Bihar on a map of the Republic of India
Buddha's Statue at the Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya
Ruins of Nalanda University, Nalanda
Trolley ride in Rajgri
Shanti Stup, Rajgri
View of Gai Ghat, from Gandhi Setu bridge, in Patna
Collectorate ghat on the bank of Ganga in Patna

Bihar is a state in Northern India. It lies on the Gangetic plain, with Uttar Pradesh to its west, West Bengal to its east, Jharkhand to its south and Nepal to its north. The Bihar plain is divided into two unequal halves by the Ganges, which flows through the middle from west to east. Bihar is one of India's poorest states, with stark social inequality. Travelers may find the hassles common to traveling everywhere in India are more pronounced here.


Bihar can be grouped into four regions based on river boundaries. These four regions have very similar languages - Angika, Bhojpuri, Magadhi and Maithili spoken in respective regions. The languages are collectively 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.


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Ancient Bihar was the birthplace of the Maurya Empire, the largest ever to rule the Indian subcontinent, and the site of the Buddha's enlightenment. Unfortunately the Maurya Empire collapsed in 185 BCE, and it's been mostly downhill ever since. Riddled with a feudal structure, sharp caste divisions and venal politicians, Bihar in the 1990s was struck by severe recession that saw it become a byword for poverty, corruption and crime. Nitish Kumar's election in 2005 is widely seen as a turning point, and the decade since has seen investment in infrastructure coupled with a welcome crackdown on crime, but there's still a long way to go.

Bihar has a youthful 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. There was even Naxal insurgence in last few decades, especially in Southern Bihar, but the situation has calmed down in recent years. 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 religions, 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, and the old traditions of culture and learning was almost lost by the end of 12th century. 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.

Get in

By plane

By train

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

By road

Major National Highways which connect Bihar with other corners of country are NH 2, 19, 28, 30, 31.

Patna is well connected by road with the rest of the country. Deluxe bus services are available for Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Siliguri & the Nepal border.

Note, however, that roads around Bihar are largely in poor condition and over-saturated with traffic. It is not advisable to drive on your own unless you are used to driving in India. Some car rental businesses may include a driver at an additional cost.




Chiwda Muttor is popular Bihari breakfast

Some dishes which Bihar is famous for, include Sattu Paratha, which are parathas stuffed with fried chickpea flour, Chokha (spicy mashed potatoes), Fish curry and Bihari Kebab,Postaa-dana kaa halwaa.


Stay safe

Bihar has a terrible reputation for crime and banditry (or dacoity, to use the Indian word), with armed bandits recently taking to robbing moving trains, and there were 55 cases of hijackings for ransom (and 2,480 for other reasons!) reported in 2008. The situation is steadily improving, though, with crime statistics for the most serious offences dropping for the last 3 years in a row and, in absolute numbers, and crime against foreigners remains comparably low compared to states popular with international tourists. So 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 (Maoist Communist) insurgency continues to bubble in the southern parts of the state, but tourists are unlikely to venture into the affected regions.

Public transportation systems, like trains and buses, are generally overcrowded. 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.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, October 05, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.