At a Glance

Capital City
94,163 km²
Geo Location
East India
Best time to visit
October to March

The State that is known as Bihar today, surrounded by Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal was, in days gone by, the arena on which great empires rose and fell. Different parts of Bihar, at different times, or simultaneously, were the parts of Anga, Videha, Vaishali and, last but not least, Bihar formed the core of the famous Magadha Empire of the Mauryan and Gupta dynasties.

The name Bihar is derived from Vihara the Buddhist monastery. The whole region, no doubt, was dotted with monasteries.

Pataliputra, the modern Patna—has been the chief city of Bihar through the ages. Of its unique heritage, we shall elaborate on later.

The antiquity of Magadha (a kingdom before becoming an empire) is established by the fact that it is referred to in the Vedas. The kings of Magadha continued to be powerful for a long time and it was the awe inspired by them that made the advancing Alexander the Great retreat.

By the closing years of the 4th century B.C. Magadha had become even more powerful under the Mauryan kings, founded by Chandragupta Maurya. His grandson was Asoka the Great whose rule, to quote H.G. Wells, was "one of the brightest interludes in the troubled history of mankind."

Although Asoka's empire was vast, his impact, naturally, was felt most over Bihar. It has been observed that Pataliputra, for a long time, was as significant a city as Rome in the later period.

Bihar is studded with monuments that bear the memory of Mahavira Jina who resurrected Jainism and of the Buddha.

Bodhgaya is the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment. Once famous all over the civilized world, Nalanda, the university for Buddhist studies, was in Bihar too.

Bihar abounds in rivers, hills, lakes and forests. The most important of the rivers is the Ganga, flowing from the west to east for 560 kilometres. The three major dialects of the people are Maithili prevailing in the east, Magadhi in the south, and Bhojpuri in the west.

The area of the state is 173,876 sq. km and the population is 69,823,154. The second most populous state of India, the average density of population per sq km in Bihar is 402.

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