I wanted to visit this city for a very long time but never managed to visit any cities of Bihar so my dream for visiting Patna came true when for a work I had to visit this city for a day. I reached Patna from Delhi in an early morning flight and had to just reach the hotel to freshen up and headed straight to work. Day one in Patna was uneventful and the saving grace was Golghar which was located around a hundred meters from the meeting venue and during the lunch break I managed to have a quick ten-minute visit.
I was supposed to return to Kolkata the next day so I had just the morning to check out the town but that too seemed difficult as I had some sight visits which was also work-related. While I was traveling in a taxi, I got a call from my father informing me about an archaeological site in Patna that might interest me. The site was somewhere in a place called Kumhrar and by luck, I would be visiting a place near to it so planned to check this place.
I kept asking the locals for “ASI – Heritage Place” and no one seemed to have any clue, some locals did point me towards Kumhrar Park. A little while later I realized that Kumhrar Park was, actually a park built around the heritage spot.
Let me warn you before that there is nothing much visually significant to see out here as the giant stone pillars and the wooden staircase, which were excavated, have all been covered up and some shifted to various museums due to the rise in the water table. The excavated sections had to be covered up to protect them for further damage.
All that you see around is lush green ground with lots of flower beds. Don’t be fooled by the looks as once this place was all dug up to reveal the hidden treasures below. Apart from finding stone, brick, wooden structures, there were many artifacts like beads, seal, toys, etc. These are placed at the Exhibition Hall located within the park.
The information plaque at the entrance had all the important facts about the history of this place so I have just copied it as I found it to be very informative.
History of Excavation at Kumhrar
The ruins of Mauryan Pillared Hall at Kumhrar was brought to light by excavations conducted by Archaeological Survey of India in the year 1912 – 15 under D.B. Spooner. During this excavation traces of 72 pillars were found. Further excavations in 1951 – 55 by K.P Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna exposed 8 more pillars of the hall and 4 additional ones belonging to the entrance or porch. Since then it is popularly referred to as the “Eighty Pillared Hall”.
Eighty Pillared Hall
The pillars of the hall were arranged in parallel rows of 10 from East to West and 8 from North to South with the entrance located on the Southside. They were spaced at regular intervals of about 15 feet. All the pillars were made of sandstone quarried from Chunar in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh. They were monoliths with a lustrous shine typical of the Mauryan period. Each pillar was about 32 feet in height of which nearly 9 feet was buried below. They were fixed on square wooden basements. The floor and roof of the hall were made of wood.
There was no indication that the hall was closed by a wall on the sides. Probably it was like an open pavilion. The wooden ceiling was perhaps covered with brickwork and lime plaster. Near the entrance, there were seven platforms made of Sal wood which probably supported a broad wooded staircase of about 30 steps descending to a canal connected with the Son River.
Regarding the nature of this hall, it has been variously assigned as the Palace of Ashoka, audience hall, the throne room of the Mauryas or even as a pleasure hall. But so far the most acceptable stand is that it was the conference hall for the Buddhist Council held at Pataliputra in 3rd century B.C. during the reign of Ashoka.
Other Structures at Kumhrar
The excavation has shown that the canal was 43 feet broad and 10 feet deep. The platforms were under the water of this canal in the Mauryan period. The staircase was used by the distinguished visitors coming to the hall by boat. The canal also enabled the transportation of huge and heavy monoliths from the stone quarry site at Chunar along the river Ganges.
The Arogya Vihar or the hospital-cum-monastery run by the noted physician Dhanvantari during the Gupta period has been exposed at Kumhrar. When Hiuen-Tsiang (Xuanzang), another renowned Chinese traveler, visited the city in the 7th century A.D., most of the Pataliputra city was in ruins. However, there is an opinion that it continued to be the capital during the early Pala period also. Thereafter the place might have lost its capital status but in the spheres of polity, economy, art, and religion, it continued to be a significant center even when it was passing through the medieval and British periods and now once again it has emerged as the capital of Bihar state.
