Director Agriculture, Bihar (Retired), Shareef Colony, Patna
Contacts: Tel: +91.612.2672451, firstname.lastname@example.org
M. N. Khan
Raynes Park, London, U.K, Naumanparkway@aol.com
|History of Bihar|
|Official websites-Bihar||Bihar Personalities|
|Zamindars & Rich People||Patna’s Backwardness||Educational Progress|
|Official Language||Money||Localities in Bankipore|
|Transportation||Patna Railway Junction||Entertainment|
|East India Company||Governance|
PATNA the provincial capital of Bihar dates back in the Indian history when the town was called Patliputra and later on it was also called Kusumpura. The city was visited by Lord Buddha in the 6th century B.C. Patliputra, in the time of Ashoka became the centre from where messengers of peace and international understanding were sent to all over India and beyond. The glories of the city revived with the rise of the Gupta Empire in the early 4th century A.D. and Chandragupta I, who was the first emperor of the Gupta dynasty, had his capital here. Fahian, Chinese pilgrim, who visited this city in early 5th century A.D, has left a very rich description of the place.
In the Muslim period, The King Sher Shah Suri (1488 –1545), the Afghan emperor, revived his capital and constructed a fort here on a strategic location and put a boundary around Patna. Later the Mughals acknowledged the importance of Patna when Humayun (1508 – 1556) the eldest son of the Emperor Babar, who succeeded his father to the throne in 1530, defeated the Suri dynasty and became the emperor of Hindustan. Subsequently, Akbar (1542 – 1605) the Mughal emperor of India who established a tolerant policy of co-operation with the Hindu population, and whose reign saw the zenith of Mughal power brought Patna into his own kingdom. The city was extended and beautified by different Mughal Governors, who built a large number of buildings for religious as well as administrative and public purposes. TOP
Patna played an important
part when Mir Qasim Ali Khan who was enthroned in 1760 and he tried to throw off
the yoke of the British. Mir Qasim fled from Monghyr to Patna and had 50
Englishmen executed by his German General Samru – the cemetery of those
executed Englishmen lies behind the present City Hospital building. But in
November 1763 Patna was captured by the British troops and Mir Qasim fled to
Oudh. In 1764, in the famous battle of Buxer, Mir Qasim was defeated along with
his allies by the British and he had to escape. He died, in 1777, in exile.
Azimush Shah, the grandson son of Aurangzeb (1618 – 1707) named Patna, in 1704, as Azimabad. Several areas or Mohallas namely Moghalpura, Shahganj, Diwan were established at the time.
Azimabad, in 1811, was a very small town having Purab-darwaza on the east and Pachim darwaza on the west of the town. In the year 1857 these were removed for the expansion of the town. More and more Mohallas sprang up with the rising population such as Manssorganj and Marufganj that was popularly frequented by traders and business community.
Sher Shah Suri had established, in 1541, a building for his administrative work just by the side of the river Ganges, which came to be known as the capital of Patna. The same building, very near to the newly established Mohalla, Jhauganj is now owned by Jalan Saheb Marwari.
When Jahangir (1569 – 1627), Akbar’s son, was in power, his servant Shahzada Perwez Shah built ‘Pathar ki Masjid’ which still stands today. Nunmuhyan was established by Munne Mian whose existing grave is still there to remind him.
The Geography of Patna TOP
Patna has had limited land to develop beyond its reasonable boundaries. In the north of Patna the river Ganges flowed in a serpentine surge while on the south side the land was full of water where sprawling Rajindranagar is. Further south of Rajindranagar the place called Kankarbagh was famous for yet again perennial stream of water all through the year. All the refuge and drained water from mainland Patna had its route of escape through Rajindranagar and finally Kankarbagh to ‘Julla’ the great big reservoir of dirty water.
The present Kankarbagh was almost a big lake where boats used to ply almost throughout the year. The Nala Road near Kadamkuan had a big and clumsy canal carrying surplus and refuge water from mainland Patna. The Nala Road was full of palm trees and wild vegetation unsuitable for human consumption.
Patna’s roads in those days were in a dilapidated condition, dusty and debris scattered all over the place particularly in summer and repairing those ramshackle roads and paths were normally reserved for prisoners of jails.
