Bihar is located in the eastern part of India and is the third most populous state in the country and 13th largest state in the area. The state is spread over an area of 695 km north of south, whereas its width from east to west is 483 km. Nepal in the north, Uttar Pradesh in the west, Jharkhand in the south and surrounded by West Bengal in the east is a quadrilateral in the shape of Bihar.
The state enjoys a unique location-specific advantage because of its proximity to the vast markets of eastern and northern India, access to ports such as Kolkata and Haldia and to raw material sources and mineral reserves from the neighboring states.
Bihar is one of the strongest agricultural states. Like the other states of India, about 80 percent, three-fourths of the population of the state depends on agriculture and animal husbandry, which is much higher than the national average.
It is the fourth largest producer of vegetables & the eight largest producers of fruits in India. Food processing, dairy, sugar, manufacturing, and healthcare are some of the fast-growing industries in the state. The state has planned initiatives for the development of other sectors such as education and tourism and also provides incentives for information technology and renewable energy.
The state has a large base of cost-effective industrial labor, making it an ideal destination for a wide range of industries. Bihar is marked with considerable geographic, social-economical and cultural diversity. It is endowed with a large part of the fertile Gangetic plains and well as highlands rich in mineral deposits and forests.
Only 11.3 percent of Bihar’s population lives in cities, which is the lowest after Himachal Pradesh. Ancient Bihar was a very large center of education, power, and learning. Maurya and Gupta Dynasty ruled this area for a considerable time. In the ’70s, Bihar was far less economically and socially than other states of India. However, due to the government’s plans and industries, Bihar is on the path of development.
Also Read: Bihar the silk city of India
Bihar history can be traced back to the Prehistoric Period and is very ancient. The earliest history can be traced in the Hindu epic of Ramayana. Mithila was the birthplace of Lord Ram wife, Sita. The author of The Ramayan, Maharishi Valmiki live in ancient Bihar.
Mahajanpada period and the rule of the Magadhan empire brings glory to ancient Bihar. Pataliputra (Patna) was the capital of ancient India’s powerful Magadha kingdom.
Bihar has experienced various invasions from different dynasties. Two of India’s most glorious dynasties, Mauryas (321 -185 BCE) and Guptas (320 to 550 CE) flourished in ancient Bihar region which was then known as Magadh.
The Mauryan emperor, Ashoka (born c.304 BCE, died c. 232 BCE), who was born in Pataliputra (Patna) is believed to be one of the greatest rulers in the history of the world.
The Great King Ashoka of Mauryan dynasty whose empire spread across South Asia, had his capital in Pataliputra that is present Patna. It was a prosperous center of India’s ancient civilization. Bihar has been associated with Chandragupta Maurya and Emperor Ashoka one of the greatest empires in India. There were 19 thousand Buddhist monasteries in Magadha during Emperor Ashoka.
The inscriptions of Ashok, his Dharma, and other features like Ashoka pillar have been incorporated in the independent Republic of India. The Dharma chakra is incorporated into the national flag of India, The Indian tricolor and the figure of four lions atop a pedestal, with the inscription of a wheel, was adopted as the Official Seal of the independent Republic of India.
The great spiritual way of Buddhism originated and thrived in ancient Bihar, as Budda attained his enlightenment in Bodhgaya. Therefore the region is full of remains of the monasteries known as Stupa. Jain leader Mahavira also belonged to this region and attained his Nirvana at Pawapuri.
In the 12th century, the invasion of Muhammad bin Khilji resulted in Nalanda and Taxila schools destruction along with thousands of Buddhist monks.
Guru Govind Singh, the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs, was born in Patna. The Har Mandir Takht built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to commemorate his birthplace is regarded as one of the five ‘Akal Takht’s by the Sikhs.
In the medieval times, Bihar was at its peak during the reign of Sher Shah Suri who founded the city of Patna on the ancient land of Pataliputra. The reign of the great Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri who ruled from Patna and built the Grand Trunk Road the longest road of India. Bihar saw a span of five years of good governance.
During the freedom struggle, Bihar has some greatest revolutionizes like Khudiram Bose, Prafulla Chaki and Chandrasekhar Azad.
During British rule, Mahatma Gandhi started his first experiment of Satyagraha movement from the Champaran region against the oppression of the indigo farmers by the Britishers. Bihar remained a part of the Bengal Presidency of British India until December 1911, when it was separated from the Bengal Presidency while Bihar and Orissa comprised a single province.
The constitution of the United Bihar and Orissa was changed to separate the state of Bihar in 1936. The present form of Bihar came into existence on 01 November 1956. In 2000, Jharkhand was made separate state from Bihar.
Culture and Tradition
Bihar has a rich cultural heritage, its the land of Buddhism and Jainism. Bihar is known as “The Land of Buddha” where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya.
Bihar is a state of the culturally most mixed population. We have Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians living here. Bihar has a rich cultural background to be proud of it is associated with ‘Samudra Manthan’ of the Vedic era, Sita of Rama and Karna of Mahabharata. People are shy, honest, helping and confident of themselves.
