Bihar the land of
Buddha, derives its name from the word Vihara, meaning monastery. Located in
the central and lower Gangetic plateau in the North-eastern Sector of India,
Bihar is bound by Nepal on the North, West Bengal on the east, Uttar Pradesh
on the west and Jharkhand, bifurcated from Bihar in 2000, on the south.
Facts of Bihar : -
173,877 sq. km.
Climate in Summer
March to June - [Warm]
Climate in Monsoon
July to August - [Warm]
Clothing in Summer
Clothing in Winter
Light Woolens or Cotton
Best Time to Visit
October to March
History of Bihar
Bihar has a very ancient and glorious history to boast with. The early
history of Bihar is mostly lost as the major events and happenings were not
documented. The earliest documented history of Bihar is provided by the Jain
and Buddhist texts, which shed light to the sixteen Mahajanapadas those
flourished during the 6th century BC. Vaishali, Anga, Rajgriha,
Pataliputra, Nalanda, and Mithila are just a few of the places those knit
the history of ancient India.
Vaishali in northern Bihar, the centre of the Lichchavis
kingdom is rated as the most ancient and credited as the world's first
republic. By the 5th century BC, the focus of history shifted to
Magadha with its capital at Rajgriha and later Pataliputra. Rajgriha
witnessed the first Buddhist Council and the conversion of the Mauryan king
Bimbisara to Buddhism. During the reign of Ashoka the Great, Magadha and its
fabled capital Pataliputra became renowned all over the world. After the
death of Ashoka, Magadha lost its glory. During the reign of the Guptas,
Magadha regained its importance. The Gupta Empire in 4th century
AD is considered as the golden age of Indian history.
Under the Sultans of Delhi and the Mughals, Bihar
was reduced to the status of a province. When Sher Shah defeated Humayun and
took over Delhi, Bihar came into limelight again. Sher Shah who hailed from
Bihar founded Patna, the present state capital on the site of the ancient
capital Pataliputra and gave the country an efficient administration. After
Sher Shah, Bihar became part of the Mughul Empire and was peaceful and
prosperous under Akbar and other Mughul Emperors.
With the decline of Mughals, Bihar fell into the hands of
the Nawabs of Bengal. Under British, Bihar was part of the Bengal
Presidency. In 1911, Bihar and Orissa were separated from Bengal Presidency.
In 1936 they became separate states. After independence, the state of Bihar
was formed with Patna as the capital. On 14th Nov. 2000, the
southern Bihar consisting of 18 districts were bifurcated to create a new
state named Jharkhand modifying the bounderies of the state of Bihar.
Bihar has a rich cultural heritage. The predominant
themes are from the myths and legends of Hinduism. The Hindu deities, Lord
Rama and His consort, Seeta, and Lord Shiva and His consort, Parvati, form
the main theme of folk paintings. Bihar, a land of many Buddhist Monasteries
is also known as 'The Land of Buddha'.
The beautiful stories of the ancient times are depicted
in the exquisite handicrafts of Bihar.
One of the art forms of Bihar, the Madhubani School
of Painting, has lately received much attention and poularity. Madhubani, in
the heart of the Mithila region, had a rich tradition of wall paintings done
by the village women with vegetable dyes. An artist encouraged them to try
their wall paintings on paper and since then Mithila paintings gained
ground. These line paintings in primary colors normally depict village
scenes, human and animal forms, gods and goddesses.
Patna Qalam is a very popular School of
Painting of Bihar. This offshoot of the well-known Mughal Miniature School
of Painting flourished in Bihar during early 18th to mid 20th century. With
the decline of the Mughals, the Delhi artists migrated to Murshidabad. Some
of them came 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 life of the people of Bihar.
The simple tribal people of Bihar express their creative
joy through the Chhau dance, which was originally a war dance, preformed in
order to perfect fighting techniques. It has, over the years, evolved into a
Jat-Jatin Dance of the Mithila region is performed by the
Harijans 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 is another form of dance drama that is extremely
popular in the Bhojpuri-speaking region of Bihar.
The region of Mithilanchal is famous for the songs of
Vidyapati (famous poet of early medieval age) those can be heard even now in
the evenings from several homes in the region. Bhojpuri folksongs are
popular in Bihar and second to none when it comes to beats and rhythm.
Villages around Bodhgaya 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.
Bhagalpur is famous for its silk industry and is
considered to be one of the best silk producing centres in India, in
manufacturing silk yarn and weaving them into lovely products. This silk is
of a distinct and special type. It is known as the tussah or tusser silk.
Other crafts of Bihar include Sujni embroidery, lac
bangle making, and creation of decorative and utility items of Seenki (a
local dried grass).
Bihar is also famous for the cotton dhurries and curtains
produced by artisans in central Bihar, particularly in the Patna and Bihar-Sharif
Though Bihar celebrates almost all
the North India festivals and National festivals, it has a few festivals of
its own, unique to the state.
Every year, in the month of March, Patna celebrates
Pataliputra Mahotsava. During this festival, Patna comes alive with
colourful Parades, sports, dance and musical events.
