The land of diverse cultures, traditions, and faiths, Bihar is a state in the eastern India bounded by Nepal to the north and by the Indian states of West Bengal to the northeast and Uttar Pradesh to the west. It is the third-largest state by population and twelfth largest by area. It is the state where Gautam Buddha who founded Buddhism, is said to have attained enlightenment. The state is known for one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimages in the town of Bodhgaya where the Bodhi Tree is located which is alleged to be the meditative spot of Buddha, he attained enlightenment. The state is also home to Tirthankaras.
With several historical sites, oldest educational institute of India known as the Nalanda University, and an array of religious sites and pilgrimages, Bihar is a one stop destination for history and religious enthusiasts. Almost 58% of the population in Bihar is below the age of 25, which makes Bihar the state with the highest number of young people in the country.
Bihar People and Population
The state of Bihar has a population of about 12.85 Crore (as of 2020). The religious people here mostly follow either Hinduism or Islam, which are major religions in the state. Bihar has more than 82% of Hindus and around 17% of the population are Muslims.
Apart from these, a small portion of people follow Christianity, Sikhism or Jainism. People of Bihar are known as “Biharis”, and these people group themselves into three main Indo-Aryan ethnolinguistic groups - Bhojpuris, Maithils and Magadhis. These are further divided into other ethnic groups and castes.
Bhojpuri, Hindi are the most-widely spoken languages across Bihar. Besides these, many other regional languages and dialects are spoken in the state such as: Maithili, Angika, Magahi, Bajjika, Kudmali, Khortha.
History of Bihar
Bihar has been mentioned in the old scriptures, including the vedas, puranas, epics, and has been a crucial location for the activities of Buddha and 24 Jain Tirthankaras. Some of the greatest kings who ruled Bihar in the past were Bimbisar, Udayin (who established the city of Patliputra), Ashoka the Great, Chandragupta Maurya, the Sungs, and the Kanvas. The Kushan leaders arrived accompanied by the Gupta dynasty’s Chandragupta Vikramaditya. The Islamic rule in the region started during the early medieval days and the first conqueror to govern Bihar was Mohamed-bin-Bakhtiar Khalji.
During the time of British rule in India (from 19th century to mid-20th century), the country was divided into Provinces and princely states. The region of today’s Bihar was a part of one such Provinces (the Bengal Province) of British India until 1912, after which “Bihar and Orissa” was separated from Bengal Province and declared a separate province. Again, in March 1912, through The Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and Assam Laws Act, 1912, Bihar was carved out of this province and made a separate province in British India.
Bihar was a larger state with Patna as its official capital, until 2000, when its southern part of carved out and declared a separate state named “Jharkhand”. Patna remains Bihar’s capital to this day while Ranchi, another city in the separated state was made Jharkhand’s capital.
The major cities in Bihar are:
Bihar has a rich culture filled with diversity and history and is one of the states of India with a cultural mixed population. In addition to varied religious groups, there are variations on the basis of race, geography, and language. It is associated with several mythological stories and characters and extraordinary intellectual work which is reflected adequately by the present-day society. The culture of Bihar is mostly presented as Bhojpuri culture, Mithila culture, and Magadh culture.
The dominating religion in Bihar is Hinduism and Islam along with Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism associated with some parts of the state but don’t have much influence at present. People here are usually shy, introvert, self-content, honest, and helpful, and celebrate their culture and rituals with enthusiasm. Festivals unique to Bihar are Chhath Puja, Sama Chakeba, Ram Navami, Makar Sankranti, Bihula, Madhushravani, Teej, Pitrapaksha Mela, etc. Most of the households here are dependent on agriculture as their means of livelihoods along with animal husbandry. Most people here are vegetarians with very few non-vegetarians. The state is also known for its traditional art and craft which is Madhubani painting and handicrafts with bamboo, leather, metal, and wood and various folk dances and music.
Tourist Places in Bihar
Birthplace of Buddhism and witness to a lot of historical and prosperous civilizations, Bihar is endowed with a lush green flora and diverse fauna along with a significant number of historical as well as religious places. Still not known by many travelers and tourists, Bihar has several places of tourist attractions that are worth visiting. Discover the culture, beauty, and history of the place and here is a list of some of the best places to visit in Bihar.
