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
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.
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, MaglaGauri Shrine, Bhutan Monastery, etc.
- Nalanda: Attracting an influx of tourists in Bihar, bask in the glory of the oldest university of India, Nalandaattracts 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, SurahpurBaragaon, etc.
- Vaishali: Famous for being the birthplace of last Jainism TirthankaraLord 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.
- 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 KrishanVatika, SitaKund, Manpatthar, Ucheswarnath, etc.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 MauryanKingBimbisara 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.
Some other places to visit in Bihar are Thai Monastery, Sher Shah Suri Tomb, Barabar Caves, Kesaria Stupa, and Jalmandir.
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.
How to Reach
- 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.