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The Battle of Patliputra: To Rename, or Not to Rename Patna?

Will Bihar’s capital city be renamed as Patliputra? Retired Lieutenant General SK Sinha believes so.

Updated
India
4 min read
Will Bihar’s capital city Patna be renamed as Patliputra? (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

Is there a fresh move to rename Patna, the capital of Bihar, as Patliputra? Yes, if the former Governor of Assam and Jammu-Kashmir, Lt Gen (retired) SK Sinha is to be believed.

Lieutenant General SK Sinha at the inauguration of a war memorial in Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir, on August 21, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)
Lieutenant General SK Sinha at the inauguration of a war memorial in Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir, on August 21, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

Gen Sinha, who held the gubernatorial post during the NDA as well as the UPA regime at the Centre, has been fiercely advocating the renaming of Patna as Patliputra for years. He argues that if Madras can be renamed Chennai, Bombay as Mumbai, Calcutta as Kolkata, why not rename Patna. After all, Patliputra was the capital of the Magadh empire and it remained the capital for nearly a thousand years.

I have recently submitted a proposal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with regard to renaming Patna, the city which actually came into being in 487 BC. It was then known as Patliputra and contributed a lot to the world.
SK Sinha, Lt Gen (Retd)

He was speaking at a meet organised by the Patna chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage (INTACH) on “Restoring the glory of Patliputra and Patna.”

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Ancient History

Historians say the Mauryan empire was geographically extensive and powerful in ancient India.

The Mauryan Palace, Kumrahar (remains of Pataliputra) new Patna, Bihar. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://asi.nic.in/images/headers/hdr_mahabodhi.jpg">Archaeological Survey of India</a>)
The Mauryan Palace, Kumrahar (remains of Pataliputra) new Patna, Bihar. (Photo Courtesy: Archaeological Survey of India)

Originating from the kingdom of Magadh in the Indo-Gangetic plains of the modern central Bihar, UP and Bengal, the empire had its capital at Patliputra, which is now known as Patna.

Ananda stupa and Ashoka Pillar, Vaishali (close to 70 km from Patna) Bihar, India. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Ananda stupa and Ashoka Pillar, Vaishali (close to 70 km from Patna) Bihar, India. (Photo: iStockphoto)

The empire was founded in 321 BCE by Chandragupta Maurya after overthrowing the then reigning Nanda dynasty King Dhana. Chandragupta expanded his power westwards across central and western India by taking advantage of the disruptions of local powers in the wake of the withdrawal westwards by Alexander and Persian armies.

By 320 BCE, it was arguably the world’s largest empire, as in the north, it had stretched to the Himalayas, and in the west, it reached beyond modern-day Pakistan, annexing Balochistan and much of what is now Afghanistan. The empire was expanded further into India’s central and southern regions by emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, excluding a small portion of the unexplored tribal and the forested region near Kalinga (modern Odisha) till it was conquered by Ashoka. The empire’s decline began some 60 years after Ashoka’s rule ended, around 185 BCE.

What’s in a Name?

Sinha, one of the first persons who advocated renaming Patna as Patliputra, had actually petitioned former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi more than two decades ago.



Former PM Rajiv Gandhi at a rally in Uttar Pradesh in 1991. (Photo: Reuters)
Former PM Rajiv Gandhi at a rally in Uttar Pradesh in 1991. (Photo: Reuters)

“Rajiv Gandhi found substance in my petition and agreed in principle to rechristen the city, but he could not implement the decision due to political considerations,” argued Sinha, who once even contested (although unsuccessfully) the Lok Sabha election from Patna in the December 1984 parliamentary polls against Congress’ Dr CP Thakur (now in the BJP).

Bihar Governor Ramnath Kovind, tracing the contributions of Bihar and its capital in modern India, dwelt at length about the State’s illustrious past by recalling contributions of Lord Buddha, Shershah Suri, Veer Kunwar Singh, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Jaya Prakash Narayan. He, however, argued that there should be due deliberations (and a consensus reached) before launching the drive to change the name from Patna to Patliputra.

A few years ago, when the move to rechristen the city had begun, RJD chief Lalu Prasad had opposed it and suggested that if at all the name has to be changed, it should be rechristened as Azeemabad.

RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav. (Photo: PTI)
RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav. (Photo: PTI)

Patna was known as Azeemabad during the medieval period. Lalu’s suggestion was, however, shot down reportedly due to its Mughal era connection with many historians opining either to maintain status quo or renaming it as Patliputra, linking it to India’s ancient glorious history.

Known Mughal king Sher Shah’s maqbara (tomb) in Sasaram, Bihar. (Photo: <a href="http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_tktd_bihar_shershah.asp">Archeological Survey of India</a>)
Known Mughal king Sher Shah’s maqbara (tomb) in Sasaram, Bihar. (Photo: Archeological Survey of India)
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(The writer is a Bihar-based journalist)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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