Chhath is an important festival of the state and is
celebrated six days after Diwali. People from all castes will stand together
in the river and worship the sun god. There are several folktales, songs,
and special sweets that make this festival a unique experience.
The Pind-daan Performed by the Gayawals in Gaya, it is
considered to be an obligation of all devout Hindus to visit this place
after the death of their parents, a mandatory rite believed to bring
salvation to the departed souls. Though the pind-daan can be performed
almost any time of the year, people prefer to do it during Pitrapaksha,
which is the period just before Navratri and generally falls in September.
In the summer month of June, the people of Mithila in the
village of Saurath organize a unique marriage mart in a mango grove. It is a
unique gathering of Mithila Brahmins from all over India. During this fair,
parents of marriagable children come here and negotiate and settle a record
number of marriages for their offsprings.
Sonepur Cattle Fair
Sonepur is the venue of a two week long grand cattle fair
held in the month of October/November. The fair is ranked, perhaps, as the
largest cattle fair in Asia. Even elephants are changed hands. In addition
to animal trade numerous shows and performances are also conducted. Visitors
also pay homage at the nearby temple of Hariharnath, an incarnation of Lord
Places of interest in Patna
on the southern bank of the Ganges. The Mahatma Gandhi Seti, one of the
longest bridges in the world at 7.5km, crosses the Ganges, 5 km to the west
of the city. It is the capital city of Bihar, an important business centre
in eastern India and more significantly, is the gateway to the Budhist and
Jain pilgrim centres of Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Vaishali, Rajgir and Pawapuri.
Patna is airlinked with Calcutta, New Delhi, Mumbai,
Ahmedabad and Lucknow. It is linked by rail with New Delhi, Mumbai,
Varanasi, Calcutta and many other major cities. All-weather motorable roads
connect Patna with the rest of Bihar. There are also regular inter-state bus
This excellent museum contains
metal and stone sculptures dating back to the Maurya and Gupta periods,
terracotta figures and archaeological finds from sites such as Nalanda. It
also houses the world's longest fossilised tree, 16 metres Tall and 200
million years old.
This amazing beehive shaped
building was built in 1786 by Captain John Garstin at the instigation of the
British administrator Warren Hastings. Standing at about 25 metres, with
steps winding around the outside to the top, from where one gets a good view
of the city and the Ganges.
The remains of Pataliputra as well
as the ancient capital of Ajatasatru, Chandragupta and Ashoka have been
This is one of the holiest Sikh
shrines in the state. Built entirely of white marble, it marks the place
where Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and last of the Sikh gurus was born in
Built on the foundations of Sher
Shah's fort, Qila House(Aka Jalan museum) contains an impressive private
collection of anitques.
Khuda Baksh Oriental Library
Founded in 1900, this library has a
renowned collection of very rare Arabic and Persian manuscripts, Mughal and
Non Hindus are welcome to this
modern temple dedicated to the popular god Hanuman. At night this place lits
up in garish pink and neon.
This heavy domed masjid as built by
the Afghan ruler Sher Shah in 1545 and is the oldest mosque in Patna. Other
mosques include the Pathar ki Masjid and the Riverbank Madrassa.
Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park
Established in 1969 as a Botanical Garden, this park has
been developed as Biological Park since 1973. The park is classified as one
of the 16 large zoos in the country. The park has more than 300 species of
trees, herbs and shrubs. The zoo has more than 70 species of animals. There
are more than 800 animals in the zoo. This park also has an Aquarium and a
Other places of interest in Patna
Bihar Institute of Handicrafts and Designs, Birla Mandir, Nawab
Shahid-Ka-Maqbara, Pachim Darwaza and Padri-Ki-Haveli.
Places of Interest in Gaya
Gaya is one of the most important pilgrimage places for
the Hindus in Bihar. It is believed that a Hindu will reach heaven if his
last rites are offered under the celebrated 'Akshayabat' or immortal banyan
tree, standing in the yard of Vishnupad temple. Believed to be built on the
footsteps of Vishnu, the grand temple was renovated by Ahalyabai, queen of
The Barabar and Nagarjuni hills are situated 41 kms from
Bodhgaya. these historical hills contain seven rock-cut caves, 4 of which
are in the Barabar hills. These caves which bear details of the life of
Buddha were carved out from solid rocks.
Gaya has a new airport to assist the tourists who are bound to Bodhgaya.
Gaya is also an important railway junction. There are bus services from all
important towns of Bihar.
Places of Interest in Bodhgaya
Bodhgaya is considered to be the holiest and most
important Buddhist pilgrimage site in the world. It is here that Gautama
Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree around 2540 years ago.
This sacred place is situated on the banks of the river Niranjana, around 13
kms from Gaya town.
Gaya is the nearest airport. Gaya is also is the nearest
railway junction. There are bus services from all important towns of Bihar.
Standing adjacent to a descendent of the original bodhi
tree under which Buddha meditated on the excesses of life and formulated his
philosophy of a balanced approach to it, this temple is a place of
pilgrimage to all Buddhists. A sapling of the original Bodhi tree was
carried to Srilanka by Sangamitra, daughter of the Emperor Ashoka. That tree
flourishes there and in turn a cutting from it was carried back to Bodhgaya
when the original tree died.
