Patna is one of the oldest cities in India. The name Patna is popularly believed to be derived from Maa Patan Devi Temples. The Bari Patan Devi temple is located at Maharajganj, about six miles east from Patna Junction railway station of the Eastern Railway. Gulzarbagh railway station is at a distance of half a mile. The Choti Patan Devi temple is located at Patna City Chowk, about two miles from Patna City railway station of the Eastern Railway. Rickshaws, horse-drawn ekkas, taxis, -etc. are available at Patna, Gulzarbagh and Patna City railway stations.
The following are the legends regarding the temples: -
Once Prajapati Daksha celebrated Brihaspati Yajna and had invited every god to his Yajna but left out Shiva, his own son-in-law. Sati, the wife of Lord Shiva, on learning that her husband had not been invited to her father's Yajna, went to her father's home. When Sati found no seat allotted to her husband there, she felt mortified and put an end to her life.
Lord Shiva at once came to know of this and in his great anger and sorrow took her dead body on his shoulder and began to perform tandava dance round the Triloka (three worlds). The Gods were horror struck and requested Lord Vishnu to intervene. Vishnu cleverly followed the dancing Shiva and started cutting the dead body of Sati to pieces with his Chakra. Wherever the major limbs of the body of Sati fell the places became Mahapithas. The places where the minor limbs fell came to be known as Upapithas.
There is a tradition fondly believed that some portion of tile right, thigh of Sati and the pat (cloth) fell near Maharajganj and Chowk, from which Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Maha Saraswati came into existence. It is also believed that the names of the goddesses Bari Patan Devi and Choti Patan Devi are derived from the pat, which fell at Maharajganj and Chowk.
It has been mentioned in TantraChuramani that the right thigh of Sati fell in Magadha and it is supposed that the places where it fell are Maharajganj and Chowk where we now have the temples of Bari Patan Devi and Choti Patan Devi. But many do not treat Patna as a Mahapithasthan and say that only a portion of Sati's cloth (pat) had fallen at two places in Patna.
Some, however, doubt whether the name Patna has been derived from the temples.
According to them the name is derived from patan which means a town and Patna was a big place of export and import. In the temple of Bari Patan Devi the three small images of the three goddesses viz., Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and MahaSaraswati arethe legendary three presiding guardian deities who protected Putraka, the founder of Pataliputra, as is mentioned inKathasarit Sagar. In a tank near the temple was found a peculiar stone image. It has been kept in a niche in the eastern verandah of the temple and is now worshipped as a goddess.
The temple of Bari Patan Devi faces to the north. At the entrance of the temple there is a portico of about 1, 5' x 15'. After that there is a room of about 8' x 8' for goddesses namely, Mahakali (12"), Maha. Lakshmi (6"), Maha Saraswati (12") and Bhairav (3"). They are in a standing pose on a simhasan, which is about 4" square, the height being about 7 feet. All the statues are of black stone.
They are attired in sari except Bhairav. They are with mukut (crown). Choti Patna Devi temple is to the south-east of the famous Sikh temple of Harmandir, which is the site of the birth-place of Guru Govind Singh. It has the same goddesses as in the Bari Patan Devi. It is claimed by some that the pat or clothes of Sati, wife of Mahadeva, fell from the sky at this place only. In the northern compound of this temple there is a big image of the Sun-god, though broken into two parts.
There are also small images of the Sun-god and of Vishnu and some votive stupas in the western verandah of the temple.Like most of the temples, these temples too have a number of other images. On the right side of the three goddesses and god (and not in their room) there is a statue of Parvati which is made of stone. It is also believed that this statue is one hundred years old. She is also in the Standing pose and located to the north.
On the right side of Parvati there is also a small temple of Lord Shiva, which constructed in 1950. This temple is in an open space and there is a courtyard in front of it. So far as the architecture of the temples is concerned, they have been reconstructed from time to time with liberal use of marble and mosaic slabs. They are in the Brahmanical style. There is no authentic evidence to give us the exact date of the construction of the first temples.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding the timings for visiting the temples. Everybody is allowed to go to the temples from six in the morning, when the morning arti takes place, to ten p.m. in the night. Only when the Maha naivedya is being presented on special occasions, the goddesses are screened off from the public view by a sheet. These two temples are the most important places of local pilgrimage in Patna.
Tuesday is a particularly important visiting day for the devotees. On this day the number of devotees visiting the temples is much more. The newly-weds and the new-born babies are brought to these temples and the blessing of the goddess- es are sought. This is a widely prevalent practice and at least a few dozens of newly married couples or babies are seen every morning. Promises (manatas) are frequently made before the deities and gifts are offered, saris being the common offerings. Goats and pigeons are also offered.
Regarding the worship of the Patan Devi goddesses, the District Gazetteer of Patna has observed: -
"Of the more orthodox deities of the Hindu Pantheon the most popular is Kali, whose chief temple is in Patna City at Kalishthan near Mangleâ€™s tank. In her various forms she is regarded as the tutelary goddess of the City, and there are two old shrines there dedicated to her under the name of Patan Devi, one in the Chowk and the other in Alamganj. Under the form of Sitala all Hindus, from Brahmans down to Doms worship her, wherever there is an epidemic of small-pox. When anyone is attacked by the disease, a small piece of ground near the patient is given sweet-meats and fanned with a twig of the neim, which is here favourite"Â This custom is still prevalent.
As in many other places, a mela is also held near these temples at the time of Vijayadashmi. On Saptami, Ashtami and Navamiduring the mela about 600 persons come to offer prayers daily at either of the two temples. Visitors generally bring sweets, garlands and fruits to offer to the deities. The priest of the temple takes some quantity of the prasad and returns the rest to the devotees and marks their forehead with rori (red powder). The devotees also give some money to the priest as dakshina.
As regards the routine of the rituals, the deity is daily bathed morning and evening and this is followed by offerings of prasad (fruits and sweetmeats etc.) and arti with the usual reciting of hymns by the priest, accompanied by the ringing of bells.