- Gaya: Cuddled on the banks of the Phalgu River, Gaya is the place of Lord Buddha and one of the best places of tourist attractions which charms the visitors with its religious essence. Home to several Hindu temples, Buddhist sites, and historical structures from the Mauryan dynasty, Gaya is a popular place amongst the visitors for its greenery and centuries old edifies, along with the notion that Lord Buddha attained enlightenment here. The main attractions in Gaya, Bihar include Bodhgaya, Bodhi Tree, Barabar Caves, Magla Gauri Shrine, Bhutan Monastery, etc.
- Nalanda: Attracting an influx of tourists in Bihar, bask in the glory of the oldest university of India, Nalanda attracts Jains and Buddhists as this is the place where Mahavir, Tirthankara of Jains resided for 14 monsoons and Buddha delivered his lectures to the devotees. The main tourist attractions here are Silao, Nalanda Multimedia Museum, Surahpur Baragaon, etc.
- Vaishali: Famous for being the birthplace of last Jainism Tirthankara Lord Mahavir and the place where Lord Buddha gave his last sermon, the city of Vaishali is famous amongst Jains and Buddhists and other tourists as well. The popular Ashokan Pillar also adds to the mystical charm of the place.
- Patna: It is the largest city of Bihar and is famous among Sikhs as it is believed to be the birth place of the Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh. With several modern and old architecture, hotels, and sights such Gurudwaras, Golghar, Buddha Smriti Park, Qila House, etc., Patna is a must-visit destination in Bihar.
- Muzaffarpur: Muzaffarpur was established in the 18th century by Muzaffar Khan and is also known as ‘The Litchi Kingdom’ for its abundant growth of Litchi fruit and huge plantations.
- Bhagalpur: With over 1515 villages and 4 small towns, Bhagalpur is a nature lover’s delight and is also known as the ‘silk city’ of Bihar for its Bhagalpuri silk and unique fabric called Tusser or Tussah.
- Rajgir: It is a small town known for its beautiful green surroundings and spiritual significance for Jains and Buddhists, and Hindus. It dates to 3000 years ago and is categorized into two segments – one founded by the Magadh king Ajathashatru and other is completely fortified and encompassed by 7 majestic hills.
- Sitamarhi: It is a small town which is considered to be the land where Goddess Sita took birth. There is a temple dedicated to Sita which is marked as the spot goddess Sita was born and is highly revered.
- Munger: A city with a rich and glorious history, Munger is one of the top yoga destinations in India and is swarmed with tourists from across the globe not only to explore the site and relics, but to have a relaxing experience in the yoga city. Some must visit places here are Shri Krishan Vatika, Sita Kund, Manpatthar, Ucheswarnath, etc.
- Madhubani: An ancient city, it is popular for preserving the rich culture and art through the iconic Madhubani paintings and has got immense popularity amongst the art lovers. Apart from the paintings, there are several beautiful old temples which are worth your visit.
Major Attractions/Places to Visit in Bihar
- Navlakha Palace of Rajnagar: A stunning historical edifice built by Maharaja Rameshwar Singh, Navlakha Palace is one of the major highlights of the city attracting visitors. Despite facing a massive earthquake in 1934, the marvelous palace did not lose its brilliance and stands tall as being one of the major tourist attractions of the place.
- Rajgir’s World Peace Pagoda: Also known as Vishwa Shanti Stupa, the pristine white edifice has four pillars representing birth, teachings, enlightenment, and death of Lord Buddha while traveling across the globe spreading non-violence and peace message. Another highlight of the structure is its Japanese style architecture.
- Vulture Peak: Popularly known as Griddhakuta Peak, the place got its name because of its shape and the height it is located in. Situated in Rajgir, this is the place where Lord Buddha gave sermons which converted Mauryan King Bimbisara to Buddhism. Offering magnificent view of the surroundings, this is a must-visit place for some peaceful time and to feel the mystic aura surrounding the peak.