Zamindars and Rich People
Those were the days when Patna’s big feudal lords, landowners or Zamindars, squandered their valuable and spare time indulging in gossiping and gaming around pigeons and parrots. The status of high class and rich families were commonly judged by the sheer number of pigeons and parrots paraded and owned by them. There used to be huge congregation of people enjoying the curious fun of showing and dancing of different varieties of pigeons released by hands and scattered into the sky. With the passage of time all these aristocrats’ hobbies, which may now be considered rather eccentric have faded away into dustbins of history. TOP
Many families who lived in far away Lucknow, once the seat of the Nawabs of Awadh whose last ruler Wajid Ali Shah (1827 – 1887) was forced into exile in Calcutta when the British India annexed his kingdom in 1856, shifted and settled in Patna either to be closer to their relations or for personal conveniences. Patna’s population kept on increasing by the day.
In Patna wealthy and well to do people enjoyed living in large and luxurious dwellings while the lower strata of the middle-income people struggled to make their both ends meet. Further down the ladder poverty drove people to destitution to such a level that some women from reasonable cultured families were reluctantly turned to prostitution to seek means for supporting their daily living. In Patna City the hub of prostitutions or sex-trade were huddled on double-storied premises in designated area.
Some prostitutes with their good upbringing were “cultured”, well mannered and familiar with the social etiquettes prevailing amid aristocracy and attracted the younger and naïve generation from the families of Nawabs and Taluqdars for the sake of sheer fun where melodies and gazals accompanied with musical instruments turned the surrounding into nightclubs. Drinks and merry making were added pleasure of well to do class of people. Thus such callous living in pursuit of pomp and glamour drove many people into agony and despair while unaccounted income out of ancestral properties drained out and rendered them penniless and sometime living on debts. TOP
On the other side of the coin, the ancestors of Hazrat Yahya Maneri Rahmatullah, a celebrated saint of India who died in 1379, put up Khanquah in Biharsharif, 29 km from Patna and that is still revered with respectability and considered as one of the finest mausoleums of the Eastern India. Subsequently, Phulwarisharif came into prominence. Several Imambaras were established such as Chamardoria, Lodikatra, Gulzarbagh, Diwan Mohalla and others. Hazrat Munim a revered Islamic leader established Mittan Ghat, which is still there. Side by side a number of Hindu temples sprang up namely Patan Devi City Court, Chhoti Patan Devi situated near Haji Ganj.
The British with their nose in trade came to Azimabad, which was famous for indigo, gun power and opium. They changed the name of Azimabad to Patna. They started a campaign to improve and modernise Patna with the general co-operation of its citizens.
Since 1824, English people started residing in posh part of Patna. Metcalfe, the Commissioner of Patna, constructed the Lawn in the town, which is now known as Gandhi Maidan. Patna Lawn was originally laid out for playing golf for the English gentries. After a year, they started horse Racing in the Lawn that attracted attention of general public. The Biharis who were rather conservative shunned such gathering but some Bengalis joined the club and propelled themselves into prominence as elite class. TOP
Bihar’s rich and fertile land embedded the society on agricultural economy and that perhaps inhibited offshoot of entrepreneur class in commerce and industries even though the land has been rich in coal and mineral. Thus entrepreneurs from outside Bihar were lured to come and exploit the richness of the land – J R D Tata, a Parsi from Bombay, set up a company, one of the world’s pioneering steel companies, to mine coal and iron ore, located in Jamshedpur in Bihar.
However, Patna was not short of enterprising personalities such as Din Muhammad (1759 – 1850) who was born in Patna City. He was the first Indian immigrant who arrived in Britain in 1784 and was known as Dean Mahomet. He opened Hindostanee Coffee House, a restaurant in London’s Portman Square, near Oxford Circus, and thus was the first Indian restaurateur in Britain. When he went bankrupt in 1812, he moved to Brighton where he set up the business of Indian medicated vapour and shampooing Baths and was well known as ‘Shampooing Surgeon’. Incidentally, the word shampoo has been derived from the Indian word ‘champai’ (massaging of head).
Patna had no facilities for a better and higher education. People of Bihar used to go to Calcutta, which was considered to be the nucleus of education.
