Bihar is a state of the Indian union situated in the eastern part of the country. Its capital is Patna.To Bihar's north is the country of Nepal. On its other three sides Bihar is surrounded by the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the west, Jharkhand to the south and West Bengal to the east. Bihar lies in the very fertile Indo-Gangetic Plain. Culturally, it is a part of the Hindi heartland of India. Bihar is also the birth place of the first president of India , Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and legendary freedom fighters like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Basawon Singh (Sinha), Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha,Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan , Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha and Maulana Mazharul Haque.
Etymology of the name
The name Bihar is derived from the Sanskrit vihara , means "abode". The region roughly encompassing the present state was dotted with Buddhist vihara, which were the abodes of Buddhist monks in the ancient and medieval periods.
Bihar was called Magadha in ancient times. Its capital Patna, then known as Pataliputra, was the center of the Mauryan empire, which dominated the Indian subcontinent from 325 BC to 185 BC. Emperor Ashoka was the most famous ruler of this dynasty. Bihar remained an important place of power, culture and education during the next one thousand years. The Vikramshila and Nalanda Universities, were among the oldest and best centres of education in ancient India but were destroyed by islamic invaders in the medieval period.
Religions Originating in Bihar
Bihar is the birthplace of several religions, including Buddhism and Jainism. Buddha attained Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, a town located in the modern day district of Gaya. Mahavira, the 24th and the last Tirthankara of Jainism, was born in Vaishali. The tenth guru of Sikh, Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna, the capital of Bihar. The word "Bihar" has its origin in the Sanskrit word vihara meaning "Buddhist monastery". At one time these "viharas" were strewn all over the landscape of Bihar, around villages and cities. At Lauria NandanGarh stands the ancient brick sepulchral mound thought to be the stupa where the ashes of Lord Buddha were enshrined. There also is a pillar with the edict of Ashoka exquisitely carved.
Muhammad Bin Bakhtiar Khilji a pashtun and a General of Muhammad Ghori captured Bihar in 12th century. This started the decline of the intellectual and spiritual legacy of Bihar. Many of the Viharas and the famed university of Nalanda and Vikramshila were destroyed in this period.Bihar saw a brief period of glory for six years during the rule of another pashtun Sher Shah Suri, who was from Sasaram and built the longest road of the Indian subcontinent, the Grand Trunk Road, which starts from Sonargaon in Bangladesh and ends at Peshawar in Pakistan.During 1557-1576, Akbar, the Mughal emperor, annexed Bihar and Bengal to his empire. With the decline of Mughals, Bihar passed under the control of the Nawabs of Bengal. Thus, the medieval period was mostly one of anonymous provincial existence. 10th and the last "guru" of "sikhism" Guru Govind Singh was born in Patna.
After the Battle of Buxar (1765), the British East India Company obtained the diwani rights (rights to administer and collect revenue, or tax administration / collection) for Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. From this point onwards, Bihar remained a part the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj until 1912, when Bihar was carved out as a separate province. In 1935, certain portions of Bihar were reorganised into the separate province of Orissa. Again, in 2000, 18 administrative districts of Bihar were separated to form the state of Jharkhand.Babu Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur and his army, as well as countless other persons from Bihar, contributed to the India's First War of Independence (1857), also called the Sepoy Mutiny by some historians.Bihar's contribution in the freedom struggle has been immense with outstanding leaders like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati,Bihar BibhutiAnugrah Narayan Sinha , Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan,Satyendra Narayan Sinha(Singh) Basawon Singh (Sinha), Yogendra Shukla, Sheel Bhadra Yajee and many others who worked for India's freedom relentlessly and helped in the upliftment of the underprivileged masses. Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki were also active in revolutionary movement in Bihar.Baikuntha Shukla, another great nationalist from Bihar who was hanged for murdering Phanindrananth Ghosh who had become a government approver which led to hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.Phanindra Nath Ghosh hitherto a key member of the Revolutionary Party had treacherously betrayed the cause by turning an approver, giving evidence, which led to the execution. Baikunth was commissioned to plan the execution of Ghosh as an act of ideological vendetta which he carried out successfully on 9 November 1932. He was arrested and tried for the killing. Baikunth was convicted and hanged in Gaya Central Jail on May 14, 1934. He was only 28 years old.After his return from South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi started the freedom movement in India by his satyagraha in the Champaran District of Bihar at the request of Raj Kumar Shukla-- against the British, who were forcing the local farmers to plant indigo which was very harmful to the local soil.In India’s struggle for Independence the "Champaran Satyagraha", marks a very important stage. Raj Kumar Shukla drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi, who had just returned from South Africa, to the plight of the peasants suffering under an oppressive system established by European indigo planters. Besides other excesses they were forced to cultivate indigo on 3/20 part of their holding and sell it to the planters at prices fixed by the planters. This marked Gandhiji’s entry into the India’s Struggle for Freedom. On his arrival at Motihari, the district headquarters, accompanied by Raj Kumar Shukla, Gandhiji was ordered to leave by the next available train which he refused to do and was arrested. He was released and the ban order was withdrawn in the face of a, "Satyagraha" threat. Gandhiji conducted an open enquiry into the peasant’s grievances. The Government had to appoint an enquiry committee with Gandhiji as a member. This led to the abolition of the system.Raj Kumar Shukla has been described by Gandhiji in his "Atmakatha", as a man whose suffering gave him the strength to rise against the odds. In his letter to Gandhiji he wrote "Respected Mahatma, You hear the stories of others everyday. Today please listen to my story….. I want to draw your attention to the promise made by you in the Lucknow Congress that you would come to Champaran. The time has come for you to fulfil your promise. 19 lakhs suffering people of Champaran are waiting to see you."Gandhiji reached Patna on 10 April, 1917 and on 16 April he reached Motihari accompanied by Raj Kumar Shukla. Under Gandhiji’s leadership the historic "Champaran Satyagraha" began. The contribution of Raj Kumar Shukla is reflected in the writings of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first President of India, Acharya Kriplani and of course, Mahatma Gandhi himself. Raj Kumar Shukla maintained a diary in which he has given an account of struggle against the atrocities of the indigo planters, atrocities so movingly depicted by Deen Bandhu Mitra in "Neel Darpan", a play that was translated by Michael Madhusudan Dutt. This movement by Mahatma Gandhi received the spontaneous support of a cross section of people, including Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who ultimately became the first President of India and Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha who later became the first finance minister of Bihar.
Geography & climate
Geography Bihar is mainly a vast stretch of very fertile flat land. It has several rivers: Ganga, Son, Bagmati, Kosi, Budhi Gandak, and Falgu to name a few. Central parts of Bihar have some small hills, for example the Rajgir hills. The Himalayan mountains are to the north, in Nepal. To the south is the Chota Nagpur plateau, which was part of Bihar until 2000 but now is part of a separate state called Jharkhand.
Bihar is mildly cold in the winter (the lowest temperatures being around 5 to 10 degrees Celsius; 41 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Winter months are December and January. It is hot in the summer (40 to 45 degrees Celsius; 104 to 114 degrees Fahrenheit). April to mid June are the hot months. The monsoon months of June, July, August, and September see good rainfall. October & November and February & March have pleasant climate.