- Mahabodhi Temple: It is the temple, which was once a small shrine, built by King Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE to revere the sacred place where Gautam Buddha attained his enlightenment. The shrine was then replaced by Mahabodhi Temple in 2nd century BCE and was declared as UNESCO world heritage site.
- Bodhi Tree: Located in Bodhgaya, it is believed to be the sacred tree under which Gautam Buddha is assumed to have attained enlightenment.
- Nalanda University: The oldest university in the world, Nalanda University is a UNESCO heritage site and is amongst the earliest pioneers of learning. It dates to 3rd century and occupies 14 hectares of land.
- Golghar: Located amidst a lush green garden, Golghar is a stupa shaped structure surrounded by 145 stairs that leads to the top from where you can witness the view of the entire city of Patna.
- Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall: A hall with a lavish garden built in the memory of the Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang who visited Nalanda in 5th century and stayed for 12 years to learn and teach. The hall reflects the academic grandeur and glory of the Nalanda university.
- Sher Shah Suri Tomb: Built in the memory of Emperor Sher Shah Suri, the structure is a fine specimen of Indo-Islamic architecture and is made in the middle of a lake.
- Vikramshila Ruins: One of the two major Buddhist learning centres in Bihar, Vikramshila was built by King Dharampala when Nalanda started depleting. Vikramshila is in ruins now, but the renovation work has begun, and several Buddhist monasteries, stupas, and wall carving were dug out during excavation.
- Janki Temple Sitamarhi: Estimated to be constructed 100 years ago, the temple is located at Sitamarhi, regarded as the birthplace of Goddess Sita. The temple is believed to be the place where Sita was born and is revered highly.
- Barabar Caves: One of the oldest rock-cut caves in India, the caves date back to Mauryan empire period and are said to be used by Ajivika sect with many Buddhists and Jain art as well. Barabar hills have 4 caves while Naharjuni hills have 3 caves.
- Thai Monastery Bodhgaya: Established in 1957 by Thai government and Indian Buddhist monks, this temple reflects the culture and tradition of Thailand and Buddhist religion.
- Buxar Fort Buxar: uilt in 1054 AD by King Rudra Deo, the fort is known for its architecture and wall carvings and has several artifacts inside.
Bihari cuisine includes many vegetarian delicacies mostly along with some non-vegetarian dishes. The staple grains are rice, Bengal gram, chickpeas, and different kinds of pulses and flatbreads (roti).
Some regular dishes in Bihari cuisine are:
- Litti – Powdered gram pulses mixed with spices, lemon juice, and coriander leaves, and baked or fried; and usually served with Chokha – a soupy preparation with mashed dal (pulses).
- Ghugni – A curry/dish made with soaked black grams (in water), sautéed in mustard oil in a wok, mixed with spices and Chana (chickpea) paste and water to make it gravy-like.
- Pittha – A steamed rice-flour dumpling filled with a cooked chana dal (Bengal gram) mix that can be sweet (with jaggery, cardamom) or savoury (with chillies and other spices).
- Sattu ka Paratha – A stuffed flatbread (with vegetables or pulses) made with baby chickpea flour (high in protein).
- Dhuska – A deep-fried flattened mixture of powdered rice and ghee, and salt.
Most festivals in Bihar are predominantly Hindu festivals followed by festivals of other faiths. Bihar has some of the most unique and vibrant festivals and here is a list of the famous festivals celebrated in Bihar:
- Chhatth Puja – The most significant Hindu festival of Bihar, it is dedicated to the Sun God, Surya, and is celebrated 6 days after Diwali. The person observing Chhatth, also called Parvati, takes a fast from dawn to dusk which concludes with only sweets which is followed by a fast for another 36 hours which concludes at a riverbank before the sunrise.
- Sama Chakeva– Takes place during winters to celebrate the coming of migratory bird Sama-Chakeva from the Himalayas. The festival marks the brother-sister relationship and is celebrated girls make idols of birds and decorate them in traditional ways. The festival ends by vidai of the Sama with a wish that the birds will return next year.