Excavations conducted at Kumhrar in 1951 – 55 have unearthed brick structure of 4th – 5th century A.D. identified as Arogya Vihar or hospital-cum-monastery based on an inscribed terracotta seal discovered from the place. Buddhist monasteries are known to have maintained hospitals or sanatoriums but this is the first seal discovered in support of it. This small oval seal has on its upper half a tree probably Bodhi Tree with conch on either side while the lower half bears the inscription in two lines reading “Sri Arogyavihare Bhikshusamghasya” in Gupta Brahmi script. A red pot shred found inscribed with the word “Dhanvantareh”, possibly referring to the name or the title of the presiding physician of Arogya Vihar. Hence, it can be summarised that this hospital was run by Dhanvantari, the famous physician of the Gupta Period.
The structure was erected on a well-laid foundation. The width of the rooms was 10 feet but its length varied from 10 and a half to 21 and a half feet. This may suggest that they were taken from the structures of the earlier period when they become dilapidated. Ordinarily, clay mortar was used. A hard floor of brick concrete was found but these had irregular thickness.
Several carved bricks were found in the debris. Probably they decorated the walls of this building. Important finds from the excavation of this area were copper coins, ornaments, antimony rods, beads of terracotta and stone, dices of terracotta and ivory, terracotta seals and sealing’s, toy cart, etc.
What you now see as the brick structure of Arogya Vihar is a replica built on top of the original structures, which had to be covered with sand and soil due to the rising water table. Some claim that the water that used to get accumulated here was due to the overflow of the local rainwater drainage system.
Ancient literature refers to Pataliputra by various names like Pataligram, Patalipur, Kusumpur, Pushpapur or Kusumdhvaj, in 6th century B.C. it was a small village where Buddha, sometime before his death, had noticed a fort being constructed under the orders of King Ajatshatru of Rajgriha (Rajgir) for the defence of the Magadha Kingdom against the Licchavi republic of Vaishali. Impressed by its strategic location king Udayin, son and successor of Ajathshatru, shifted the capital of Magadha Kingdom from Rajgir to Pataliputra in the middle of the 5th century B.C. For about a thousand years since then, Pataliputra remained the capital of great Indian empires of Shaishunag, Nanda, Maurya, Sugna, and Gupta dynasties. The palace has also been an important center of activity in the fields of learning, commerce, art, and religion. During Ashoka’s time, the third Buddhist council was held here. Likewise, Sthulabhadra the eminent Jian ascetic had convened a council here during the period of Chandragupta Maurya.
The first vivid account of Pataliputra including its municipal administration comes at about 300 B.C. from Megasthenes, the celebrated Greek ambassador at the court of Chandragupta Maurya, who mentions it as Palibothra in his book named Indica. According to his account, the spread of the city was like a parallelogram, about 14 Kms East-West along the river Ganges and 3 Kms North-South. The Circumference of the city was about 36 Kms.
The city was protected by massive timber palisades and further defended by a broad and deep moat, which also served as a city sewer. Kautilya in his book Arthashastra also indicates wide rampart around the city. Remnants of the wooden palisades have been discovered during a series of excavations at Lohanipur, Bahadurpur, Sandalpur, Bulandibagh, Kumrahar and some other locations in Patna. Megasthenes also mentions about a royal palace of Chandragupta Maurya built of timber and describes it too far superior to the palaces of Susa and Ecbatana in present Iran in terms of beauty and magnificence. Excavations at Kumhrar have brought to light a Mauryan pillared hall of polished sandstone monoliths comparable to the pillared palace at Persepolis in modern Iran.
Several famous authors are associated with Pataliputra, notable being Kautilya or Chanakya author of Arthashastra and Patanjali who wrote Mahabhashya. Fa-Hien, the famous Chinese traveler of the early 5th century A.D. has described Pataliputra as a prosperous city and a famous center of learning.
Location of Kumhrar
Indian Rs. 15
Foreign Citizens Rs. 200
Park Timing:- 8 AM to 8 PM
Ticket Timing:- 8 AM to 5 PM