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 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.
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 youthfull and mainly 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.
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 though it rose to prominence for a brief period during the rule of Sher Shah Suri in the 15th century. 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 headquarter was later on shifted, from Bihar to Patana (current Patna), by Sher Shah Suri and the establishments in those time started calling Magadha by the name Bihar. The town of Bihar still exists is also known as Bihar-Sharif, which is located in Nalanda District, near the famous ruins of the Nalanda University.
The culture and life style of the people 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.
Bihar is connected by train to all major cities of India. Some good trains to reach the capital Patna are:
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.