- Shravani Mela – Observed during July-August, the devotees known as Kanwarias, wear saffron-colored clothes and collect water from sacred ghats in a 108km long route linking Deogarh and Sultanganj and walk back barefoot to Deogarh to bathe the sacred Shivalinga.
- Makar Sankranti Mela – Held in Rajgir in January, Makar Sankranti is celebrated by devotees who make flower offering to the deities in the temple and take a dip in the holy river.
- Pitrapaksha Mela– Held in Gaya in September, people from across the country come to pay reverence to their ancestors as Shraddha ritual, which is performed by Gayalis, descendants of Magga Brahmans. The ritual is performed as it is believed to bring salvation to the departed soul.
- Rajgir Mahotsav – A sacred town for both Buddhists and Jains, the festival is celebrated in October with several exhibitions, dance forms, classical music, folk dance, and other dance forms and songs.
- Buddha Jayanti – Celebrated in May on Baisakh Purnima, it is believed that Buddha was born, enlightened, and passed away on the same full moon day, thus the festival came to be celebrated by people, especially in town Bodh Gaya and Rajgir.
- Sonepur Cattle Fair – Fair organized by the state authorities where you can see several cattle decorated and are traded with vendors.
- Elephant Safari in Valmiki Nagar – Elephant safari in Valmiki nagar is an extremely enticing activity for both children and adults where you get to enjoy the culture of the city and the wildlife park in it.
- Buddhist circuit – The Buddhist circuit is a trail of the sacred footsteps of Lord Buddha and the important places of his life and teachings across Bihar.
- Jain circuit– The Jain circuit offers a visit to several pilgrimage places of Jains associated with Tirthankaras.
- Eco Circuit – The eco circuit offers an enchanting view of the ecological tourism of Bihar including the many falls, lakes, and wildlife parks.
- Sufi circuit – The famous sufi circuit offers a beeline into the sufi world of Bihar which was introduced in the medieval period and made a hub of pilgrimage for the devotees of all religion.
Nightlife (Pubs, clubs, lounges)
After spending an entire day exploring the rich heritage of Bihar its time to unwind and chill in the evening with some of the best nigh cafes and lounges in Bihar. As alcohol is prohibited in Bihar, the lounges don’t have alcohol but they do have a variety of mocktails to keep you refreshing. Here are some of the best places to visit for nightlife in Bihar:
- Hangout Café, Patna – Enjoy the groovy music in a cool ambiance with an energetic crowd in Hangout Café. It offers mouth-watering treats and starters with some refreshing mocktails and is a perfect family-friendly place.
- LBW – Lounge Before Wicket – The lounge is known for its enticing décor and appealing ambiance along with a range of continental, Chinese and Indian delights. You can chill at the outdoor seating area or at the spacious indoor setting listening to the groovy music.
- Indian Summer Café, Patna – The décor of this café boasts of cheerful and happy ambiance with contrasting colors and food to die for.
- Cafe Hideout, Patna – This café-cum lounge welcomes you to its ethnic décor accentuated with a rustic charm. The soothing music adds to the charm while the menu has an extensive collection of items including beverages, staters, and main course.
- O.S Cafe & Grill, Patna – t is sports themed restaurant ideal for football buffs where you can enjoy delectable food while watching football.
- Bansi Vihar, Patna – Even if you are a non-vegetarian, Bansi Vihar will leave you satiated with its assortment of delectable vegetarian dishes from north and south India.
- Basant Vihar, Patna – Another restaurant for vegetarians, it offers authentic and delicious south Indian, north Indian, and Chinese cuisine in an affordable manner and has a chic interior.
- Rajasthan Restaurant, Patna – If you are craving something very spicy, then head to the Rajasthani restaurant to try the authentic Rajasthani meal with delicious starters.
- Patna Rasoi, Patna – The extensive menu here offers a wide range of dishes from different cuisines of Indian regions right from biryani to dosas and several beverages in a pocket-friendly way.
- Kapil Dev’s Eleven, Patna – A decade old restaurant known for its lip-smacking non-veg dishes from different parts of India and Chinese cuisine and is themed on cricket. It is also a lounge bar and a hotel where you can enjoy nightlife.
