Bihar  is among India's poorest states. 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. Jharkhand, the mineral-rich tribal belt, used to be part of the state, but in 2001, it was split to form its own state.
Today Bihar lags behind the other Indian states in human and economic development terms, and is one of the poorest Indian states. 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. Bihar saw the 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 bad image outside Bihar due to caste based politics and the poor law and order situation.
Bihar has a glorious past. Ancient Bihar was a center of power, learning and culture in ancient India. India's first empire, the Maurya empire as well as one of the world's greatest pacifist religion, Buddhism arose from here. Magadha empires, notably under the Maurya and Gupta dynasties, unified large parts of northern South Asia under a central rule. Its capital Patna, earlier known as Pataliputra, was an important center of Indian civilization. Many of the ancient Indian text, written outside of the religious epics, were written in ancient Bihar. Arthashashtra and Kamasutra are the most prominent. One of the first known republic, Licchavi, existed in the region since before the birth of Mahavira (c. 599 BC). The region suffered immensely due to foreign invasions. In the medieval period Bihar lost its importance as a center of power, though it rose to prominence for a brief period during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. Resurgence in the history of Bihar came during the Indian independence struggle.
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.