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Ancient city
Plan of Pataliputra compared to present-day Patna
Pataliputra is located in Bihar
Map of Patna
Coordinates: 25°36′40″N 85°08′38″E / 25.611°N 85.144°E / 25.611; 85.144Coordinates: 25°36′40″N 85°08′38″E / 25.611°N 85.144°E / 25.611; 85.144
Country India
State Bihar
Region Magadha
Division Patna
District Patna
 • Body Patna Municipal Corporation
Elevation 53 m (174 ft)

Pāṭaliputra (Devanagari: पाटलिपुत्र), modern-day Patna, was a city in ancient India, originally built by Ajatashatru in 490 BCE as a small fort (Pāṭaligrama) near the River Ganges, and later the capital of the ancient Mahājanapadas kingdom of Magadha.[1]


Its 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] Situated at the confluence of the Ganges, Gandhaka and Son rivers, Pataliputra formed a "water fort, or jaldurga".[3] Its position helped it dominate the riverine trade of the Indo-Gangetic plains during Magadha's early imperial period. It was a great centre of trade and commerce and attracted merchants and intellectuals, such as the famed Chanakya, from all over India. Two important early Buddhist 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 one of the world's largest cities, with a population of 150,000–300,000.[citation needed] 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, referring to it as "Palibothra". The city also became a flourishing Buddhist centre boasting a number of important monasteries. It remained the capital of the Gupta dynasty (3rd–6th centuries) and the Pala Dynasty (8th-12th centuries). The city was largely in ruins when visited by Hsüan-tsang, and suffered further damage at the hands of Muslim raiders in the 12th century.[4] Afterwards, Sher Shah Suri made Pataliputra his capital and changed the name to modern Patna.


Though parts of the ancient 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.


The etymology of Pataliputra is unclear. "Putra" means son, and "pāţali" is a species of rice or the plant Bignonia suaveolens.[5] One traditional etymology[6] holds that the city was named after the plant.[7] Another tradition says that Pāṭaliputra means the son of Pāṭali, who was the daughter of Raja Sudarshan.[8] As it was known as Pāṭali-grama originally, some scholars believe that Pāṭaliputra is a transformation of Pāṭalipura, "Pāṭali town".[9]


Excavated Sites of Pataliputra[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (2004), A History of India, 4th edition. Routledge, Pp. xii, 448, ISBN 0-415-32920-5 .
  2. ^ Thapar, Romilak (1990), A History of India, Volume 1, New Delhi and London: Penguin Books. Pp. 384, ISBN 0-14-013835-8 .
  3. ^ The Pearson Indian History Manual, Pearson Education India, A94.
  4. ^ Scott, David (May 1995). "Buddhism and Islam: Past to Present Encounters and Interfaith Lessons". Numen 42 (2). 
  5. ^ Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Pāṭali, [1] (a junior synonym of Stereospermum colais [2])
  6. ^ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, p.677
  7. ^ Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 3 (September 30, 1908), pp. 349–350
  8. ^ The Calcutta Review Vol LXXVI (1883), p.218
  9. ^ Language, Vol. 4, No. 2 (June , 1928), pp. 101–105

Further reading[edit]

  • 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