Bengal was the epicentre of reform movements, of a renaissance in literature and the arts and of the growth of political consciousness. The spread of English schools in 1855 was welcomed in Bengal. The English school were enthusiastically patronised by the prosperous families keen for their sons to move on in the world. English was the language of the colonial masters. Five universities had been founded in 1857 and Calcutta led the way. TOP
No wonder the physical presence and other influences of Bengalis percolated in neighbouring Bihar. Bengalis occupied important position in administration, profession and other pursuit of human activities. Several roads in Patna bear Bengali names – Makhanian Kuan Road, Bhattacharya Road, B N Das Road and Govind Mitra Road.
Bengalis named and administered schools such as T K Ghosh Academy that was first established in 1883 followed by Ram Mohan Roy Seminary, P N Anglo Sanskrit School, and Bankipore Girls Schools between 1895 and 1897. T K Ghosh Academy produced distinguished personalities of Bihar such as Dr Rajinder Prasad, Hassan Imam, Sir Ali Imam, Sir Sultan Ahmad and others. Today the school’s building of T K Ghosh Academy is falling to pieces and no one is even there in Patna to shed crocodile tears at the wretched condition of the school that had seen its glory in the past.
On the back of school education came higher education in the form of colleges. Patna College, a government establishment, came into being in the late 19th century. This was followed by B N College that was established by Bisheshwar Singh, a famous zamindar of the district of Bhojpore, formerly known as Shahabad. TOP
When it was realised that Bengal was an impediment for the prospect of the future generation of Biharis, then the area, after great altercation, was separated into Bengal and Bihar in 1912.
The official and court language of Azimabad and indeed most part of India was Persian. In 1835, English as a common language was introduced, replacing Persian as a court language. Its purpose, as Lord Macaulay, politician and writer and a member of the British Supreme Council in India, put it, was to create “a class of persons Indian in blood and colour but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and intellect.” He further admonished: “One shelf of a library in Europe is worth all the learning of the East,” Macaulay arrogant English xenophobe had little respect for Oriental scholarship.
Urdu, the language that commanded acceptability, remained the common lingua franca of the people of Bihar and became widely popular elsewhere. Urdu and particularly its poetry mesmerised and still do the hearts and minds of the people. Bihar was fortunate to produce Syed Ali Muhammad Shad Azimabadi (1846 – 1927) a famous and renowned poet who virtually revolutionised Urdu literature. The poet’s popularity extended far beyond Bihar. TOP
Bihar produced Khuda Bakh Khan (1842 – 1908) a notable bibliophile of India. He acquired a passion of collecting rare Arabic and Persian manuscripts and established the first public library, in 1891, in Patna. Incidentally, the first public libraries in England were established in 1850. It shows that Khuda Bakh Khan who had a great vision “left India richer by a treasure surpassing the gifts of princes and millionaires.”
Sher Shah Suri (1540 – 1550) who built the Grand Trunk Road linking Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), through Bihar, with Peshawar (now in Pakistan) also introduced the silver coin rupayya, from which we get the word rupee. The silver coins since Shah Alam (1728 – 1806) the King of Delhi who was also a poet and had a Divan in Urdu and Persian, was replaced by the British, in 1858, with coins bearing Queen Victoria of England.
Those were the days when prices of commodities of daily usage were very cheap compared with today. The value of even one paisa was good enough to buy 2 seers of vegetable. Even so called ‘adhani’ had some value and bought many merchandise.
The Formation of Localities in Bankipore
Patna’s population, now Bankipore the central part, kept increasing with the passage of time particularly when people from Patna City started trekking towards the hub of administration, legal affairs and court cases, education and healthcare. Bankipore that comprised a small place that was once called Muharrampur, a small thinly populated village and commonly known for growing vegetables became known as Sabzibagh.
Darya Khan once the governor of Patna developed an area and called it Dariyapur after his name. Langar Baba, an old priest who lived adjacent to Dariyapur, left his mark as a legacy after his death and the place became Langertolli. TOP
Pir Murad or Pir Baba was a great saint who dwelled in premises now occupied by Patna Medical College and who commanded reverence from many people of different communities. The area of Pir Murad became Muradpur, with shops on both side of the narrow road, in Bankipore. In the late 1940s the shops on the north side of the road were demolished to broaden the narrow street of Muradpur. Many shops having lost their sites moved to a nearby new shopping area called Patna Market, established in 1947, on a land adjacent to a large housing complex owned by Syed Haider Imam. Patna Market offered a modern concept of shopping and it also became a rendezvous for town’s dandies.
