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Pāṭaliputta, Pāṭaligāma

The capital of Magadha and situated near the modern Patna. The Buddha visited it shortly before his death. It was then a mere village and was known as Pāṭaligāma. At that time Ajātasattu’s ministers, Sunīdha and Vassakāra, were engaged in building fortifications there in order to repel the Vajjī. The Buddha prophesied the future greatness of Pāṭaligāma, and also mentioned the danger of its destruction by fire, water, or internal discord. The gate by which the Buddha left the town was called Gotamadvāra, and the ferry at which he crossed the river, Gotamatiṭṭha (Vin.i.226‑30; D.ii.86 ff).

The date at which Pāṭaliputta became the capital is uncertain. Hiouen Thsang seems to record (Beal: Records ii.85, n. 11) that it was Kāḷāsoka who moved the seat of government there. The Jains maintain that it was Udāyi, son of Ajātasattu (Vin. Texts ii.102, n. 1). The latter tradition is probably correct as, according to the Aṅguttaranikāya (iii.57) even Muṇḍa is mentioned as residing at Pāṭaliputta. It was, however, in the time of Asoka that the city enjoyed its greatest glory. In the ninth year of his reign Asoka’s income from the four gates of the city is said to have been four hundred thousand kahāpaṇas daily, with another one hundred thousand for his Council (sabhā) (Sp.i.52).

The city was known to the Greeks as pālibothra, and Megasthenes, who spent some time there, has left a vivid description of it (Buddhist India 262 f). It continued to be the capital during the greater part of the Gupta dynasty, from the fourth to the sixth century A.C. Near Pāṭaliputta was the Kukkuṭārāma, where monks (e.g. Ānanda, Bhadda and Nārada) stayed when they came to Pāṭaliputta (M.i.349; A.v.341; A.iii.57; S.v.15 f., 171 f). At the suggestion of Udena Thera, the brahmin Ghoṭamukha built an assembly hall for the monks in the city (M.ii.163).

Pāṭaligāma was so called because on the day of its foundation several pāṭali shoots sprouted forth from the ground. The officers of Ajātasattu and of the Licchavī princes would come from time to time to Pāṭaligāma, drive the people from their houses, and occupy them themselves. A large hall was therefore built in the middle of the village, divided into various apartments for the housing of the officers and their retainers when necessary. The Buddha arrived in the village on the day of the completion of the building, and the villagers invited him to occupy it for a night, that it might be blessed by his presence. On the next day they entertained the Buddha and his monks to a meal (Ud.viii.6; UdA.407 ff).

Pāṭaliputta was also called Pupphapura (Mhv.iv.31, etc; Dpv.xi.28) and Kusamapura (Mbv.p.153). The journey from Jambukola, in Sri Lanka, to Pāṭaliputta took fourteen days, seven of which were spent on the sea voyage to Tāmalitti (e.g., Mhv.xi.24). The Asokārāma built by Asoka was near Pāṭaliputta (Mhv.xxix.36). The Buddha’s water-pot and belt were deposited in Pāṭaliputta after his death (Bu.xxviii.9). The Petavatthu Commentary (p.271) mentions that trade was carried on between Pāṭaliputta and Suvaṇṇabhūmi.