Bihar is among the least developed states of India and has a per capita income of $94 a year against India's average of $255. A total of 42.6% live below the poverty line against India's average of 26.1%. The blame for this stems from many factors: grossly discriminatory central government policies, viz. Freight equalisation scheme, lack of vision of the political classes, and inadequate investments in agriculture, infrastructure and education. Some people believe that mis-rule, caste-dominated politics and rampant corruption by politicians & bureaucrats have been the cause of the lack of development of the state. Saibal Gupta of Asian Development Research Institute has blamed the absence of a sub-national identity which has allowed the Central Government to get away with its neglect.  Mohan Guruswamy of Centre of Policy Alternatives has done a detailed study of the continued neglect of Bihar by the central government and how it has resulted in its downslide. The economy is mainly based on agricultural and trading activities. The vast swath of extremely fertile land makes it ideal for agriculture. Despite a number of rivers and good fertile soil, investment in irrigation and other agriculture facilities has been grossly inadequate. Agriculture is mainly dependent upon the vagaries of the nature.Previously, there were a few half hearted attempts to industrialize the state: an oil refinery in Barauni, a motor scooter plant at Fatuha, and a power plant at Muzaffarpur. However, no sustained effort had been made in this direction, and there was little success in its industrialization. Historically, sugar and vegetable oil were flourishing industries of Bihar. Till the mid fifties, 25% of India's sugar output was from Bihar. Dalmianagar was a large agro - industrial town. However, these were forced to shut down due to faulty central policy which neutralized the strategic advantages of Bihar.Recently the dairy industry has picked up very well in Bihar. Sugar industry is another one which has started to show up with 25 new sugar factories committed in Bihar between 2006 and 2007.Bihar's gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $19 billion in current prices. There was a division of Bihar in 2000, when the industrially advanced and mineral-rich southern-half of the state was carved out to form the separate state of Jharkhand. Since then, the main economic activity of Bihar has been agriculture. The new Bihar state produces about 60% of the output of the old Bihar state.
Transport & travel
Bihar has three airports -
Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Airport, Patna, Bhagalpur Airport and Gaya. Patna airport is connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, and Ranchi. It is categorised as a restricted international airport, with customs facilities to receive international chartered flights. Gaya airport is a small international airport connected to Colombo and Bangkok.Bihar is well-connected by railway lines to the rest of India. Most of the towns are interconnected among themselves, and they also are directly connected to Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai. Patna,Darbhanga,Kathihar,Baruani, Bhagalpur and Gaya are Bihar's best-connected railway stations.The state has a vast network of National and State highways. For Buddhist pilgrims, the best option for travel to Bihar is to reach Patna or Gaya, either by air or train, and then travel to Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir and Vaishali. Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh also is not very far.
Places to see
Buddhist sites -
Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Vaishali, Bhagalpur , Vikramshila ,Sultanganj.
Jain sites - Vaishali and Pawapuri, Bhagalpur.
Sikh sites - Har Mandir Sahib, Patna City, the birth place of Guru Gobind Singh.
Hindu sites - Sultanganj(Bhagalpur), Vishnupad Temple at Gaya, Konch Shiva Temple, Tara Mandir at Mahisi, Patan Devi at Patna, Sun Temple at Deo, near Aurangabad, Varah Temple at Harihar Kshetra, Shiv Temple at Singhesarsthan(Madhepura), Tawe Ma durga temple (gopalganj) Gopalmandir, Bahraua siv Hathwa (gopalganj).Aranya Devi temple [Ara] and Janki Mandir in Sitamarhi.
Muslim sites - Bihar-E-Sharif, [Sultanganj], Bhagalpur.
Historic sites - The landscape is dotted with historic sites. Important ones are Patna, Bhagalpur, Gaya, Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Vaishali, Pawapuri, Champaran, and SasaramHathwa(gopalganj).
Sanjay Gandhi Jaivik Udyan, Patna.