- Mainland China, Patna – Enjoy the most delicious Chinese cuisines right in your plates with more dishes on the menu which you might have not even heard of.
- Aasman, Patna – A restaurant with a fancy décor, rooftop seating area, and multi-cuisine menu, Aasman entertains its guests with its scrumptious food, enjoyable ambiance, and simmering sizzlers to go with cocktails and mocktails.
- Pukhtaan, Patna – It is known for its amazing buffet spread and entices you with a multi-cuisine journey of Awadhi, Mughlai, Chinese and North Indian fare.
- Bell Pepper Restaurant, Patna – The restaurant presents a perfect combination of an enticing ambiance and scrumptious food from different cuisines from Indian and the world. The must-try here are the north Indian starters and sizzlers.
Bihar has malls and other big shopping complex for the shopaholics and brand enthusiasts. All these malls offer a wide range of national and international brands to chose from in a systematized setting with posh interiors. These malls also have kids zone to keep them engaged along with movie theatres and other entertainment stuff. Some of the best malls in Bihar are:
- P & M Mall
- Patna Central
- Patna One Mall
- Vasundhara Metro Mall
- Gravity Mall
Market Places (Traditional markets)
- Patna Market – One of the oldest markets in Patna, it has evolved catering to the modern needs of people. People from the city and neighboring cities visit the market to shop for things such as garments, jewelry, cosmetics to electronic products.
- Hathwa Market– One of the best markets to visit in Patna during weekends, for its incredible collection of western apparel for women along with the latest accessories and jewelry designs.
- Khaitan Market– Khaitan market is one of the best and modern shopping markets in Patna with over 500 retail shops offering clothing, jewelry, household, goods, etc. at affordable rates. It is also one of the best places to shop for bridal wears, sarees, and lehenga along with bridal jewelry.
- Maurya Lok – This is one of the largest and oldest shopping centers in Patna for decades and is known for a collection of silk fabrics, silk sarees, embroidery work, Mithila and Madhubani paintings, and many other things that are not found in other markets easily.
Some of the famous shops in Bihar which sell items such as sweets, textiles, electronics, and branded clothes are:
- Kesharia cloth, Biharsharif
- Miss india fashion store, Biharsharif
- Maruan Lal Hari Lal, Biharsharif
- Basanpur Kumar Jewellers, Bihar Sharif
- Bhadani And Company, Bihar Sharif
- Basant Bahar, Bihar Sharif
- Munnalal Maheshlal Arya Jewellers PVT.LTD
- BASHIRUDDIN PAKIZA BISCUIT MERCHANT
- Kalpana Enterprises
- Suprasiddh Puna ji ka Peda Dukan
Museum and Art Galleries
- Bihar Museum– A modern museum built in 2017 after the old Patna Museum was short-spaced to keep all the artifacts and relics. It is a six-storey building housing artifacts associated to Bihar’s past and consists of four exhibition galleries, a lobby, an administration gallery, and a permanent gallery.
- Indira Gandhi Planetarium– Also called Patna Planetarium, this centre is ideal for kids to enjoy and learn about the space and cosmos along with adults who can enjoy the shows about atronomy. It is located at Indira Gandhi Science Complex and is one of the oldest and largest planetariums in Asia.
- Patna Museum – Dating to 1917, this famous museum in Patna is home to over 50,000 artifacts that reflect the colorful, diverse, and ancient history of Bihar and its traditions.
- Jalan Museum – It is inside the Qila House owned by Jalans and houses a private assortment of RK Jalan, a businessman who enjoyed collecting art pieces from all over the country. The museum is known for its architecture and boasting over 10,000 artifacts.
- Srikrishna Science Centre – Named after first CM of Bihar, the museum was founded in 1978 and teaches the concepts of history, maths, and evolution. The Centre also has a Jurassic Park theme with 3D dinosaurs that attracts a lot of tourists.
- Resham Art Gallery – This art gallery offers a range of realistic paintings, sculptures, and 3D paintings and displays distinct art forms of Bihar from different periods. It also offers services including photo studio, 3D paintings on wood, and other kids of photographs.
