The Great, Grand History of Bihar

In the year 1611, a convention of Afgan chiefs assembled at Patliputra, which was then the capital of Bihar.It appears that at that time the town was not only fortified, but also had within the walls- a palace, where the Subah resided. The inscription on the gate of the fort is dated  Year 1042(Hijri  era),which  attributes its erection to Feroz Jung Khan.

1. Map of Patna in 1838

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2. The city of Patna, including the suburbs, was about six miles in length, and skirted the Ganges. The breadth, in no place, exceeded half a mile. There was one street tolerably wide that ran from the eastern to the western gate, but it was by no means straight,also not regularly built. Every other passage was narrow, crooked and irregular. The great street, when it broke into sloughs,was occasionally repaired with earth thrown in by the convicts; the others were left to nature. Paving, cleaning and lighting were totally out of the question. In the Hot Summer the amount of dust was beyond credibility, and in the rains every place was covered with mud. In the rainy season there used to appear a pond of considerable size in the city.

Patna City in 1812 painted by Sita Ram
Patna City in 1812 painted by Sita Ram


3. The main road in the city, was very much crowded. The inside of the town was disagreeable and rather disgusting. At a little distance south from the walls, there was no building that over topped the intervening trees, and no bustle to indicate the approach to a city.
The view from the river, owing to the European houses scattered along its bank, was great and was enlivened by a great number of fine formed women who brought water. However, the appearance of the town from thence, especially
in the dry season, was an irregular high steep bank of clay without herbage, and covered with all manner of impurities. 

There were houses made of brick along the main street of Patna city .The lower storey of these houses, towards the street, being let for shops to low tradesmen or even to artificers. Many of the British inhabitants used to reside in this part of the town, and it was fashionable for the wealthy people to have country houses. The Nawab Bakur Ali Khan had a house there, but this was formerly occupied by an European gentleman, and had been bought by the Nawab with a view to receive visits from the Europeans.Kasinath, a rich banker, was the only person, who had a country house ; where both the buildings and garden were neat, and of a respectable size ; but was used very rarely, and that only on festivals and entertainments, and his family generally resided in the town. 

This was one of the main European settlements in India, being the seat of the Court of appeal, of a City Judge, the Magistrate & Collector of a very fertile district, of a custom-house, of a commercial resident, of an opium agent, and the location of a provincial battalion.

Eastern gateway of Patna City . 26 October 1824  Artist: D'Oyly, Sir Charles (1781-1845)
Eastern gateway of Patna City . 26 October 1824
Artist: D’Oyly, Sir Charles (1781-1845)

4.The houses of the  English residents, were all at the west-end, called ” Bankipore“.The greater part of the English residences were on the banks of the river Ganges, many of them being on the northern-side of an open square, which formed the parade ground, and Racecourse (Present Gandhi Maidan). The Collector’s house was at the south-west corner of the square, enclosed in spacious grounds, and about a quarter of a mile from the jail. At a distance of about four miles east of Bankipore, in the heart of the city, was the Opium Godown, a large building enclosed with high and strong walls, where all the opium of the district was stored and readied for shipment to Kolkata.

 The inside of the opium godown at Patna, showing a staircase rising on increasingly high arches  Artist: Sita Ram (1810-1822)  Date: 1814

The inside of the opium godown at Patna, showing a staircase rising on increasingly high arches
Artist: Sita Ram (1810-1822)
Date: 1814

 5.The main attraction of Bankipore was the Maidan (Field), around which were a large number of very fine European residences, standing in well-laid-out gardens and grounds sloping to the brink of the river Ganga There was also the Gola (Presently,Golghara wondrous bell-shaped building, one hundred feet high, with a winding outer staircase leading to the top, and a small entrance door at the base. This monstrous mass of brick- work, was intended for a granary, to be filled when there was any expectation of famine, but the plan was found to be both politically and materially impracticable. After the terrible famine in the neighbourhood in 1770, it was determined by the Government of the day that a storehouse should be built in which grain could be kept for relief purposes in the future, but the outcome of that really praiseworthy project was the construction of a building which, on completion, was found to be absolutely useless. This brick structure, known as ” The Gola” was built in the shape of an ordinary straw beehive, and it was intended that grain should be poured through an aperture at the top and that when it was required it should be drawn from doors in the wall on the level of the ground  floor.

Golghar at Bankipur, Patna, 1814-15  (Artist Robert Smith)
Golghar at Bankipur, Patna, 1814-15
(Artist Robert Smith)

6.The Nawab Bakur Ali was known to be in possession of  a grand house. Raja Kalyan Singh, the last Indian governor of Bihar, had two or three houses and Raja Mitrajit of Tikari, had built a house, where he occasionally resided. This part of the town seems to have risen in consequence of the European settlement, and the houses of the Europeans were scattered through it, mainly along the bank of the river.

View of the bazaar in Patna City near the gateway of the Fort. 28 October 1824  Artist: D'Oyly, Sir Charles (1781-1845) Medium: Pen and ink on paper
View of the bazaar in Patna City near the gateway of the Fort. 28 October 1824
Artist: D’Oyly, Sir Charles (1781-1845) Medium: Pen and ink on paper

7. The bank of the Ganges occupied by the town was tolerably high. The Company’s opium stores, a granary, and a few miserable brick bridges were all the public works except those dedicated to religion. In the middle of the city the Roman Catholics had a church, the best looking building in the place.Near it was the common grave of the English who were killed by the orders of Qasim Ali.It was covered by a pillar of the most uncouth form, built partly of stone, partly of brick. There were many masjids, the most beautiful of them was built entirely of stone. The main place of worship among the Muslims of Patna was the Monument of Shah Arzani, about the middle of the western suburb. He was a native of the Punjab and after a long residence, died here in the year of the Hijri 1032. The proprietors were the disciples of the saint and not his descendants and all of these holy persons had abstained from  marriage. 

Part of the City of Patna, on the River Ganges  Artist: Daniell, Thomas (1749-1840)  Medium: Aquatint,coloured Date: 1795
Part of the City of Patna, on the River Ganges
Artist: Daniell, Thomas (1749-1840)
Medium: Aquatint,coloured Date: 1795

Karimbukhsh, was the occupant, in about 1820 AD and was the seventh successor in the office. He had considerable endowments, and used to feed daily to about 50 to 200 fakirs. Every Thursday night from 100 to 500 pilgrims, Muslims and Hindus, many of them from a distance used to visit there. In the month of Zikad there was an annual fair, which lasted for three days.

The only other place of worship for the Muslims was the remarkable monument of another saint named Pir Bahor, which was built about 1610 AD, but it was only attended by a few in its vicinity. It belonged to a widow in 1820 AD, who since her husband’s death, acted as Pirzadah of the monument.

The  places of worship among the hindus were the temples of the great and little Patandevi, Pataneswari or Goddess of Patana, in the city. The great goddess was said to have been placed by Patali, daughter of Raja Sudarsan, who bestowed the town now called Patna on his daughter, and she cherished the city like a mother, on which account it was called  Pataliputra, or the son of Patali.

Source: Google Books


A girl from the capital of Bihar, trying to understand the past underdevelopment of Bihar and exploring the ways to improve the status of the State



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