I started from Varanasi railway station in an express train in the morning hoping to reach Patna by afternoon. Well, I was happy traveling in the 'almost empty' second AC compartment. My co-passenger was an eighty+ years old man. The train was an hour late at the starting point itself but still it would reach before dark I thought. I was traveling to the state of Bihar for the first time. Knowing the history and reputation for safety of Bihar I was wondering whether to tell my Mother about my trip or not. I didn't tell.
|Kumhrar Park- Arogyavihar (dispensary) ruins|
The train seemed unusually slow and my co-passenger told me that all the trains running on that route were late by 7-10 hrs that day. Hence, there were people in the train I was traveling, otherwise it will be almost empty because it runs always 5-6 hours late! Really?! To pass time I drank 'so called tea' sold in the train, ate kurkure, biscuits and every time I offered them to the old man. He refused. He was hungry I knew. Later he told me "Beta, chabane ke liye daant to hone chahiye" (Child, to chew one should have teeth)! Ahhhh! So, I gave him bananas and few slices of bread which I had bought at Varanasi railway station. He told me, while he ate the bread slices dipping in the hot tea which we bought in the running train ... he had booked and cancelled tickets three times for three different trains since yesterday evening. And while getting into this train in the desperation he forgot the bag in which his food was packed! It remained in the hands of his grandson who came to see him off! He was old and couldn't get off the train to buy food and no one was selling anything other than tea inside the train. He was very grateful for those bananas and bread, and blessed me!
|Pillar from the Ashokan Assembly Hall|
Well, my seemingly unending train journey to Patna ended at 7:30PM. The train was running only 4 hours late, totaling to 11 hours 30 mins in the train. The railway station didn't look great in the dim lights and I didn't feel good when I walked out of it. I could only see people in faded clothes moving around in the dark. When you have a -ve feeling already in the mind nothing looks good! I had stepped over one of the important rules of traveling solo- "never go finding accommodation after dark". Never. And here I am in Bihar alone out in the late evening without even knowing where to go! I was fortunate enough to see a neon light sign board of a hotel high up right beside the railway station! Finding a way to reach it and walking on the crowded dark side alley was a bit scary though. Clearly there were no women in that crowd and the way i was pushed around with my back pack made me feel like I would never reach that nearby hotel! I took an AC room even in that freezing cold without minding the rates that receptionist mentioned per night. Only thing I had in mind was I was safe and alive! I ordered food- sweet corn soup and hakka noodles as soon as I checked-in though prices were exorbitant. I called my Mother to tell about my trip to Bihar. With full stomach, clean bed, white linen and a warm blanket I slept as never before on this trip! I don't know about my Mother slept or not that night :)
|Beautiful Garden built over the ancient assembly hall to preserve it!|
In the morning I asked at the front desk about the local transport to visit local attractions. The polite receptionist gave all the details and also offered an advice to take a taxi. Private buses and tempos ply in and around the city. Finding a bus, then finding the bus stop and then getting off from the jam packed bus/tempo are great tasks. People who are used to the local transport in Bengaluru/Karnataka will find it difficult in Patna. You will not find any local transport as great as it is in Karnataka. I didn't see young men and women in crisp modern clothes around me like in Bengaluru. But, whoever I spoke to and asked for directions were respectful and helpful. Not like what we hear in the news channels. Specifically, the youngsters who recognize outsiders offer help.
Patna is one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities! The history of the city dates back to three thousand years! Finds its mention in ancient Vedas and Puranas. Has seen rise and fall of several empires like Mourya and Gupta. My interest in Patna was to visit the ruins of ancient Pataliputra and two popular temples of Badi and Choti Patan Devi. I started my day at 'Junction' bus stop. As I said earlier, it is not an easy task o make locals understand what you are asking! Our accent, and the names of attractions mentioned in the guide books or internet are totally different. After asking numerous people I got into a shared autorikshaw to Kumrahar park (locally pronounced as 'kumdad') where the excavated ruins of ancient Pataliputra are preserved. The ruins discovered here date back to Mouryan period and it is believed that it was Emperor Ashoka's capital. The 80-pillared hall excavated here is believed to be the assembly hall where the third Buddhist council was held somewhere around 250 BCE. But the pillars are removed and the place is filled with sand and mud to preserve the ruins. A beautiful garden can be seen on this site. One of those pillars is kept as an exhibit for the visitors to see. Also, a replica of the hall is displayed in the small museum inside the park.
|Replica of Ashokan Assembly Hall in the museum|
Kumrahar park aslo has the ruins of an Arogya Vihar, a hospital headed by Dhanvantri, early Indian medical practitioner who is believed to be the source of Ayurveda. Hospital aslo had a monastery around it. From here I took another autorikshaw to Agam Kuan, a well which was built by Emperor Ashoka essentially to torture his enemies! Those days it was believed to be too very inhuman that people were thrown into this well filled with fire. It is also believed that Ashoka killed his 99 brothers by throwing them into this well to get to the throne. Now, it stands beside a crowded Shitala Devi (the Pox Goddess) temple and is always surrounded by devotees and beggars. There are documented evidences about this well in many ancient documents it seems.
|Beautiful Park Kumrahar|
Badi Patan Devi temple stands on the banks of river Ganga and the place is called Kalighat. One of the 51 Shaktipeetas it is considered to be the presiding deity of Patna city. A place where 'right thigh' of Devi Sati fell here. Originally called Devi Sarvanandakari Patneshwari, the temple is abode to the triad of Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati. The deities are in black stone and decorated with sarees and lot of Kumkum-turmeric. The temple has few visitors but has a feel of tantric tradition. The interior is a bit dark, filled with dhoop (incense smoke). After visiting the tempe people head to the ghat to enjoy the vast views of river Ganga and also boating. Sunsets can be great here. Choti Patan Devi temple is in the Chowk area which I gave a miss!
|Boating at Kali Ghat|
As I mentioned earlier, I was terrified when I reached Patna city after dark. Next morning, after speaking to the local people I roamed around the city without any fear. The city is just like any other city in India. Well, it is a bit unorganized, dusty and congested. People look little rough and very poor. By end of the day we are all humans- common people! They are helpful, concerned and welcoming. From the temple I was returning to the hotel in a shared rikshaw and I heard popular 'item' song (rural Indian cabaret)- mein ayi hoon UP, Bihar lootne ... Having visited both the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, this song made me smile ... what is there to 'loot' anyway?!---
Next, I was planning to get out of the capital city and visit rural Bihar!
Next, I was planning to get out of the capital city and visit rural Bihar!
Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts and constructive feedback. If you have enjoyed this article then connect with Google+, Twitter, Facebook or subscribe through email for more exciting updates!
Backpacking India- A Classic Pilgrimage!
One evening on Harishchandra Ghat
Street food from Gujarat
The Village of Bishnoi in Rajasthan
Udaipur- The city of lakes
This post is linked to Our World Tuesday meme.
If you want pictures please ask me :)
Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.