Page images
PDF
EPUB

Description of Patna.

119

beams, doors, and windows, but of pillars, floors, and half of the walls. The booths that project into the street and the verandahs that overhang them, are all of wooden architecture. This is because timber is so abundant and cheap in Patna, being easily procured and floated down from the forests of the Terai. The oldest part of Patna on the river-bank is very closely built. The streets are overhung by the upper stories, and have an old pavement of stone. They are so narrow that draining, clearing, and lighting them are all out of the question.

No old remains, as it has been said above, exist in Patna, unless a lofty mound of earth, with a Mahomedan Durgah on its top, near the Railway station, may be taken as a stupa of Asoca. The oldest ruins are those of the fort defended by Ramnarain against the Shazada, and situated very advantageously on a high bank above the river. The citadel has only a few of its bastions, and nothing more.

The only object for sight-seeing in Patna, is the monument over the 150 Englishmen massacred in cold blood by Sumroo under the orders of Meer Cossim. It is a tall, slender column, of alternate black and yellow stone, that lifts its head about 30 feet high in the old English burial-ground at Patna.

The trading quarters of Patna are out of the walled town, in the eastern suburbs, called Maroogunj. It is such 'a large mart, that 1700 boats of burthen have been counted lying here at one time.' Unless the rolling-stock of the Railway Companies be augmented to the number of boats at each of the stations, they can never hope to divert all the trade from the river. Patna is a noted manufactory of table-cloths ' of any extent, pattern, and texture that may be ordered.' The Chinese have forgotten Pataliputra, and know Patna now for its opium. In Patna are many wealthy Hindoo merchants and bankers.

Two facts came to our knowledge as peculiar to the inhabitants of Patna. One of them relates to the practice of celebrating their marriages only in the months of January and February. They are preferred, we think, for their being pleasant dry months, and this marriage-season has the effect of producing an important demand in the piece-goods market for local consumption. The other fact is that no Hindoo dying at Patna is burnt here, but on the other shore. It may be, that ancient Magadha is a banned land for not having been included in the Puniya-bhumi of the Aryas.

To Bankipore, the Civil station of Patna—a distance of six miles. Here are the Opium Warehouses, the Courts of Justice, and the residences of the Europeans. In Bankipore is seen a high massive building, shaped like a dome, with two flights of steps outside to ascend to the top, resembling, says Heber, the old prints of the Tower of Babel.' There is a circular opening at the top to pour in corn, and a small door at the bottom to take it out. The building in question was erected by Government in 1783, after a severe famine, as a public granary to keep down the price of grain, and marks the politico-economical knowledge of the day. It was

[blocks in formation]

'abandoned on discovery of its inefficacy, since no means in their hands, nor any building which they could construct, without laying on fresh taxes, would have been sufficient to collect or contain more than one day's provision for the vast population of their territories.' Moreover, it displays such architectural blockheadism 'as, by a refinement in absurdity, the door at the bottom is made to open inwards, and, consequently, when the granary was full, could never have been opened at all.' Passing up in the train, a glimpse of this remarkable tower may be caught by the traveller through the groves and orchards extending behind Bankipore.

Near the Bankipore station, a road has branched off to Gaya, six miles south of which is Boodh Gaya, famous for being the spot of the holy Peepul tree, under which Gautama, or Sakya Muni, sat for six years and obtained Buddha-hood. There is a

There is a temple more than two thousand years old, in which three complete arches have been observed by Baboo Rajendro Lall Mittra,' as affording 'a remarkable proof of the Hindoos having had a knowledge of the principle of the arch at a very early period, though the credit of it has been denied them by all our Anglo-Indian antiquaries. This is the place to which pilgrims from China and Burmah travelled in former ages, and on the ruins of which has modern Gaya risen, supplanting the ancient Buddhapud by the Vishnupud of the Brahmins.

The Herihar-Chetra and Sonepore Races.Took a boat at the ferry-ghaut of Bankipore, and set out for the mela. On a tongue of land formed by the junction of two rivers, and opposite the city of Patna, stands a lofty white temple that glistens from afar, and greets the eye across the immense expanse of the waters. The sacred Gundhuki, that supplies the Hindoo with his silas, rising from the foot of the Dhawalagiri, here discharges its tribute to the Ganges immediately below the pagoda, and separates it from the town of Hajeepore on the opposite bank. The confluence is famous in the Pouranic legends as being the spot where the Elephant and the Tortoise waged their wars, till carried off by Garuda in his talons to the forests of Noimisha. The country is flat, but fruitful and interesting. Fields of barley and wheat, fine natural meadows, profusion of groves and orchards, and herds of diversified cattle, make up a prospect delightful to the vision and mind. Throughout the year the shrine is little frequented by pilgrims. But towards the full moon of Kartick, the holy spot attracts immense multitudes, and a fair is held there, the largest perhaps in all India. The solitary fields are covered with sheds and tents for many an acre, and grow into a city of vast size and population. From a distance of four miles the hum of voices reached our ears as we sailed down the river. The mela is particularly remarkable for being a great cattle-fair. Cows and calves, ploughing oxen, cart-bullocks, and buffaloes, sell to the number of some thirty thousand. Not less than ten thousand horses change their masters. The number of elephants brought for sale sometimes amounts to two thousand. The congregation of men may be estimated at near two hundred thousand. The attractive part of A great Fair.Dinapore.

I 23

the fair consists of rows of booths extending in several streets, and displaying copper and brass wares, European and native goods, toys, ornaments, jewellery, and all that would meet the necessity or luxury of a large part of the neighbouring population. Numerous are the shops for the sale of grain and sweetmeats. Near five hundred tents of various size and patterns are pitched for the accommodation of the rajahs, zemindars, and merchants who come to the fair, and the canvas-city displays a scene of great gorgeousness. They are splendidly illuminated at night, and thrown open to all descriptions of visitors. Much money is expended on the nautch-girls, whose dancing and songs form the great source of Indian entertainment. Parties of strolling actors, dressed fantastically, ply to and fro, dancing and singing. The river affords one of the gayest spectacles of the fête. It is crowded with boats of all descriptions, fitted out with platforms and canopies, and lighted with variegated lamps, torches, and blue-lights. Upon them the guests are entertained with nautch. The Europeans visiting the fair add to its amusements by their pleasures of the turf. There is no more ceremony

than that of ablution on the day of the full moon, and a poojah to the emblem of Heri-IIara, in honour of whom the mela is held.

The fair breaks up after a fortnight, and the place is left to its solitariness for the next twelvemonths.

Dinapore—the military station of Patna, and distant from it about fourteen miles, has only its barracks and the bungalows usual in a cantonment. Merely a passing

« PreviousContinue »