequently in those days, the Goighar was never actually put to use. The structure is 125 m (410 ft) wide at the base and gradually tapers up to a height of 29 m (95 ft). Two external staircases spiral upwards along its sides, with platforms to rest on along the way. The idea was to haul the grain up, and pour it down a hole at the top into the dome’s pit, which had a capacity of 124,285 tonnes. A remarkable echo can be heard inside the structure. During the monsoon, the dome’s summit offers impressive views of the Ganges which, in this season, can swell to a width of 8 km (5 miles).
Some remarkable treasures are displayed in the State Museum, Among them is the Mauryan-era (probably 3rd century BC) polished stone image of the Diclarganj Yaks (female attendant), considered a masterpiece of Indian sculp ture. Other highlights include Gandharan style statues of Bodhisattvas; outstanding Buddha images in bronze and black stone, dating front the Pala period (8th-12th tenturies ); terracotta figurines, ancient Buddhist scriptures, and a collection of Tibetan thengkas. The museum also boasts a 15-m (49-ft) long Fossilized tree trunk, believed to be 200 million years old.
Founded in 1900, this library has a renowned collection of rare Persian and Arabic manuscripts, including a group of Deautiful illuminated medieval Koreans, and superb Mughal miniature paintings. Its rarest xhibits are volumes salvaged from the sacking of the Woorish University in cordoba, Spain, in the 11th century , though how they round their way to India still -emains a mystery.
This historic Sikh gurdwara Darks the birthplace of the lirebrand tenth guru, Gobind Singh who was born here in 1666. Regarded as one of the four , holiest Sikh shrines’ the marble 4′ temple was built in the 19th century by Maharaja Ranjit Singh . On the floor above the main sanctum is a museum with the guru’s relics.
Also known as Qila (“Fort”) House, this museum’s eclectic collection, gathered by a 19th-century ancestor of the Jalan family, includes Chinese paintings, Mughal jade and silverware, Napoleon’s bed and Marie Antoinette’s Sevres porcelain. Qila House itself is an interesting structure, built on the ruins of a 16th-century fort constructed by the Afghan ruler, Sher Shah Sur.
‘This site contains die ruins of the ancient city of Pataliputra. Excavations have unearthed elaborately carved wooden ramparts, polished sandstone pillars and the remains of a vast Mauryan assembly hall that is said to have sood here in the 2nd century BC. A museum here displays some of these finds, which date from an era when Patna was described by Megasthenes, the Greek envoy to the Mauryan court, as “a city of light, where even wooden walls shine bright as glass”.
OLD OPIUM WAREHOUSE
Located in a walled compound on the river bank, the opium warehouse of the East India Company is now the Government Printing Press. Visitors can enter the three long, porticoed buildings, where the opium was packaged before being sent by boat to Kolkata.
ENVIRONS: Maner, 30 km (19 miles) west of Patna, is a major centre of Islamic learning. It has the fine 16th-century sandstone mausoleum of the Sufi saint Hazrat Makhdum Yahya Maneri, set in a tranquil park. Maner is also famous for its laddoos, a round confection of graniflour and molasses,