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Pāṭaliputra (Devanagari: पाटलिपुत्र), modern-day Patna, was a city in ancient India, originally built by Ajatashatru in 490 BC as a small fort (Pāṭaligrama) near the River Ganges, and later the capital of the ancient Mahājanapadas kingdom of Magadha.[1] Its key central location in north central India led rulers of successive dynasties to base their administrative capital here, from the Nandas, Mauryans, Sungas and the Guptas down to the Palas[2]. In the Lord Buddha's day it was a village known as Pataligrama. He visited it shortly before his death and prophesied it would be great but would face destruction either by fire, water, or civil war. Two important councils were held here, the first at the death of the Buddha and the second in the reign of Asoka. During the reign of Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BCE, it was the world's largest city, with a population of 150,000-300,000. Pataliputra reached the pinnacle of prosperity when it was the capital of the great Mauryan Emperors, Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka the Great. The city prospered under the Mauryas and a Greek ambassador Megasthenes resided there and left a detailed account of its splendour. The city also became a flourishing Buddhist centre boasting a number of important monasteries. It remained the capital of the Gupta dynasty (III–VI centuries CE) and the Pala Dynasty (VIII-XII centuries CE). The city was largely in ruins when visited by Hsüan-tsang, and suffered further damage at the hands of Muslim raiders in the XII century[3]. Afterwards Sher Shah Suri made Pataliputra his capital and changed the name to modern Patna.

Though parts of the city have been excavated, much of it still lies buried beneath modern Patna. During the Mauryan period, the city was described as being shaped as parallelogram, approximately 1.5 miles wide and 9 miles long. Its wooden walls were pierced by 64 gates. These were thought to have been converted to strong stone walls during the time of Ashoka. Situated at the confluence of the Ganges and Gandhaka rivers, Pataliputra soon came to dominate the riverine trade of the Indo-Gangetic plains during Magadha's early imperial period. It was a great center of trade and commerce and attracted merchants and intellectuals, such as the famed Chanakya, from all over India.



The etymology of Pāṭaliputra is unclear. "Putra" means son, and "pāţali" is a species of rice or the plant Bignonia suaveolens.[4] One traditional etymology[5] holds that the city was named after the plant.[6] Another tradition says that Pāṭaliputra means the son of Pāṭali, who was the daughter of Raja Sudarshan.[7] As it was known as Pāṭali-grama originally, some scholars believe that Pāṭaliputra is a transformation of Pāṭalipura, "Pāṭali town".[8]


Excavated Sites of Pataliputra

See also


  1. ^ *Kulke, Hermann & Dietmar Rothermund (2004), A History of India, 4th edition. Routledge, Pp. xii, 448, ISBN 0415329205, <>.
  2. ^ Thapar, Romila (1990), A History of India, Volume 1, New Delhi and London: Penguin Books. Pp. 384, ISBN 0140138358, <>.
  3. ^ Scott, David (May, 1995). "Buddhism and Islam: Past to Present Encounters and Interfaith Lessons". Numen 42 (2).  
  4. ^ Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Pāṭali, [1] (a junior synonym of Stereospermum colais [2])
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, p.677
  6. ^ Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Sep. 30, 1908), pp. 349–350
  7. ^ The Calcutta Review Vol LXXVI (1883), p.218
  8. ^ Language, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Jun., 1928), pp. 101–105

Further reading

  • Bernstein, Richard (2001). Ultimate Journey: Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk (Xuanzang) who crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-375-40009-5

Coordinates: 25°36′45″N 85°07′42″E / 25.6125°N 85.128333333333°E / 25.6125; 85.128333333333


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