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Bihar State Information

Capital : Patna

Districts :37

Languages : Hindi, Maithili, Bhojpuri

Introduction to Bihar

Bihar is the place that gave birth to Buddhism and Jainism and helped in the growth of Sikhism and Hinduism, has a past that is unmatched anywhere in the world. It was the center of first republic in the world at Vaishali and the city of Pataliputra was largest and grandest in the world at the height of its glory. There is an array of tourist destinations of diverse interests in the state, though their potential has not been exploited fully till now. Starting from the world famous Buddhist Circuit to the Patna Sahib of Patna and Mithila Paintings of Madhubani to silk production center of Bhagalpur, the state has much to offer to the tourists. More than anything else, it is the present image of the state that is not allowing the state to be a frontrunner in attracting tourists.

Geography of Bihar

Bihar is located in the eastern region of India, bordering Nepal in the North, West Bengal in the east, Uttar Pradesh in the West, and Jharkhand in the South. North Gangetic plain is an extension of the Tarai region of Nepal with many tributaries of Ganges like Koshi, Gandak, Baghmati, and Kamla Balan flowing through it.

It is a flood prone region and one of the most backward regions in the country. Central Bihar, south of Ganges, is a region with rich agricultural resources. Most of the north and central Bihar is plain with no significant elevation.

Brief History of Bihar

The early history of Bihar is lost as the major events and happenings were not documented but with the advent of Jain and Buddhist texts documentation of events began. And from these texts we get to know about the sixteen Mahajanapadas that flourished during the 6th century BC.

Vaishali, Anga, Rajgriha, Pataliputra, Nalanda, and Mithila are just a few of the places in Bihar that knit the history of ancient India. Vaishali in northern Bihar, the center of the Lichchavi kingdom is rated as the most ancient and credited as the world's first republic. It got its aura of sanctity with the birth of Lord Mahavira here. This was also the favorite resting place of Lord Buddha and he preached his last sermon here, which was later commemorated by a lion capital erected by King Ashoka.

The legends of the courtesan Ambapali's exquisite beauty added to the glory and charm of Vaishali. By the fifth century BC, the focus of history shifted to Magadh with its capital at Rajgriha (seen as the first recorded capital in Indian history), and later Pataliputra. Rajgriha witnessed the first Buddhist Council and the conversion of the Mauryan king Bimbisara to Buddhism. During the last days of the Buddha, the political masters thought of shifting their capital from Rajgriha to Pataliputra, which gradually became the pride of Asia and subsequently the capital to the great empires of Nandas, Mauryas, Sungas and Guptas. It was here that Megasthenes spent most of his time as an Ambassador of his Syrian king Seleukos Nikator.

During the medieval period, except for the brief twinkle of Sher Shah's reign who rose from his base in Bihar to the sultanate of Delhi that ruled over the entire country, the province of Bihar rarely enjoyed the status of an independent state; rather it swayed with the fortunes of Delhi, Jaunpur and Bengal.

Various sultans of Delhi and later the Mughals, as well as emperors and princes, criss-crossed Bihar in order to crush the rebellions in distant Bengal. Much later, Babur, in pursuit of the Lodhis, came as far as Bihar. Babur's death brought Humayun to the throne of Delhi and he had a hard time fighting his Afghan adversary from Bihar, Sher Shah. Most of their decisive battles were fought in and around Bihar. Sher Shah was more than a match for Humayun and gradually he paved his way to the throne of Delhi. During his brief reign of five years, Sher Shah proved himself to be one of the greatest rulers of medieval India.

After the coming of the British to India, Bihar again played an important role in deciding the future course of the country and Buxar became the place where the final battle for supremacy in north India was fought between the East India Company and the combined forces of the Mughals, and Nawabs of Bengal and Awadh in 1764.

Bihar was part of the Bengal presidency till 1911, when a separate province comprising Bihar and Orissa was created. In 1936, Bihar was made an independent province. Apart from the documented history, Bihar finds mention in the legends and tales related to the Ramayan.

It is believed that the Goddess Sita, the wife of Lord Ram, was born in Mithila to King Janak, the ruler of the region.

Districts of Bihar

Bihar is divided into 37 districts for administrative purposes - Aurangabad, Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Banka, Bhojpur, Buxar, Bhabhua (Kaimur), Darbhanga, East Champaran, Gaya, Goplaganj, Jahanabad Arwal, Jamui, Katihar, Khagaria, Kishanganj, Lakshisarai, Madhepura, Madhubani, Munger, Muzaffarpur, Nalanda, Nawada, Patna, Purnea, Rohtas, Saharsa, Samastipur, Saran, Shekhpura, Sheohar, Sitamari,SiwanSupaul,Vaishali & West Champaran

Economy of Bihar

The State is well linked by road, state highways, national highways, rural and district roads.

The State has fairly good railway network.

There are airports at Patna and Gaya besides landing grounds in all major districts of the State. After the division of state, most of the industries went off with mineral-rich Jharkhand.

Rest of the industries that the Bihar inherited from its earlier incarnation is mostly agro based. North Bihar has many sugar factories relying on the traditionally good production of sugarcane in the state.

Barauni is the only major industrial center in the state where one can find an oil refinery and many allied industries. Munger has a large cigarette factory of ITC group. Bhagalpur is known for its silk production while Patna is home to many small-scale industries, many of them dealing in scrap iron.

Other than Barauni, there are 2 more important industrial centres namely- Muzaffarpur and Mokama. Muzaffarpur is having industries like Rail Wagon factory, power station and IDPL factory where as Mokama houses important units like Rail wagon factory, Bata leather factory and McDowell Distllary.

Agriculture is the main occupation the people of the State. Principal food grain crops are paddy, wheat, maize, and pulses. Main cash crops are sugarcane, potato, tobacco, oilseeds, onion, chilies, and jute.

