Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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

       The last Mauryan emperor, Brihadratha, proved to be weak and ineffective, and fell from power in 185 BC- a victim of internal unrest. The Shunga dynasty took power, and ruled for about 100 years, adding their own monuments to the growing collection at Sanchi.  The city’s fate over the next 400 years is unclear but in about 320 AD, another family emerged to restore Pataliputra to its former glory – The Guptas- who for a time, ruled most of India’s east coast almost as far south as Madras, as well as the traditional territory of Magadha. It was to be Pataliputra’s last flowering when the Guptas fell, so did the city.
          By the end of the 4th century, Pataliputra was grand enough to impress a traveler from the sophisticated culture of China. The writer Fa Xian visited the city during the reign of Chandra Gupta II, and was lost in admiration. He wrote:  “the royal palace and the halls in the midst of the city, the wall and the gates with their inlaid sculpture work, seem to be the work of superhuman spirits”. A Buddhist festival took place during Fa Xian’s visit. ‘On that day,’ he relates,’ the monks and laity within the borders all come together. They have singers and skilful musicians; they pay their devotions with flowers and incense… All through the night they keep lamps burning, have skilful music, and present offerings.’      

        But when Xuan Zang, another Chinese traveler, visited the city in 637, he found heaps of rubble where its monasteries, temples, and shrines once stood. ‘Once upon a time,’ he wrote, ‘these buildings could be counted in their hundreds. Now, only two or three of them are still standing. All that is left, to the north of where the palace was and near the Ganges, is a small town consisting of about 1000 houses.’ Sometime between the 5th and 7th centuries, Pataliputra had been destroyed

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