Monday, November 20, 2006

PATNA -City soaked in history

From Carolina in the U.S. to Scotland in the U.K., the city of Patna is a household name.

What connects Carolina in the U.S., Scotland and Bihar? The answer is not easy. The connection is Patna; more precisely it is the Patna rice. Many may be familiar with the long grain and aromatic Basmati rice. Equally long and mildly aromatic the rice grown in the fertile Gangetic plains of Bihar and specifically around Patna is known as the Patna rice. Some claim that this strain is one of the oldest rice varieties grown on the earth. According to Buddhist legends, Fa Hein's travel writings and records of Abul Faizal there is mention about this special rice. It is believed that this rice was taken to the U.S. in the 17th century and grown in Carolina. Till date the Carolina rice is one of the most popular varieties in that country. In Scotland, there is a small village named Patna. William Fullerton, who made large sums of money selling Patna rice, established this town in the 19th century. He thankfully remembered his productive stay in India by naming the newfound village Patna.

More than rice

But it's not just the rice; Patna is a city known for other rich legacies. It is known by many names, the most famous being Pataliputra. It is on the banks of the Ganga and in its vicinity three more rivers Ghagra, Sone and Gandak , converge. Buddhism and Jainism flourished in this place and Guru Gobind Singh was born here. It was the seat of the Mauryas and two legendary kings Chandra Gupta Maurya and Ashoka ruled this place. The city has been inhabited for centuries together without a break. In 1912, it became the capital of the combined province of Orissa and Bihar and from 1935 till now that of Bihar.

Patna is richly endowed with architecture from the British period — the Museum, High Court, Rajbhavan and the Assembly are some of them. Golghar, is the most famous of the monuments. This is a large circular egg-like structure built in 1786. It is about 29 m high and 3.5 m wide and was built to store grain, which was to be distributed during famine. Patna is not just about rice and famine. It is the land of Madhubani paintings, Obra carpets, Sujini quilts and Khatwa appliqués. Bhojpuri, Magahi and Maithili are some of the languages spoken in this region.

Champaran Movement

Gandhiji wrote that Champaran was the turning point of his life. Champaran is a small village about 300km from Patna. It is here that Gandhiji for the first time experimented with the Satayhagraha movement and successfully freed the peasants from the oppressive Indigo cultivators. Gandhiji established an ashram here at a place called Motihari and strived for the uplift of the poor villagers.
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