Bihar Travel Information

Most of the tourist places of Bihar have strong connections with the great religions of the world like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Hinduism. Witness to the glorious teachings of the some of the most pious minds of the past, the state attracts people from all religions and faiths.

There are few pilgrimage destinations in India that are sacred to different religions and most of them are in Bihar itself. Places like Patna, Rajgir, and Vaishali are sacred to all the important faiths and that is a great achievement of Bihar. Famous destinations for tourism are Patna, Rajgir, Bodhgaya, Gaya, Nalanda and Vaishali.

Rivers of Bihar

One of the most striking feature of the river system of Bihar is the dominant role of Ganga. The important rivers that join the Ganga from the north are Ghaghra, Gandak, Burhi Gandak, Kosi, Mahananda and its tributaries. Sonpur, which is situated along Ganga's bank is famous for the great bathing festival, which is the occasion for the greatest cattle and elephant fair in the world. The principal streams, which join Ganga from South, are Karmanasa, Sone, Punpun, Phalgu, Sakri and Kiul.

Education of Bihar

Historically, Bihar has been a major center of learning, home to the universities of Nalanda (one of the earliest universities of India dating back to the fifth century) and Vikramshila. Unfortunately, that tradition of learning which had its origin from the time of Buddha or perhaps earlier, was lost during the medieval period when marauding armies of the invaders destroyed these centers of learning.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the state government took over management of most privately-run schools. This adversely affected school education in the state since the state government was ill equipped to manage the schools through its bureaucrats who were trained for law and order duties. Though the state accorded them government recognition, the standard started to fall. Thankfully, the state did not take over the schools run by the Christian missionaries and these schools provided a fillip to quality education in Bihar. As in other states, the central government runs a number of Kendriya Vidyalayas (Central Schools) and Jawahar Navodaya Schools for rural students. Jawahar Navodaya Schools started by the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi have been particularly successful in providing quality education to the weaker sections of the society.

The number of Private schools, including school-chains and Missionary Schools run by Christian Missionaries as well as Madrasas, or schools run by Muslim clerics, has increased in the post liberalisation era. Most of the schools in Bihar are affiliated with the Bihar School Examination Board, while the Kendriya Vidyalay and a few other elite schools including the Christian Missionary Schools are affiliated to the ICSE and CBSE boards. Bihar has twelve universities recognised by the state.

Bihar is placed poorly with respect to the literacy rate as per 2001 census with overall literacy of 47.53%. Although the male literacy rate is somewhat better at 60.32%, the famale literacy is very poor at 33.57% and is a major deterrent for the developmenet of the state.

Food of Bihar

The cuisine of the state is an interesting mix of North and East Indian cuisine. Rice, pulses, and roti are the most common food consumed by the people of this state. One exclusive item of this state is Sattu (gram powder), commonly taken as a mixture with water, salt, and limejuice. A favorite breakfast all over the state is Chura-Dahi (flattened rice and curd) taken together with sugar or jaggery.

The influence of Bengal is evident in the way large quantities of fish are consumed in the state. There are several specialty sweets that are made all over the state for special occasions. Khaja, tilkut, anarsa and thekuwa are some of the preparations that form a part of every sweet-toothed Bihari's dreams.

Arts & Culture of Bihar

People of the Bihar are Aryans who came from Central Asia and entered this province in around 600 years before Christ after defeating the aboriginal people. According to the legends, great sage Agastya was the first person who crossed the river Gandak and burnt down Dandakaranya (forest of this region as it was known in the Vedic times). Patna Qalam and Mithila paintings are two of the most impressive and popular crafts of Bihar. With the decline of the Mughals, the Delhi artists migrated to Murshidabad (a great center of commerce and a flourishing town of the Nawabs). When this Bengal hamlet did not hold the artists for long, they thought of Bihar. Some of them came over to Patna and practiced their craft following a style that gradually came to be known as the Patna Qalam. The style is famous for its soft colors and the use of hand made paper or mica sheets. Most of these paintings depict the day-to-day life of the people of Bihar.

Madhubani, in the heart of the Mithila region, had a rich tradition of wall paintings done by the village women. Hit by a severe drought in 1966, an artist encouraged them to try their wall paintings on paper. The idea was a great success and since then Mithila paintings gained ground. These line paintings in primary colors normally depict village scenes, human and animal forms, gods and goddesses. A kind of artistic emotion can be observed in these paintings. Tulsidas gives an elaborate description of how the entire Mithila region was decorated for the wedding of Sita with Ram. Bhagalpur is famous for its silk industry all over the world and is considered one of the best silk producing centers in India. Other crafts of Bihar include Sujni embroidery, lac bangle making, and creation of decorative and utility items of Seenki (a local dried grass).

Dance & Music of Bihar

Jat-Jatin Dance of the Mithila region is performed by the Harijans (name given to the lower castes by Mahatma Gandhi) where one person performs the role of Jat (the husband) and Jatin (the wife) wearing masks and goes through the story of their life. Bidesia, a form of dance drama is extremely popular in the Bhojpuri-speaking region of Bihar. The region of Mithilanchal is famous for its cultural heritage and the songs of Vidyapati (famous poet of early medieval age) can be heard even now in the evenings from several homes throughout the region. Bhojpuri folksongs are popular throughout the country and second to none when it comes to beats and rhythm.

Costumes of Bihar

Sari is the most popular attire for women all over the state. The salwar-kameez is also popular especially with the younger and urban women. The traditional attire for men includes dhoti, kurta, and kharaun (wooden sandal). However, men have taken to the more convenient attire of shirts and pants, though western wear is not so common among women. In Mithila, a unique part of a man's dress is the Paag, a turban whose color is meant to symbolize the status of the man wearing it.

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