1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Patna (Behar)

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PATNA, a city, district, and division of British India, in the Behar province of Bengal. The city, which is the most important commercial centre in Bengal after Calcutta, lies on the right bank of the Ganges, a little distance below the confluence of the Sone and the Gogra, and opposite the confluence of the Gandak, with a station on the East Indian railway 332 m. N.W. of Calcutta. Municipal area, 6184 acres. Pop. (1901), 134,785. Including the civil station of Bankipur to the west, the city stretches along the river bank for nearly 9 miles. Still farther west is the military cantonment of Dinapur. A government college was founded in 1862. Other educational institutions include the Behar school of engineering organized in 1897.

Patna city has been identified with Pataliputra (the Palibothra of Megasthenes, who came as ambassador from Seleucus Nicator to Chandragupta about 300 B.C.). Megasthenes describes Palibothra as being the capital of India. He adds that its length was 80 stadia, and breadth 15; that it was surrounded by a ditch 30 cubits deep, and that the walls were adorned with 570 towers and 64 gates. According to this account the circumference of the city would be 190 stadia or 25¼ miles. Asoka built an outer masonry wall and beautified the city with innumerable stone buildings. The greater part of the ancient city still lies buried in the silt of the rivers under Patna and Bankipur at a depth of from 10 to 20 ft. The two events in the modern history of the district are the massacre of Patna (1763) and the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. The former occurrence, which may be said to have settled the fate of Mahommedan rule in Bengal, was the result of a quarrel between the nawab, Mir Kasim, and the English authorities regarding transit duties, which ultimately led to open hostilities. The company's sepoys, who had occupied Patna city by the orders of the company's factor, were driven out by the nawab's troops and nearly all killed. The remainder afterwards surrendered, and were put into confinement, together with the European officers and the entire staff of the Cossimbazar factory, who had also been arrested on the first outbreak of hostilities. Mir Kasim was defeated in two pitched battles at Gheria and Udhanala (Oodeynullah) in August and September 1763, and in revenge ordered the massacre of all his prisoners, which was carried out with the help of a renegade in his employment named Walter Reinhardt, (afterwards the husband of the famous Begum Samru). About sixty Englishmen were murdered on this occasion, the bodies being thrown into a well belonging to the house in which they were confined. At the outbreak of the mutiny in May 1857 the three sepoy regiments stationed at Dinapur (the military cantonment of Patna, adjoining the city) were allowed to retain their arms till July, when, on an attempt being made to disarm them, they broke into open revolt. Although many who attempted to cross the Ganges in boats were fired into and run down by a pursuing steamer, the majority crossed by the Sone river into Shahabad, where they joined the rebels under Kuar Singh who were then besieging a small European community at Arrah.

The District of Patna has an area of 2075 sq. m.; pop. (1901), 1,624,985. Throughout the greater part of its extent the district is a level plain; but towards the south the ground rises into hills. The soil is for the most part alluvial, and the country along the bank of the Ganges is peculiarly fertile. The general line of drainage is from west to east; and high ground along the south of the Ganges forces back the rivers flowing from Gaya district. The result is that during the rains nearly the whole interior of the district south of a line drawn parallel to the Ganges, and 4 or 5 m. from its bank, is flooded. In the south-east are the Rajgir Hills, consisting of two parallel ridges running south-west, with a narrow valley between, intersected by ravines and passes. These hills, which seldom exceed 1000 ft. in height, are rocky and clothed with thick low jungle, and contain some of the earliest memorials of Indian Buddhism. The chief rivers are the Ganges and the Sone. The only other river of any consequence is the Punpun, which is chiefly remarkable for the number of petty irrigation canals which it supplies. So much of the river is thus diverted that only a small portion of its water ever reaches the Ganges at Fatwa. The chief crops are rice, wheat, barley, maize and pulse; poppy and potatoes are also of importance. Apart from the Sone canal, irrigation is largely practised from private channels and also from wells. The district is traversed by the main line of the East Indian railway, with two branches south to Gaya and Bihar.

The Division of Patna extended across both sides of the Ganges. It comprised the seven districts of Patna, Gaya, Shahabad, Saran, Champaran, Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga. Total area, 23,748 sq. m.; pop. (1901), 15,514,987. In 1908 the four last districts north of the Ganges were formed into the new division of Tirhut; and the name of Patna division was confined to the three first districts south of the Ganges.

See L. A. Waddell, Discovery of the Exact Site of Asoka's Classic Capital of Pataliputra (1892); Vincent Smith, Asoka ("Rulers of India" series, 1901); Patna District Gazetteer (Calcutta, 1907).