Patna is the capital of the Indian state of Bihar, the most populous city in the state, and the second most populous state capital in Eastern India. Patna is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, placing it along side Rome, Varanasi, Beijing and Baghdad. Ancient Patna, known as Pataliputra, was the capital of the Magadha Empire, Nanda Empire, Mauryan Empire, Sunga Empire, Gupta Empire and Pala Empire dynasties. The population during the Maurya period (around 300 BCE) was about 400,000, making it one of the largest cities in the ancient and classical world.
The modern city is situated on the southern bank of the Ganges, and the urban area straddles the rivers Sone, Gandak and Punpun. Patna is approximately 35 km long and 16 km to 18 km wide, which was similar to the layout of the urban area during various stages of Bihar's history. The city authorities and state administration have made an effort since 2005 to make Patna a leading economic hub. This work has been recognised by the World Bank, which in June 2009, ranked Patna in second place, after Delhi, in terms of the ease of starting a business. Like Bihar, Patna has lower per capita income than many other Indian state capitals, as at 2004-2005, Patna per capital income stood at (the highest per capita gross district domestic product in Bihar) at Rs31,441. On the basis of, assumed average annual growth, Patna has been ranked as 21st fastest growing city in the world and 5th fastest growing city in India by City Mayors Foundation. Patna registered average annual growth of 3.72%,for the period of 2006-2010.
Like many cities in northern India, Patna has been a centre of religious activity much before the reign of Ashoka the Great, who was the patron of Buddhism. The Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain pilgrim centres of Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda, Gaya, Bodhgaya, and Pawapuri is located within driving distance of Patna. Additionally, Patna itself is