Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vanga to Magadha: Part III – Patna, City of Ajatasatru and Mauryas

Patna Museum
When I woke up in the morning, train was approximately one hour away from Patna. I looked outside; there was nothing special, normal countryside slowly opening her eyes to day-to-day realities. After a while we reached Rajendra Terminals – a big station; after some 5 minutes or so continued our journey towards the capital of Bihar. By the way let me remind you that, Bihar and West Bengal occupied New Delhi’s Rail Bhavan for a considerable number of years.

Vivek already booked one room for us. Hence after getting down at Patna Jn we walked straight towards the hotel, ignoring a numerous offers for hotel rooms. It was indeed a nice hotel, and we got a room at a corner with numerous windows to bring the air inside. After taking bath we started with our iteneries.

Padri Ki Haveli

Padri Ki Haveli – first in our list - is the oldest church in Bihar. With the help of GPS supported ‘Nokia Here Maps’, we started walking in church's direction. There were hardly any eateries opened in that early morning. After walking for another 15 minutes we finally saw an open hotel – hot poori and sabji with some sweets.

drrrrr... I looked around to check from where the sound is coming. Antony and Ankit was looking towards the sky. Up in the air a plane was slowly descending to land in Patna airport. I never saw planes travelling that much close to ground. After having a (burned :) ) tea from a nearby stall we started looking for an auto. First one said 150. Searching for a better offer, we walked towards the next one only to hear a higher quote - 250. We moved further and Finally, we agreed with the third one and fixed the charge at 150.

It was interesting to see Ankit’s position while talking to auto drivers. His body formed a bended ‘I’ shape, as if to offer some shade to auto and her driver :)

Driver took us in a different way; different from the one showed by GPS, this new one looked longer in maps. Crowded with people, vehicle and tonnes of dust travelling through that way didn’t look so much promising in the morning. There were hardly any traffic rules followed on the ground; drivers were honking as if their life is completely dependent on that tiny equipment. After a while vehicles started coming in from opposite direction, then from the right and then from the left - complete jam. We had to stop there for some 30 minutes. Antony was sitting in the middle; he was in a calm and quiet sleep.

Finally we left that auto and started walking, again with the help of ‘Nokia Here Maps’. Interestingly, roads showed in the map were hardly 8 feet wide in the ground. From there if you moved some feet to the left or right, you will land inside some home.

After a while we reached a T junction, from here onwards roads are considerable wide. Here also driver’s hand hardly left that noise generating machine. After walking for another one kilometer, we finally saw the gates of Padri Ki Haveli. We opened the gate and went inside.

In a room – looked like an office room - we found a nun from Sisters of Charity. She asked us to meet the Father to get inside the church building. Father opened the doors and detailed church’s history and current situation. After talking to him for a while, and a couple of minutes silence we left the church and jumped inside a shared auto - towards Ghai Ghat. Tis Ghat was not in our list, but added in last minute to see and touch the holiest of rivers in India – Ganga (aka ‘The Ganges’).

Ganga and Mahatma Gandhi Setu

After getting down from auto we walked towards India’s holiest river – Ganga (The Ganges). Ghai Ghat is located a little bit away from the main road. Close to the ghat, under the shade of the bridge, there were a group of camels eating their daily breakfast.

With a length of 5.574km, MG Setu is the lengthiest River Bridge in India. Only ‘PV Narasimha Rao Elevated Express High way’, ‘Hosur Road Elevated Highway’ and ‘Bandra-Kurla Sealink’ (all three are not river bridges) are lengthier than this bridge in India. By the way, width of Ganges here is hardly 40% of the length of the bridge.

In front of me, waters of Ganga flowed calmly. I slowly walked towards water and touched her. Needless to say, water was very much dirty. After seeing the amount of dirt she was forced to carry, I wonder what ‘Ganga Action Plan (GAP)’ really achieved? Just like many other government plans, this also ended up creating big holes in exchequer than creating any meaningful output.

The colour of water or dirt she carries hardly created any effect in people’s mind. For millions of Indians, Ganga is mother and purifier. It is believed that taking a dip in Ganga will wipe out all the sins one committed enable him/her to achieve moksha. Unfortunately this belief didn’t stop people living in banks, industries, municipal authorities etc in dumping waste in the river. More than 50 people were taking bath at the ghat.

Close to ghat, a span of the bridge was tilted downwards. This particular span was supported by additional iron beams and associated structure from the ground and repair work was going on. By the seeing the progress of the work, one can easily assume that it will take another decade to finish. God help the people of Patna and Hajipur located on both sides of the bridge to cross the river fast.

Hajipur – Crossing Mahatma Gandhi Setu

This part of the journey was slow and painful. Because of the problems in a span, traffic was highly regulated; in some places it was one-way. In short it will take hours to cross the bridge and reach Hajipur. Girls sitting in opposite seat informed us that, it would take 3-5 hours to cross the bridge. Fortunately we reached the other side faster than that. More than going slow, my problem was the music player. Volume was so high and quality was so low that, it hardly resembled to anything called music.

Finally we reached Hajipur – a crowded marketplace. Here people are travelling on top of the buses as well. Was the conductor able to collect money from them? I don’t know.

From a nearby store we had Patna's traditional sweet ''. Some seedless grapes and pomegranate was enough to postpone our lunch for a couple of hours. Time to go back, we got into another auto and started our return journey to Patna. Ankit and Antony turned on their sleep switch. After struggling through that bridge for one more time, auto driver dropped us in Patna Jn.

Before going further let me state a point here - it is absolutely useless to talk about development when state authorities couldn’t even fix infrastructure bottlenecks, at least in the capital. What Bihar government what to showcase to investors? Half dead Mahatma Gandhi Setu where a round trip will cost you a day?

Patna Museum

After having some rest we restarted our journey to see the museum. It was better to take an auto to reach there. However, brain won't always work in an optimal way :) Walking consumed an alarming amount of time in our portfolio. By the time we reached there it was already 4 in the evening. After buying the pass we went in.

They started closing the museum from 4.30pm itself (from ground to top). Hence we ran from one galley to another one. In case you are in Patna and planning to visit museum, don’t forget to take a look at the building itself, I liked it.


From museum we walked towards Golghar.

"located to the west of the Gandhi Maidan in Patna... After the devastating famine of 1770, which killed nearly 10 million people in regions of Bengal, Bihar and modern day Bangladesh, Warren Hastings, then Governor-General of India, ordered the construction of this beehive shaped structure for the purpose of storing grains for the British Army. It was conceived and built by Captain John Garstin, an engineer with the East India Company, and has a storage capacity of 140000 tons, it construction was completed on 20 July 1786." - Wikipedia

By the time we reached there, the gates for going to the top of the building was closed for the day (Entry fees was 2 INR). One guy sitting at the counter told that, they would open again around 7.00 or 7.30PM for laser show (entry fees for Laser show - 30 INR).

At night we had to attend Vivek's marriage, hence we ruled out laser show and walked back to the room. Darkness was slowly creeping in.

At night, we - me, Ankit, Antony and three other friends of Vivek – left the hotel for marriage. Me and Ankit was in a manually pulled rickshaw – my second ever journey in such a vehicle.


(Quality of photos are considerably reduced for loading this page faster)

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