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Bihar

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India : Plains : Bihar
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The Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya
Ruins of Patliputra at Kumhrar, Patna

Bihar is a state in the eastern India. It lies on the Gangetic plain, with Uttar Pradesh to its west, West Bengal arching to its south and east, while Nepal is to its north. The Bihar plain is divided into two unequal halves by the river Ganga which flows through the middle from west to east. Bihar is a state of youths. About 58 per cent of Biharis are below 25 years of age, which is highest in India.

Bihar lags behind the other Indian states in human and economic development terms, and is one of the poorest Indian states. The state doesn't have good infrastructure facilities and so tourists may not find the stay and travel very convenient. Never the less the state have many places to explore like Bodh Gaya (considered to be the birth place of Buddhism), Nalanda (the site of one of the oldest universities of the world) etc. The reason for the economical backwardness of the state is blamed to the political leadership of the state, the central government's policies like freight equalization policy and its apathy towards Bihar, lack of Bihari sub-nationalism (resulting in no spokesperson for the state) and the policy of Permanent Settlement by the British East India Company, which has left a feudalistic culture still dragging the state back.

Bihar has a rural population of 85% and the society is mainly agrarian. Northern Bihar is prone to perennial flooding. The state has seen mass migration out of the state in last few decades and these ethnic Biharis living in other states of India are victims of racist hate crimes and prejudice. Bihar saw Naxal insurgence in last few decades, especially in Southern Bihar, but the situation has calmed down in recent years. The state has earned a very poor image outside Bihar due to poor law and order situation and political criminalization, which is generally exaggerated. Jharkhand, the mineral-rich tribal belt, used to be part of the state, but in 2001, it was split to form its own state.

Regions

Buddha's Statue at the Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya

Bihar can be grouped into four regions based on the natural boundaries - rivers. These four regions have very similar languages - Angika, Bhojpuri, Magadhi and Maithili spoken in respective regions. The languages are together known as Bihari and are decedents of the ancient language of Magadhi Prakrit, the language spoken by the Buddha and the language of the ancient kingdom of Magadha.

Cities

Ruins of Nalanda University, Nalanda

Other destinations

A typical landscape in rural Bihar
  • Shimultala - Small hamlet famous as a health resort.
  • Nalanda - Site of the ruins of an ancient Buddhist university. The nearby Nalanda Multimedia Museum, the first of its kind in the country, recreates the history of Nalanda using 3D animation.
  • Valmiki Nagar

Understand

Trolly ride in Rajgri

History

Bihar has a glorious past. Bihar was known as Magadha in ancient times. It was a center of power, learning and culture. The Maurya empire as well as one of the world's greatest pacifist religion, Buddhism arose from Magadha. Bihari empires, like the Maurya and the Gupta, unified large parts of South Asia under a central rule. Pataliputra (modern Patna), the capital of Magadha, was an important center of Indian civilization. Many important non-religious books like Arthashashtra and Kamasutra were composed here 2000 years back. Vaisali, one of the first known republic, existed here since before the birth of Mahavira (c. 599 BC).

The state suffered immensely due to Hunnic and later Muslim invasions. The old traditions of culture and learning was almost lost by the end of 12th century. The Muhammad Bin Bakhtiar Khilji in 12th century C.E. destroyed many of the viharas (Buddhist sanghas) and the famed universities of Nalanda and Vikramshila. Thousands of Buddhist monks were massacred. Bihar lost its importance in the medieval period Bihar though it rose to prominence for a brief period during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. Foreign invaders often used abandoned viharas as military cantonments. The word Bihar have come from the large number of viharas thus employed in the area. Originally Bihar was name of a town, which was headquarter of the Muslim invaders in Magadha in the medieval period. The town still exists and is called Bihar or Bihar Sharif which is Nalanda District near famous ruins of the Nalanda University. Later on the headquarter was shifted from Bihar to Patana (current Patna) by Sher Shah Suri and Magadha was called Bihar.

The culture and life style of Bihar haven't changed past last many centuries. Resurgence in the history of Bihar came during the Indian independence struggle against the British rule.

Talk

Shanti Stup, Rajgri

Get in

By plane

View of Gai Ghat, from Gandhi Setu bridge, in Patna

Bodh Gaya fields international flights to Bangkok (Thailand) and Paro (Bhutan), catering largely to Buddhist pilgrims. Patna is connected to major Indian cities.

By train

Bihar is connected by train to all major cities of India. Some good trains to reach the capital Patna are:

  • From Delhi - Patna Rajdhani Express(2309/2310), Sampurna Kranti Exp. (overnight journey)
  • From Kolkata - Jan Shatabdi Exp. ( 8-9 hrs.)
  • From Mumbai - Rajendra Nagar Lokmanya Tilak T. Exp.
  • From Varanasi - Vibhuti Exp. (6 hrs.).

By Road

Get around

Collectorate ghat on the bank of Ganga in Patna

See

A typical village bazaar in Bihar


Do

Eat

  • Dal bhat chhokha
  • Litti-Chokha

Drink

  • Bhang the leaf and flower of the Cannabis sativa plant, is consumed as a beverage is in many forms, the simplest of which is made by pounding bhang leaves with a little black pepper, sugar and mixing with water. Cannabis is widely produced in Bihar and sold legally at licensed Bhang shops
  • Taari
  • Sattu A powdered and baked gram mixed with water, and sometimes salt and lemon juice, for a refreshing drink.

Stay safe

Bihar has a terrible reputation for crime and banditry (or dacoity, to use the Indian word), with armed bandits recently taking to hijacking moving trains and nearly 5000 kidnappings recorded in 2007. While reality may not be quite as grim as the horror stories you'll hear from non-Biharis, it's still advisable to keep a low profile and to avoid overnight travel on the roads. A low-level Naxalite insurgency continues to bubble in the southern parts of the state, but the tourist is unlikely to venture into the affected regions.

Public transportation systems, like trains and buses, are generally over crowded. Trains in India are generally prone to theft, so it's wise to lock your luggage to the seat in the carriage and keep more aware than usual.

If you are a foreigner or don't know the local languages do get a local guide. Even otherwise a local guide would make things very easy and convenient for you.

Get out


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