Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pataliputra The Largest Jewel in India’s Crown Part.I

When Alexander the Great’s army erupted out of Greece in the 4th century BC, the prospects of fighting the mighty forces of Pataliputra stopped in its tracks. Today, little remains of the city’s imperial majesty except a few eyewitness accounts.

Bihar today is one of the developing states in India. It lies 800 Km south east of New Delhi, the Indian capital, and is prone both to catastrophic droughts which turn its plains into choking dust bowls, and to monsoon floods which sweep down the Ganges valley, drowning crops and demolishing villages . Its capital, the town of Patna, famed for its rice, is described by modern Indian writers as the subcontinent’s grubbiest town. Yet it is build on the site of a nonce glittering city- the capital of the kingdom of Magadha, home of the Mauryan and later the Gupta dynasties, which controlled the Ganges valley and much of India from about 320 BC until 550 AD. At its height the capital, Pataliputra, was one of the largest cities in the world.

 The only remains of Pataliputra today are a few postholes, fragments of wood, stone, and pottery, and chipped earthenware statuettes. If archaeology were the only source of information, much of the city’s story would remain obscure, but scholars have used other sources to piece together how it looked.

 The most comprehensive source is a book, Indika, by a Greek author, Megasthenes, who spent many years as an ambassador to the court at Pataliputra. The original text of Indika has also been lost, so the information, by other Greek authors who had read his work, is second hand and sometimes conflicting. Nonetheless, the Greek authors’ information is united in portraying a city of great prosperity.


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