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Patna, Bihar, India

Population: 1,707,000 (2002)
Area: 107.08 sq. km
Altitude: 53 m above sea level

Patna is the capital of the east Indian state of Bihar. It is situated on the banks of the Ganga. It is also located on the site of the ancient city of Pataliputra.

The city

Patna is stuck in the past. The latest spurt of economic development seems to have mostly skipped Bihar. As a result, Patna has the narrow, crowded streets and numerous chaotically constructed, densely packed structures of other Indian cities, but few of their modern multistorey buildings. The heart of the city is still beautiful, owing to the wide roads and colonial-era buildings such as the Secretariat and Governor's House.

Bihar is in a sorry state of affairs (to put it mildly). There is rampant corruption and criminalization. Kidnappings have become very common and ordinary people worry for their safety. Patna, however, is much safer than the rest of the state and visitors to the city shouldn't feel that there is any unreasonable threat to their lives there.

Places to visit

Patna isn't a prosperous city and it is located in an economically backward region. There is no exciting nightlife there nor are there many "modern" attractions such as amusement parks. However, the city bustles with sites of enormous historical significance. It also houses priceless artifacts in its museums. Here are some of the notable attractions:

Gol Ghar- A huge dome-shaped granary built in the 18th century after disastrous famines. One can get a fine view of the city from the top. Gol Ghar literally translates into "round house."

Kumhrar- Site of the ancient city of Pataliputra. This is a very important site with relics dating back to 600 BC. It is in a sad state of neglect now, but that doesn't take away from its importance.

Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park- A rather modest zoo with a fair-sized stock of flora and fauna. It also has a rose garden, snake house, etc.

Indira Gandhi Planetarium- One of the largest planetariums in Asia. This is relatively new and so its facilities are decent.

Agamkuan- The emperor Ashok the Great is supposed to have dumped the 99 brothers he killed in here. This is archeologically significant and has a temple built by Ashok nearby.

Patna Museum- Houses a very impressive collection of relics from the region's long history. These include sculptures from the Gupta and Maurya periods. The famous exhibits are the ashes of the Buddha and the statue of Yakshi.

Khuda Baksh Oriental Library- Features a priceless collection of Arabic and Farsi manuscripts and paintings from the Rajput and Mughal eras (among other impressive things).

Other cities- Patna is a portal to other cities in Bihar, some of which contain the sites holiest to Buddhism. Cities such as Bodh Gaya, Rajgir and Nalanda are as historically relevant as Patna itself.

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