Chhath, also called Dala Chhath - is an ancient and major festival in Bihar, and is celebrated twice a year: once in the summers, called the Chaiti Chhath, and once around a week after Deepawali, called the Kartik Chhath. The latter is more popular because winters are the usual festive season in North India, and Chhath being an ardous observance requiring the worshippers to fast without water for more than 24 hours, is easier to do in the Indian winters. Chhath is the worship of the Sun God. Wherever people from Bihar have migrated, they have taken with them the tradition of Chhath. This is a ritual bathing festival that follows a period of abstenance and ritual segregation of the worshipper from the main household for two days. On the eve of Chhath, houses are scrupulously cleaned and so are the surroundings. The ritual bathing and worship of the Sun God takes place, performed twice: once in the evening and once on the crack of the dawn, usually on the banks of a flowing river, or a common large water body. The occasion is almost a carnival, and besides every worshipper, usually women, who are mostly the main ladies of the household, there are numerous participants and onlookers, all willing to help and receive the blessings of the worshipper. Ritual rendition of regional folk songs, carried on through oral transmission from mothers and mothers-in-law to daughters and daughters-in-law, are sung on this occasion for several days on the go. These songs are a great mirror of the culture, social structure, mythology and history of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Nowadays, modern Chhath songs, largely Bollywood filmy remixes have caught on, but the old tradition still goes strong. Chhath, in absence of proper administrative arrangements, however, leads to some serious problems of traffic congestion, waterbody pollution and vandalism on several Bihari towns. However, Chhath being celebrated at the crack of the dawn on a river bank is a beautiful, elating spiritual experience connecting the modern Indian to his ancient cultural roots.
Chhath is celebrated around a week after the festival of Diwali. However, the two festivals are not connected, mythologically speaking. While Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama after the battle with the demon king Ravana, Chhath is an ancient festival supposedly started by the King of Anga Desh (modern Bhagalpur region in Buhar) named Karna. Karna is a powerful character in the epic Mahabharata.Chhath is also celebrated by a great number of people in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.Teej and Chitragupta Puja are other local festivals celebrated with fervour in Bihar.Among ritual observances, the month long Shravani Mela held along a 108 kilometre route linking the towns of Sultanganj and Deoghar [now in Jharkhand state] is of great significance. Shravani Mela is organised every year in the Hindu month of Shravan, that is the lunar month of July-August. Pilgrims, known as kanwarias, wear saffron coloured clothes and collect water from a sacred Ghat [river bank] at Sultanganj, walking the 108 km stretch barefooted to the town of Deogarh to bathe a sacred Shiva-linga [sacred rock]. The observance draws thousands of people to the town of Deoghar from all over India.
Bihula-Bishari Puja of Anga region also is a great festival of Bihar.The Sonepur cattle fair is a month long event starting approximately half a month after Deepawali and is considered the largest cattle fair in Asia. It is held on the banks of the Sone River in the town of Sonepur. The constraints of the changing times and new laws governing the sale of animals and prohibiting the trafficking in exotic birds and beasts have eroded the once-upon -a-time magic of the fair.Apart from Chhath, all major festivals of India are celebrated in Bihar, such as Makar Sankranti, Saraswati Puja, Holi, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha (often pronounced Eid-uz-Zoha in South Asia), Muharram, Ram Navami, Rath yatra, Rakhi, Maha Shivaratri, Durga Puja, Divali, Laxmi Puja, Christmas, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, and several other local festivals as well.
Folksongs & music
Main article: Music of Bihar
Bihar has a very old tradition of beautiful folk songs, sung during important family occasions, such as marriage, birth ceremonies, festivals, etc. They are sung mainly in group settings without the help of many musical instruments, though Dholak,Bansuri , and occasionally Tabla and Harmonium are used.Bihar also has a tradition of lively Holi songs known as 'Phagua', filled with fun rhythms.During the 19th century, when the condition of Bihar worsened under the British misrule, many Biharis had to migrate as indentured labourers to West Indian islands, Fiji, and Mauritius. During this time many sad plays and songs called biraha became very popular, in the Bhojpur area. Dramas on that theme continue to be popular in the theaters of Patna.
Dances of Bihar
Dance forms of Bihar are another expression of rich traditions and ethnic identity. There are several folk dance forms that can keep one enthralled, such as dhobi nach, jhumarnach, manjhi, gondnach, jitiyanach, more morni, dom-domin, bhuiababa, rah baba, kathghorwa nach, jat jatin, launda nach, bamar nach, jharni, jhijhia, natua nach, bidapad nach, sohrai nach, and gond nach.
Language & literature
Hindi (Official language of State), Urdu-(2nd official language of State government), Angika, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Bangla and Magadhi (Magahi) are the major languages spoken in Bihar.