Pir Bahore another saint who died is the place that is now called Pirbahore.
Muslim cultural and social life – such as social habits, etiquette, manners, myths, idiosyncrasies, rites and rituals, taboos, etc. – shaped itself in the vast areas that once formed the Mughal Empire of India, and in particular, that flourished in the feudal environs of Lucknow, that epitomised Indo-Muslim culture, and is a glamorous and a fascinating subject of study. The culture of splendour and opulence flourished mainly in the urban Muslim society of the Indo-Gangetic plains, stretching from Delhi, where it took root, to Murshibadad and beyond including Rampur, Bhopal and Hyderabad.
A typical well to do Muslim courtyard house or haveli had two separate apartments connected with a long passage. One apartment was for female with a heavy curtain hung at the end, which gave entrance to the Zenana. There sat a female porter or bara darni and she announced the entry of all – even the male member of the family did not enter. The passage opened on to a courtyard flanked by rooms on all sides and in front of the rooms were verandahs known as dalans. There were small rooms known as taha khanas, used for storing essentials. TOP
The leisure and luxury that gifted rich architectural medieval houses in Indian history have been fast disappearing from the landscape of the country. In the late 1950s, a Japanese team surveyed the 336 major medieval buildings of Delhi. The team returned 40 years later to find that 30 per cent of the monuments photographed and described in their work were no longer standing – 97 per cent of the Mughal havelis of old Delhi have also been destroyed, and like the city’s medieval walls, disappeared into memory.
A typical well to do Muslim haveli had pieces of furniture in the main room included such as masnad of a heavily embossed or embroidered tapestry for reclining while sitting on carpet. A large silver casket with several chambers that contained the ingredients that went to make pan (betel leaf along with certain spices and tobacco), was known as pandan. Visitors or guests were offered pans with a touch of snobbishness and the same social custom is still prevalent. Pans were wrapped in silver paper, varaq, and covered with dome-like structure, khasdans. Another interesting sight was of hooqah, a pipe attached to a goblet that was used for smoking and passed round quite a distance in the room for other to share smoking.
Visiting guests on formal occasions would come with a tray full of sweets, and would be presented with itr, scent in embossed caskets and on grand occasions rose-water, kept in silver bottles with long slender stems or gulab-pash, were sprinkled on welcoming guests. A couple of rupees would be put on the tray for the servant who brings the sweets. A well to do family had a set of itrdan, pandan, khasdan, hooqah, gulab-pash and ugaldan (spittoon) silverware. Suspended from the ceiling was a sort of pendulant with a great deal of decoration and ingenuity that was pulled by a string and thus gave breeze in summer, apart from hand fans made in great variety of styles and shapes.
In the dinning room people sat around on carpet and a dasterkhan, dinner-sheet, were laid out and dinner were served on plates made of copper, china, and glass bowls and people eating with their own fingers. Eating with fingers has its code, and the well-brought up people eat in such a manner that just the tips of the fingers are soiled. Muslims have always been great meat-eaters but Mughal culture with their princes renowned for their grandiose lifestyle has created great varieties of cuisine – pulao, kebab, and chapatti, nan and parathas and at wedding feast sheermals and baqar Khanies (bread made of flour mixed with milk and ghee and baked in an oven) – served with great elaboration and decorated with great fuss. TOP
Lucknow the seat of Nawabs still retains one royal passion: Food. India’s finest lamb dishes derive from Awadhi cuisine, the ultimate expression of which is the delicate Kakori kebab, a cigar-shaped delight. Local legend says it was created for a toothless prince, and it’s easy to see why. Made from finely ground mutton, infused with cloves, cinnamon and other spices, the Kakori is so soft it just melts on your tongue. Kebab prepared in Bihar (outside Bihar, all over South Asia, it is known as Bihari kebab) is another delicacy unique in its form and taste. Legend has it that, centuries ago a visitor from Turkey introduced such kebab in Bihar. Fruits have always been very popular with the Muslims and they cultivated the Indian fruits, such as mangoes, melons and watermelons, with great care.
