Posted by: itsme | February 23, 2010

Ancient Pataliputra

Some days ago when I was at Patna I visited Kumrahar late in the evening and it was closed. I peeked at it from the outside but today I get a second chance to visit this piece of history.

Although I start the day quite early by leaving Vaishaili at 7 am, the bus to Patna breaks down along the way. There is a problem with the coolant. The driver stops often trying his best to cool down the radiator with buckets of water. The radiator has its way. With many starts and stops, the driver gives up. The conductor arranges for all passengers to change to another bus which already crowded. I argue with the conductor who finally returns ten rupees. I take a shared tempo for the rest of the way to Patna.

En route we pass the river Ganges. We cross it by a bridge. The driver of the tempo tells me that this bridge is 7 km long. It is quite long but I am not sure I can believe it is 7 km long.

I am supposed to get off at the bus stand and change to another bus bound for Maner-Sharif. I pass Kumrahar and I think its a good idea to visit is for an hour. I get off here. I appear to be the first visitor for the day. The guy at the counter complains that he has no change. An ice-cream vendor at the entrance offers me the required change. Two beggarly imps trouble me for alms. I give them a rupee each.

Back at the ticket counter, the guy issues me a torn and soiled ticket from yesterday. The counterfoil has already been torn off along the perforated line. Clearly the guy has pocketed my five rupees, just like the guy at the museum at Vaishaili. So in two days the government has lost ten rupees from just me.

The park is lovely and warm in the early morning. The lawns are green. Squirrels are flirting about the brick ruins. Some early lovers have taken to shady spots to do their love talk. The pond is clean but smothered with green algae. Gardeners are busy at their tasks. Palm trees are catching the morning light.

The fallen pillar of Ashoka lies in a shelter. About the shelter are other fragments. These are impressive when considered on their own. When compared with the pillar at Vaishaili or the pillar at Sanchi Museum they are not that impressive. It has to do with what I have already seen and the heightened expectations.

There is small exhibition of photos taken from the time of excavations in this part of town. This is ancient Pataliputra. One of them shows the impressive 80-pillared hall, with the bases of many pillars clearly seen popping out of the ground. It is suggested that this was built for one of the early Buddhist councils. Today none of the pillars are to be seen. What I see is just a grassy field with sandy mounds here and there. One of the gardeners explains that this ground is often water logged and hence the place has been filled up. I was more impressed by the photograph. The actual ground leaves too much to imagination and shows too little.

The other beautiful thing about these ruins is a Swastika shaped monastic brick ruin. It is called the Arogya Vihar, orginally used by physicians of the day. Today a medicinal garden is being cultivated next to these ruins in tune with the original purpose of these ruins.

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