A few places tend to leave an everlasting impression on you when you visit them. It could be due to their scenic beauty, stunning architecture or history. Then there are places like Patna where it is the people and their hearts that enhance the beauty. Planning a trip to the so called lawless state of Bihar, we had our inhibitions and it would be completely wrong if we did not admit that we were concerned about our safety. But we were put to shame by the beautiful people of Patna and they taught us the most valuable lessons of all- It is a grave sin to have sweeping general perceptions and to not get into the cycle of typecasting based on a few incidents alone.
They proved the age old golden Indian tradition true "Atithi Devo Bhava"- "Guest Should Be Treated Like God." In general for the three days that we were in Patna we experienced a whole different world contrary to the views expressed by the media and mean jokes circulated on social media.
Apart from the warmth of these awesome people, the city offers a lot to keep travellers on their toes and we started off with the Patna Museum. It is definitely a must visit as it houses relics that are very precious. The museum is divided into different sections bronze and stone sculptures, terracotta gallery, textiles, weapons, artifacts, paintings and an entire section dedicated to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. The thankas displayed near the staircase on the first floor surely grab your attention.
Among all the sculptures, the one that stands out is the Didarganj Yakshi. This sandstone sculpture over 6 feet in height and made from a single stone with well polished surface is one of the finest examples of Mauryan art. It was excavated from banks of Ganga and is considered one of the most precious examples of ancient Indian sculptural art. Even the backyard of the museum has centuries old sculptures.
Another interesting aspect of the museum is a 200 million year fossil tree. It is 58 feet in length and was found near Asansol in 1927. You can also spot World War 1 canons that are on display here. The museum also houses Buddha relics, Buddha's ashes and manuscripts with Gold and Silver inscriptions. If you want to see these manuscripts and Buddha's ashes, the museum tickets are priced at Rs.100 per person. If you want to give it a miss, the tickets are Rs.15. Even though we felt the pricing is unfair we highly recommend you visit these exquisite or one of a kind relics. Camera charges are Rs,100.
Golghar, one of the iconic monuments of Patna, was constructed by an Englishman to store grains for the British Army after the tragic famine of 1770 which killed millions of Indians. This stupa shaped monument with a spiral staircase was designed in a manner for laborers to carry the load up, drop the load and descend from the other set of stairs. With a storage capacity of 140000 tonnes it could provide food for thousands of people. The panoramic view of Patna from the top of this 79 meter tall monument and the scintillating sunset over the ghats is a perfect site. However, this place tends to get a little crowded around sunset.
Kali Ghat/ Kali Mandir is a revered place of worship over looking one of the many ghats with the mighty Ganges flowing by her side. The main deity is Kali Maa. It is considered as one of the holiest sites of Patna and attracts hordes of people. People do not just come to the temple, they make sure that they visit the ghat after praying to Goddess Kali to offer their prayers to Ganga. Earlier the devotees used to let the diyas float in the Ganges but now thanks to PM Narendra Modi's 'Swachh Bharat' mission, this practice is highly discouraged and the diyas are now left on the steps of the ghat. The neighboring building is Patna University, one of the most prestigious university of Bihar.
Takht Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara is one of the holiest sites in India for Sikhs as Patna is the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh ji, the tenth Guru of Sikhism, This beautiful Gurudwara is a sight to behold and like every other Gurudwara, a sense of peace and calm prevails. Your trip to any Gurudwara is incomplete if you skip the Langar. The best part about the Sikh community is that they welcome people with a very generous heart and offer food irrespective of the faith they practice, their social status or any other discrimination. The rich or poor sit shoulder to shoulder and dine like one big family. A visit to this beautiful Gurudwara might be chaotic as it is set in a super busy market place and the roads are very narrow and congested.
Shaheed Samrak Park aka martyrs memorial is dedicated to seven martyrs who made the supreme sacrifice of laying down their lives fighting colonists in a bid to hoist the National Flag on the Secretariat building during the Quit India Movement. The bronze statue of these young students portrays the determination and the love for their motherland not willing to give up on their mission even after facing bullets. It is very important and supreme duty of any Indian to remember and respect every man and woman who fight fiercely for the freedom and prosperity of India. This park is a couple of kilometers away from Patna High Court.
Haldiram's in Boring Road is one of the best veg restaurants to dine in. 'Boring road' contrary to the name is a happening lane in Patna. It is a street food lovers paradise with several thelas (food carts) that serve excellent street food. We were surprised to find a few carts selling delicious momos. A small shop, Blue Moon, sells a wide variety of 'Kathi Rolls' aka Frankie. This place is pretty easy to find as it is often mobbed and that would be your tell tell sign. If you are not a big fan of street food this lane is still a big hit as it also has several fine dining restaurants. To cater to your sweet tooth, head to Sweet Home, they have a huge range of sweets confectioneries and bakery items. The sandwiches at this place are a must try.
If you are in Patna on a Monday it would be a better idea to reschedule your entire trip as all attractions remain closed. Patna comes second only to Gwalior in terms of unnecessary honking that result in a headache if you spend long hours on the streets. Patna is very hot even in the month of September, the sun is pretty severe on you throughout the day so be sure to keep yourself hydrated and be well equipped with sunglasses, hat and sunscreen. The Bihari dialect is something we fell in love with.
When we visited Patna, Bihar was gearing up for one of the most unpredictable elections and there was a lot of debate about who would win the State elections. During one of our evening strolls we saw technology being put to great use. PM was interacting with the locals through digital media and trying his level best to convince them to back his party.