Washing facilities after dinner was provided by dripping of fingers in a bowl known as chilamchi made of silver. Chilamchi into which water is poured has a perforated lid so that one does not get splashed while washing one’s hand. A servant outside the room, holding soap and towel, would also pour water on to the diner’s hands for washing.
Water for drinking used to be stored in earthenware flask, surahies or pitchers known as gharas and then kept cool and moist by wrapping a wet cloth around them and placed in a cool room and putting them outside at night. A drop of keora, a sort of perfumed liquid, is added to the water in summer. In early morning a katora (bowl) full of water with tukhm-e-balanga (a herbal seeds) dropped into the katora was considered good for general health. Many varieties of sherbets as cold drink were also very popular. During the heat of summer khas, a species of dry grass that exudes a refreshing fragrant smell, were put against the doors and windows and servants would sprinkle water time to time on the khas to keep rooms cool.
Custom and tradition prevailed that well to do family would look after the local poor and needy. And during Ramazan iftari is sent every evening to the local Masjid and with great awe particularly on the 23rd, 25th and 27th of the month. The expenses for Khatm-i-Taraveeh and repair of the Masjid would be undertaken as a matter of routine. After the end of Ramazan, the festival of Eid was and still is celebrated in the culinary line by the cooking of siwaiyan – served to all visitors on that day. TOP
The system of joint family flourished under one roof – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, to the second and third degree – and the members of a ‘family’ would be on surface treated exactly alike except master and mistress of the household. Then came the hierarchy of the servants who would be treated with respect. There was also a place in the household of Ustaniji, a pious lady and to whom it was entrusted the education of the girls of the ‘family’. Ustaniji took pride in the fact that she had taught successive generations of young ladies to read the Quran and to say their prayers – she being a centre of learning and wisdom. In the joint family there was of course jealousies and rivalries and intrigues and backbiting but then that was and still is life. But at the end of the day the paramount factor was mutual respect and mutual accommodation.
The secularism in India has a long tradition in history. “India is a beautiful bride and Hindus and Muslims are her two eyes,” said Syed Ahmad Khan (1817 – 1898) and went on. “If one of them is lost, this beautiful bride will become ugly.” Secularism is a sort of glue that binds India together which has many fissures. “A rich and complex mosaic of cultural diversities which has evolved creative political mechanism of compromise and collaboration long before the colonial advent, India through the centuries had managed to retain its geographical unity despite the pressure imposed by military invasion, social division and political conflict.”
Muslim’s rich 800-year history of syncretism, intellectual heterodoxy and pluralism culminated into Hindu-Muslim hybridist that led to intermingled creativity what may be called as “chutnified” (to borrow Salman Rushdie’s phrase) to date. William Dalrymple, internationally acclaimed Scottish writer and historian describes India’s “composite culture” fittingly: “This cultural synthesis took many forms. In Urdu and Hindi were born languages of great beauty that to different extents mixed Persian and Arabic words with Sanskrit-derived vernaculars of north India. Similarly, just as the cuisine of north India combined the vegetarian dal and rice of India with kebab and roti of central Asia, so in music the long-necked Persian lute was combined with the India vina to form the sitar, now the Indian instrument widely known in the west. In architecture there were similar process of hybridist as the great monuments of the Mughals reconciled the styles of the Hindu with those of Islam, to produce a fusion more beautiful than either.”
Nawab of Bengal ruled over Bihar and the cultural influence of the Nawab and the entourage lingered on even during the British Raj that followed. The festival of Muharram was celebrated with great hustle and bustle, and the fantastic feature of the festival was the participation of non-Muslims with the same zeal and co-operation. Likewise the Muslims took part reciprocally in the same spirit in the festivals of Hindus without any hesitation. Muslims and Hindus lived as good neighbours. TOP
It is interesting to note that during the British Raj, the government of the time granted full 15 days ‘leave’ (holiday or vacation was called leave in Bihar’s administrative jargon) for Muharram for the sake of the Muslims festival while no ‘leave’ was granted either for Holi or Dewali, the festivals for the Hindus. The Muslims for the sake of fairness represented the government to grant ‘leave’ for Holi and Dewali by curtailing the ‘leave’ of Muharram. The proposal was accordingly accepted by the authority. Both Muslims and Hindus celebrated their festivals as equal and in harmony. This is an example how society lived in general.
