The Buddha visited Pātaligāma shortly before his death. Although it later became the capital of Magadha, it was then a mere village. At that time Ajātasattu’s ministers, Sunīdha and Vassakāra, were engaged in building fortifications there in order to repel the Vajjīs. The Buddha prophesied the future greatness of Pātaligāma, 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, Gotamatittha Vin.i.226 30; D.ii.86ff.
The date at which Pātaliputtta became the capital is uncertain. Hiouen Thsang seems to record (Beal: Records ii.85, n. 11) that it was Kālāsoka 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 Anguttara Nikāya iii.57 even Munda is mentioned as residing at Pātaliputta. 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 kahāpanas daily, with another one hundred thousand for his sabhā or Council 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 262f). It continued to be the capital during the greater part of the Gupta dynasty, from the fourth to the sixth century A.C. Near Pātaliputta was the Kukkutārāma, where monks (e.g. Ananda, Bhadda and Nārada) stayed when they came to Pātaliputta M.i.349; A.v.341; A.iii.57; S.v.15f., S.v.171f. At the suggestion of Udena Thera, the brahmin Ghotamukha built an assembly hall for the monks in the city M.ii.163.
Pātaligāma was so called because on the day of its foundation several pātali shoots sprouted forth from the ground. The officers of Ajātasattu and of the Licchavi princes would come from time to time to Pātaligāma, 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.407ff.