The modern city of Patna lies on the southern bank of the Ganges, as it flows past with the combined waters of the rivers Ghagra, Son and Gandak. At the point where the city is located, the sacred Ganges looks more sea than river: mighty, wide and never-ending.
A bustling city of 1,800,000 people, the city is approximately 25 km long and 9 km to 10 km wide.
The Buddhist and Jain pilgrim centres of Vaishali, Rajgir or Rajgriha, Nalanda, Bodhgaya, and Pawapuri are all nearby. Patna is a sacred city for Sikhs also. The tenth and last "human" guru, Guru Gobind Singh, was born here. It is the ideal gateway for all the places on this circuit. The monuments in and around the city take one down the history to its glorious past.
Apart from being the administrative centre of the state and its historic importance, the city is also a major educational centre and medical centre. It's the epicentre for all the students from Bihar preparing for various competitive examinations. Various educational instituitions are coming up here.
The walled old area, called Patna City by the locals, is also a major trading centre.
Legend ascribes the origin of Patna to a mythological King Putraka who created Patna by magic for his queen Patali, literally Trumpet flower, which gives it its ancient name Pataligrama. It is said that in honour of the first born to the queen, the city was named Pataliputra. Gram is the Sanskrit for village and Putra means son.
From a scientific history perspective, it would be appropriate to surmise that the history of Patna started around the year 490 BC when Ajatashatru, the king of Magadh, wanted to shift his capital from the hilly Rajagriha to a more strategically located place to combat the Licchavis of Vaishali. He chose the site on the bank of Ganges and fortified the area. From that time, the city has had a continuous history, a record claimed by few cities in the world. Gautam Buddha passed through this place in the last year of his life, and he had prophesized a great future for this place, but at the same time, he predicted its ruin from flood, fire, and feud.
With the rise of the Mauryan empire, the place became the seat of power and nerve centre of the sub-continent. From Pataliputra, the famed emperor Chandragupta Maurya (a contemporary of Alexander) ruled a vast empire, stretching from the Bay of Bengal to Afghanistan.
From the very ancient time patna has rich socio economic background. Patna has long been a major agricultural center of trade, its most active exports being grain, sugarcane, sesame, and medium-grained Patna rice. It is also an important business centre of eastern India.
The hinterland of Patna is endowed with excellent agro-climatic resources and the gains of the green revolution have enabled the older eastern part of Patna (locally called as Patna City) to develop as a leading grain market of the state of Bihar, and one of the biggest in eastern India. Patna, being the state capital, with a growing middle income group households, has also emerged as a big and rapidly expanding consumer market, both for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), as also for other consumer durable items. A large and growing population, and expanding boundaries of the city, is also spurring growth of service sector. The old and established educational institutions of the city have always been contributing to the national pool of excellent human resources.