The Muslims in Patna were in search of a suitable place for holding meetings and other social functions. After great deliberation, Muslims could managed to construct a premise in central Bankipore, in 1885, called Anjuman Islamia Hall. The land for the hall was devoted by a Muslim zamindar and money for the construction of the premise was collected by donations from the Muslims and non-Muslims for a common cause with spirit of social cohesion. Anjuman Islamia Hall is still being used and is serving the multipurpose activities for the general public good of Patna. Such activities are hard to find in today’s conflict of culture and community affairs.
Tolerance is by far the most important hallmark of civilisation and a bulwark against injustice and belligerence. It opens up the possibility of co-operation amongst divergent peoples and thus thwarts potential chaos and conflicts in the society and provides harmony and happiness. Tolerance is the bedrock for liberalism, positive feelings, forgiveness and a feeling of togetherness. Tolerance is refraining from taking any action against a person or a group of people pursuing different sets of values. A country or society is judged by the standard by which it treats its minorities. TOP
“The danger to India,” Pundit Nehru warned, “mark you, is not Communism. It is Hindu right-wing communalism.” Nehru went on, “communalism of the majority is far more dangerous than communalism of the minority ….. when the minority communities are communal you can see that and understand it. But the communalism of the majority is apt to be taken for nationalism.”
India has been a magic land that has fired the imagination of all sort of people – wanderers, settlers, raiders, traders, conquerors, and colonisers – gravitating to it and bringing with them new ethnicity, cultures, customs, religions and languages creating rich and mosaic colours of India. The country has been host to hordes of alien – Aryans, Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, Kushans, Huns, Arab, Turks, Afghans, and Europeans. This has been confronting India with opportunities and challenges and has been given spurs to the development of Indian civilisation.
The fabric of the Indian society that was woven with diverse strands for centuries was, however, torn into shreds during the British colonial rule in India which created intolerance within its fold – the famous ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British colonisers pushed to divide for ever. The British colonial policy in India resulted in the most traumatic event of history – the break-up of this ancient country.
Patna’s total population, when I was a child, was not even half of one percent compared with the total number now 1,285,470. Then the major portion of the population was concentrated in and around Patna City.
Patna City has lost its charm and glory by its residents who have deserted the place over a period of time and large houses and big ‘havelies’ of Nawabs and princes have fallen into pieces or some premises converted into shopping centres and whole area has become a dilapidated and dump. The people from the old part of Patna City have moved to the west and that now form the central part of the town – Subzibagh, Daryapore, Muradpore and right up to Gandhi Maidan. TOP
The Lower Road had also big drains along both sides and it was inhabited up to Nayatola and beyond that there were few scattered houses and shops up to Musallahpur Hat. Younger people were advised not to proceed towards Musallahpur side in the afternoon for the sake of safety.
Exhibition Road and Fraser Road, to the south of Gandhi Maidan, and now a thriving part residential and part commercial and business centres were resided by the rich and the famous people of Patna and the roads were rather narrow because of big drains on both side of the streets.
On the west side of the Lawn, Golghar, an egg-shaped gigantic structure that rises over the skyline of Patna, was built by Captain John Garstin, in 1786, a huge granary to store 137,000 tons of grain following severe draught that resulted in the acute famine of 1770. This Easter egg structure, 29m high and 3.6m wide at the base, with two-sided spiral stairway winding around, offers breathtaking view of the town and the river Ganges from atop.
The transportation in Patna was very basic, sometime on foot, in view of the absence of any proper means of conveyance. ‘Tamtum’ – horses drawn, was ubiquitous along with rudimentary bus services. The terminus of the ‘Tamtum’ services was located just south of Pirbahore Police Thana (station), which is now clustered by fruit sellers.
‘Tamtum’ used to ply between Subzibagh and Patna Junction and charged 2 to 4 paisa, per head of passenger, for its services. Small buses plied between Subzibagh, which had a Bus Stand located just to the south of Bankipore Post Offices, to Patna City and charged the same prices that of ‘Tamtum’. Bankipore Post Offices were housed in a tiny building unlike today.