- Manthan Art Gallery – The gallery has many beautiful paintings from different art schools of India and the artist produces stunning murals to decorate your house with. You can also order beautiful and custom-made side decors for your home.
Art and Dance
- Jat Jatin – A popular folk dance in North Bihar in the Mithila and Kosi region, Jat-Jatin was originally a dance about the separation of lovers ‘Jat’ and ‘Jatin’ but now it reflects on many social issues like droughts, floods, and poverty.
- Jhijhia – It is one of the most popular dances of Bihar which depicts a band of young balles adoring and offering. When there is no rain, women sing and dance to please Indra Dev, the lord of rain, and this dance form is known as Jhijhia.
- Jumari – It is performed specifically in Mithila region and is only performed by married women in circles. Jumari is related to the Kartik season which comes after October with clear sky and pleasant weather.
- Paika – It is a dance of martial character and is performed with a shield and a sword by men.
- Textile Painting – It is an old form of art and craft specially in Patna which is specialized for making chunris having motifs like parrots, peacocks, and elephants, fishes, and various deities.
- Madhubani Paintings – It is one of the most prominent paintings in India and is widely practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar. The paintings is usually done on cloth, hand-made paper, and canvas and depict nature and Hindu religious figure and natural objects.
- Tikuli Art – It is a form of craft made from broken glass in various shapes and design. This art form is famous in Patna and Hariharan cities.
Bihar has abundant of flora and fauna and its wildlife parks attracts several tourists towards it from across the country. Some of the best national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Bihar are:
- Valmiki National Park – Located in West Champaran district, it has a lush flora consisting of old and medicinal trees along with several endangered faunal species like tigers, black bear, boar, rhinocerous along with many birds.
- Kanwar Lake Bird Sanctuary – Located in Begusarai district, it is the largest bird sanctuary in Bihar which migrate from Mongolia and Russia during winters.
- Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, Patna – Established as a botanical garden in 1973, it is home to over 110 animal species. It has world’s second largest and Asia’s largest Rhino breeding centre and has a varied flora with 300 species of trees, herbs, shrubs, and medicinal plants.
- Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary – Located in Kaimur district, it is the largest sanctuary in
- Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary – Located in Bhagalpur district, it is the first protected area for the endangered Gangetic dolphins in Bihar and has around 240 to 480 endangered Gangetic dolphins.
- Gautam Buddha Wildlife Sanctuary – Located in Gaya district, the wildlife sanctuary houses fauna such as tigers, leopards, sambars, sloth bears, wolves, etc. and has a lush green flora.
- Pant Wildlife Sanctuary – It is located in Nalanda district in the Rajgir hill and houses a variety of birds and animal species such as Eurasian thick-knee, patridge, black and grey quails, myna, striped hyena, blue bull, Asian palm civet, in addition to the Bamb Park with cheetals, nilgais and sambars.
Bihar has several hotels ranging from luxury to budget-friendly which suits the needs of all visitors. With well-equipped facilities and accommodations, here are some of the best hotels in Bihar:
- Oaks Bodhgaya
- Ginger Patna
- Marasa Sarovar Premiere, Bodhgaya
- Maha Bodhi Hotel,Resort and Convention Centre
- Maya Heritage
- Hotel Chanakya
- Hotel Anand International Bodhgaya
- Hotel Maurya Patna
- Hotel Patliputra Continental
- Hotel Vaishnavi Heights
How to Reach Bihar
- By Air: Bihar is well connected by air via Jayprakash Narayan Airport in Patna and Bodhgaya Airport in Gaya where regular flights operate from major cities of India.
- By Train: Bihar is connected via an excellent network of railways in Patna, Gaya, and Bhagalpur. Buses and taxis are also available from the train stations.
- By Road: A well-managed network of highways connects Bihar with major regions of the country. State and private buses and taxis are available in an out of the state.
Home to several religious places and ancient civilizations, the state of Buddhists and Jains and the land of Buddha’s enlightenment, Bihar is a rich blend of culture, history, art, and architecture that will lure you with its beauty and charm and will sooth your body,soul, and mind.