People of Bihar celebrate festivals and religious events with great happiness and love. The main festival of Bihar is Chhath Puja, where the sun god is worshipped. While other festivals like Sama-Chakeva, Ramnavami, Makar-Sankranti, Bihula, Madhushravani, Teej, Pitrapaksha Mela, Sonepur fair and Shravani Mela are celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Other festival of nation like Saraswati Puja, Holi, Ramzan, Bakrid, Mahashivaratri, Durga Puja, Diwali, Buddha Purnima, Christmas and Mahavir Jayanti are celebrated too.
In Bihar major language spoken is Hindi, while Urdu and Santali are also spoken. Hindi is the official language of the state while Maithili, Bhojpuri, Angika, and Magahi are also widely spoken in the state.
The cuisines for people of Bihar are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Non- vegetarianism is still less due to Buddhism and Jainism beliefs, as Buddhism and Jainism promote vegetarianism. Roti, Daal, Sabji are the basic food of Biharis.
People of Bihar are fond of eating Litti Choka, some of the popular Bihari dishes are Bihari Kebab, Litti-Chokha, Bihari Boti, Bihari Chicken Masala, Sattu Paratha, Chokha, and fish curry.
The traditional dress of Bihari people is dhoti-kurta for men and saree for women. The effect of western wear has effected a lot of people in Bihar and people wear western shirts and trousers. Western wear is getting popular not only among urban people but also among the rural male population.
Salwar kameez if the main dress for women of urban Bihar and women wear saree in “Seedha Aanchal” style traditionally. Tussar Silk saree is the most used in Bihari costumes.
Music and Dance
Bihar has a lot of contribution to Indian classical music. It has produced musicians like Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan and dhrupad singers like the Malliks and the Mishras along with poets like Vidyapati Thakur who contributed to Maithili Music. The classical music in Bihar is a form of Hindustani classical music.
Chhau dance is very popular among tribal people, Bidesia is a very popular folk dance of Bihar and is more prevalent in the Bhojpuri speaking regions of Bihar. Jat-Jatin is popular in north Bihar, Jijya is also one of the eminent dance of Bihar.
There are various traditional styles of painting which are popular in Bihar. Mithali Paintings, a style of Indian painting used in the Mithila region of Bihar also called Madhubani art. It was earlier done on mud walls but today they are done on cloth, handmade paper, and canvas. The painting is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens and match sticks using natural dye and mineral pigments.
Patna School of Painting called Patna Qalaam, Company Painting and was an offshoot of the well-known Mughal Miniature School of Painting flourished in Bihar during early 18th to the mid 20th century. The style is famous for its soft colors and the use of hand made paper or mica sheets. Most of these paintings depict the life of the people of Bihar.
Villages of Bihar create fascinating handicrafts. Fantastic bamboo articles, leather works, statues made up of white metal, wooden toys and baskets made from cane and bamboo are available in plenty.
Bihar is famous for Sujini embroidery, Sikki Grass work, Yampuri Puppetry, Tikuli Work, Bangle making, stonework, wood inlay, Lacquerware, Pottery works, Bamboo works, and printed textile.
Bihar’s antiquity is evident from its name, which is derived from the ancient word “VIHARA” (monastery). It is indeed a land of monasteries.
The passage of Ganga, flowing wide and deep enrich the plains of Bihar before distributing in Bengal’s deltoid zone. There are places to visit in Buddhist, Jain, Ramayana, Sufi, Sikh, Shiv Shakti, Bihar’s antiquity is evident from its name, abound in this ancient land where India’s first major empires rose and fell.
Among all Indian states, Bihar is the one most intimately linked to the Buddha’s life, resulting in a trail of pilgrimages which have come to be known as the Buddhist circuit.
There are places to visit for Buddhist Circuit, Jain Circuit, Ramayana Circuit, Sufi Circuit, Gandhi Circuit, Sikh Circuit, Shiv Shakti Circuit, and Eco Circuit which have many renowned places to visit. Some of the major tourist places to visit are.
The holiest site for any Buddhist devotee is the Bodhi tree which stands in the middle of the Mahabodhi temple complex. About 2600 years ago Gautama Siddhartha is supposed to have realized the enlightenment at this very place under a Peepal tree known as Mahabodhi tree.
Gaya: 80’ Buddha Statue
The Great Buddha Statue popularly known as 80’ Buddha Statue was unveiled and consecrated on November 18, 1989, with a ceremony graced with the presence of His Holiness the XIV the Dalai Lama, who blessed the 25-meter statue
Vishwa Shanti Stupa
The magnificent white marble and concrete stupa dome rise about 125’ high that was built in 1969 at the top of the Ratnagiri hill to commemorate the Buddha. There are four golden Buddha statues around the dome. The somber sound of the enormous gong emitting from the temple behind fills the entire space with an aura of sanctity.
Nalanda University Ruin
It is the ruins of one of the oldest residential international university which thrived from around 5th or 6th century CE till the 13th century.
This is a massive granary situated next to river Ganga. It was built by Captain John Garstin for the British army in 1786 to take a precaution for the severe famine that occurred in 1770.
The state museum of Bihar is an important place not to be left out of the itinerary of anybody visiting the State Capital. Located at the heart of the city it boasts of the innumerable heritage collections found in the region replete inglorious historical settings
The seven caves (Satgarva) which were created in Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s time for the Ajeevikas (Buddhist monks).
The excavation in 1998 by the ASI unearthed this massive stupa that is claimed to be the world’s tallest excavated stupa at 104’ height having the circumference width of 1400’.