Patna Railway Junction TOP
Patna railway junction started functioning from 1914, which attracted the people to purchase land then at a very low price. The coming of railway and telegraph services was a landmark in the history of the mobility and trade for the people of Patna. The railway that altered concept of distance and the telegraph speeded the flow of information eventually helped integrate the Indian nation and that led to a mass political movement. The railway allowed the speedy, widespread circulation of news and ideas all over India, in mail, books and newspapers.
The first train that steamed out of Bombay, on 16 April 1853, was a revolution in terms of physical mobility and social relations in India. A locomotive pulling 14 carriages and 400 people left what was then Bombay to a 21-gun salute and trundled to Thane, 34km (21 miles) away that took about 75 minutes.
Today, Indian Railways is the largest organisation in the country, both in number of employees – more than 1.5m – and in capital invested, some $10 billion. It has 63,000km of routes, 7,700 locomotives and nearly 7,000 stations. It carries 1.4m tones of freight and 14m passengers every day – equivalent to moving all of India more than four times a year.
Patna used to have no form of public entertainment nor radio and television. There was, however, a roving mini-theatre called ‘Nautanki’ that attracted youngsters. The lung that throbbed oxygen to activities to the people of the town was the open space called the Lawn, now the Gandhi Maidan. The old and the young citizens thronged in the open space for morning walk and sports and social extravaganza in evening.
Football and hockey were the main games played in the Lawn almost daily. Cricket then was almost unknown in those days in Patna. Youngsters sat on the wooden fences and listened film-songs blaring out from cinema halls across the road before the shows started. Hawkers of street food plying their trade, in and around the Lawn, made brisk business in convenient eatables like peanut ‘bhuna’, ‘bhutta’ and other snacks. The Lawn was also a venue for industrial and agricultural exhibitions and circuses. Now the Lawn or Gandhi Maidan that should have been an oasis in the thickly populated and thoroughly polluted Patna is an open space frequented by scoundrels. TOP
The noticeable display of the legacy of princely pomp was the daily appearance of the two sons of Hajjan Nawab of Patna City around the Lawn. Their gorgeous visitation were their ride in a well decorated ‘fitin’ or horse drawn carriage, respectfully and ceremoniously dressed alike, with attractive horses drawing the carriage and accompanied with two ‘Sais’ or foot soldiers in uniform on the back of the ‘fitin’. This was an extra excitement to the citizens of Patna who converged in the Lawn.
East India Company
Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) who spawned England’s empire granted the Royal Charter to East India Company, formed on 31 December 1600. The Company brought coffee and tea, muslin, ginghams and calicos, porcelain and curry from India into Britain.
Britain’s growing trade with India and later wars of conquest and the creation of a British administration was taking roots in India in the 18th and the early 19th centuries. During the same period the pillars of Mughal rules in India started crumbling leading to the end of an era in India. Gone were the days when mighty Mughal Empire and its glory that exercised hypnotism all over the world for centuries.
India’s Maharajas and Nawabs were living on borrowed time, they were eager to see the downfall of their rivals than forwarding their own interest. British expansion in India coincided with the technological advances in the West, which were, in due course, introduced in India. Indian administration, law and justice were reformed and new outfits of the Civil Service and the judiciary set up.
Government Administration TOP
Collectariat was constructed followed by official quarters near the Lawn to facilitate official administration of the East India Company. The building housing High Court of Patna was constructed in 1917. The Bankipore Club came into existence in 1913. This portion of Patna was called Bankipore. Patna gradually went through an all round development. Further from Patna Dinapore Cantonment was set up in an open land and was systematically developed for the training and housing the Army Officers as well as for recreation and amusement primarily for British colonial authority.
The colonial British government’s administration appeared just and fair to all. The corruption and defiance of laws appeared not to be tolerated by the administrators of those days. People in general were simple and contended with what they had than what they did not posses. They were sincere and fearless in their pursuit of economic activities and government job and were suitably rewarded.
Kidnapping for ransom, murder, and caste conflicts was more an exception than the general rule as in the present environment. Politicians and police were not criminal but the guardian of laws and believed in ideal and principle.