The Mahabodhi Temple stands on the site of a temple
erected by Ashoka in the third century BC. Topped by a 50m pyramidal spire,
the ornate structure houses a large gilded image of Buddha. The total height
of the temple is 170 ft and on top of the temple are chatras which symbolise
the sovereignty of religion. The entire courtyard is studded with a large
number of stupas of great variety - votive, decorative, memorative.
Places of interest in Rajgir
This was the capital of the Magadha empire until
Ajatasatru, son of King Bimbisara, moved it to pataliputra, now patna, in
the 5th century BC. Today it is a minor holiday centre. In winters tourists
are drawn by the hot springs and healthy climate. Rajgir is an important
Buddhist pilgrimage site since Buddha spent 12 years here, and the first
Buddhist council after Buddha attained Nirvana was held here. It is also an
important place for Jains, as mahavira spent some time in Rajgir and the
hills with Digambara shrines.
The nearest airport is Gaya. Road links Rajgir to Gaya
and Nalanda (19 Km). Nearest railhead is Gaya.
Site of the Royal physician Jivaka's dispensery, where
the Buddha was once brought to have a wound dressed by him.
This was built by Ajatasatru, who was King of Magadha
during Buddha's time, some time in the 6th century BC.
The Cyclopean Wall
Built of massive undressed stone, this wall was once 40
km long and encircles ancient Rajgir.The wall is one of the few pre-Mauryan
structures ever to be found.
Also known as Vulture's peak, this was the place where
the Buddha set in motion his second wheel of law. For three months every
year during the rainy season, the Buddha preached many inspiring sermons to
his disciples from this site.
Two cave chambers were hollowed out of a single
massive rock. One of the chambers is believed to have been the guard room,
the rear wall has two straight vertical lines and one horizontal line cut
into the rock; this 'doorway' is supposed to lead to king Bimbisara
treasury. Inscriptions in the Sankhalipi or shell script, etched into the
wall and so far undeciphered, are believed to give the clue to open the
doorway. The treasure, according to folklore, is still intact. The second
chamber bears a few traces of seated and standing guards etched into the
Places of Interest in Nalanda
Founded in the 5th century BC, Nalanda was one of the
world's great universities and an important Buddhist centre. When renowned
chinese scholar and traveller Hieun Tsang visited Nalanda between 685BC and
762BC, 10,000 monks and students resided here. Nalanda was frequently
visited by Lord mahavira and lord Buddha in the 6th century BC.
Patna, 90 km away is the nearest airport. Nalanda can be
reached by rail and road from other major towns of Bihar.
Nalanda university archaeological complex
The entire excavation area stretches to around 14
hectares. The buildings are divided by a central walkway that goes north to
south. On either side of this walkway one can find monasteries and temples.
A small chapel retains a half broken statue of the Buddha.
Nalanda archaeological museum
This place houses the Nalanda university seal, sculptures
and other remains found at the site. It also contains a number of small
Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and some undamaged statues of the Buddha.
Nava Nalanda Mahavira
This is a relactively new institute, which is devoted to
the study of pali literature and buddhism. A number of foreign students come
here to study.
Hieun Tsang memorial hall
One of the newest buildings here, it was built as a peace
pagoda by the chinese. Hieun tsang spent 5 years here as student and
Places of Interest in Pawapuri
ALso known as Apapuri, the sinless town, this is the
place where Mahavira, the final thirthankar and founder of Jainism passed
away. He was cremated here around 500 BC. It is said that the demand for his
ashes was so great that a large amount of soil was removed around the
funeral pyre, creating a lotus filled tank. The Jalmandir, a large marble
temple was later built in the middle of the tank and is now one of the major
pilgrimage spots for jains. Patna, 90 kilometres away is the nearest
airport. The nearest rail heads are Rajgir and Gaya.
Places of Interest in Vaishali
As long ago as the 6th century BC, Vaishali was the
capital of a republic. it is credited with being the world's first republic
to have elected member of an assembly. Mahavira, the founder of jainism, was
born here, and the Buddha preached his last sermon here. It also has a small
Regular bus services connect Vaishali to Patna (55 km).
Nearest railheads are Hajipur (35 km) and Muzaffarpur (36 km). Nearest
airport is Patna.
The Lion Pillar at
Kolhua, was built by Emperor Ashoka. It is made of a highly polished single
piece of red sandstone, surmounted by bell shaped capital, 18.3m. high. A
life-size figure of a lion is placed on top of the pillar. The pillar is
well-preserved and intact. There is a small tank here known as Ramkund. One
can also find a few dilapidated stupas in Vaishali.
Places of Interest in Sasaram
Sasaram is situated on the grand
Trunk Road, the famous Indian highway built by Sher Shah in the 16th
centuary. The impressive mausoleum of Sher Shash who died in 1545 is the
main attraction in Sasaram. Built with red sandstone in the middle of an
artificial pond, the mausoleum stands 46m tall and has a dome of 22m span
that is 4m wider than the Taj Mahal.