The history of Bihar is one of the most varied in India. Ancient Bihar known as Magadha, was originally known as ‘Vihara’ meaning monastery, was the centre of power, learning and culture in India for 1000 years. Bihar is landlocked state and located in the eastern part of India. It is bounded by the country of Nepal on the north, by Uttar Pradesh on the west, by Jharkhand on the south, and by West Bengal on the east.
Magadha, the modern Bihar, had been the centre of the great dynasties of Maurya and Gupta, Pala. Buddhism, Jainism is one of the most popular religions of the world arose from here. Prince Siddharth got enlightenment in Bihar and become Buddha, Mahavir also born in Bihar and spread the knowledge of peace and unity in the world. Bihar is one of the first democracies of the world which founded by Lichhawi.
Bihar has been a great religious centre for Hindus, 83% of the population associate themselves with Hinduism. The second major religion in Bihar is Islam. Followers of Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Christianity are existent in Bihar, but their number is very low.
The land where Arthasastra was written, where Chanakya set the intricacies of statecraft much before a certain Machiavelli was born, Bihar led the march of modern civilization creating in this quest a treasure of art, culture, pilgrimage sites and cuisine.
We the people of India have the pride of being a unity in diversity. In Bihar, we the people of Bihar, take deeper pride in being a composite unit in diversity.
Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus followers of each faith have made Bihar a beautiful cultural kaleidoscope.
The Jain Jal Mandir at Pawapuri, the Buddhist monasteries at Rajgir and Bodhgaya, the Vishnupad Temple at Gaya, the Shiv Temple at Areraj in East Champaran, the Cathedrals in Patna and Bettiah, the mausoleums dotting the Sufi arc from Patna to Sasaram and the Harmandir Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh’s birthplace, at Patna Sahib, are all where the faithful find peace with themselves and the world.
In Champaran, step into Gandhi’s cradle of nonviolent revolution – Ahinsa and Satyagraha. Motihari the headquarters of the old Champaran district, chance upon the birthplace of one of the greatest writers – George Orwell.
At Nalanda and Vaishali, the Vishwa Shanti Stupas are two landmarks no visitor would like to miss, Just as the remains of two of the world’s oldest universities at Vikramshila, near Bhagalpur, and at Nalanda. In 1951, President Rajendra Prasad, himself a luminous son of Bihar, opened the Nav Nalanda Mahavira, which is a modern seat of learning for ancient Pali and Brahmi language.
For the academic tourist, Bihar is a gold mine. Not only the archaeological remains but also the vast text from the ancient to modern times in various archives and libraries provide a rich source of knowledge to understand and interpret the march of modern civilization, the seeds of which germinated in abundance in Bihar.
Bihar has a rich tradition of songs and dances. The dance forms of the Tharu tribals along the Nepal border in West Champaran, as also their handicrafts, remain largely unseen to the outside world.
Amrapali and Magadhavati are two courtesans who have remained etched in history as torchbearers of a colourful dance form patronized by the ancient aristocracy in the ‘Kothas’. The Devadasis of south Indian temples and the erotic sculptures at Ajanta-Ellora are well known. Not so the amorous sagas of ancient Vaishali and Magadh in this vast land of the Kamasutra. Bihar has had a rich line of modern historians from Ram Sharan Sharma to Vijay Thakur who have documented the life and spirit of those times.
From the Nirguna music form to the Dhrupad Gharana of Amta and Bettiah, Bihar has maintained its melody. Ustad Bismillah Khan, the Sehnaai Maestro, is from Dumraon in Bihar.
Bihar also has sites of eco-tourism at Bheembandh, The call of the wild in Valmiki Tiger Reserve at Valmikinagar, the sight of birds nestling at the Kanwar Lake, The dalliance of colours with mythology and tradition on mud walls and canvases of Mithila painters, the surprise element of legends with little-known destination in Bihar offers each of these in plenty. And much more.
The state’s vast and varied Diaspora in the United States narrate stories of how Yoga gurus have marketed themselves overseas with their mad scramble to patent sundry ‘asanaas’. What a pity, spending princely sums for instant deliverance from the pains of the body.
If you are looking for a Yoga school, take the next flight to India, then to Patna and then take a train to Jamalpur. Twenty minutes by road from there, you will reach Munger which is the only Yoga university in the world.
The historic fort city by the Ganga beckons those seeking health in a peaceful retreat.
The state is festivity unbound. Festivals are celebrated with gaiety right through the year. In recent times, with the outward expansion of the Bihari diaspora, Chhath, the festival dedicated to Sun God, has found its way to the seashores of even Mumbai.
The tradition of Sama – Chakeba, where young girls make dolls of mud and straw and sing and dance in the early winter evenings. The joyful song-dance while women plant paddy saplings at the break of the monsoon, the banter of wedding songs, all these have helped keep life in Bihar in old world’s innocent bliss. You just cannot miss the love in the air. It reflects on the hospitality too. The traditional ‘Hori’ from Bhojpur also very famous in Bihar.
If you are looking some different sweets to eat which is both sweet and salty, is awesome. First the sweet nothing – Patna’s ‘Anarsa’, Gaya’s ‘Tilkut’, Silao’s ‘Khaja’, Maner’s ‘Laddoo’, Imarti and Lai. Not for nothing do Biharis vouch for their sweet delicacies. Bite into these sweets and you will discover how Biharis are such sweet people and the state such a sweet land.
You also try out ‘Makhanas’ in Darbhanga and Madhubani with sugar a fine snack, and stirred into ‘Kheer’ with milk, an Aha dessert.
If you wish for some take away fares, buy ‘Chura’ or flattened rice of the Katarni Variety from Bhagalpur or the Marcha ‘Chura’ from Champaran and savour them with sugarcane jaggery.
A very famous cuisine of Bihar is ‘Litti Chokha’ it’s attached with Bihar. ‘Litti’ a wheat flour roll with a filling of gram flour and spices roasted over slow cow dung fire, is a meal any Trueblood Bihari goes miles to eat. Served with ‘Chokha’ or mashed potatoes/ brinjals with coriander, green chillies, garlic and onions baked over the slow fire.
If you are non-vegetarians thus ‘litti’ with mutton curry is another favourite combination.
‘littis’ are popular both as street food and also as delicacies served at upmarket parties, talking of street food, almost every place boasts of some special cuisine.
Bihar is only the state which counts in each and every sector, from corporate Badshah to captains of industry and bureaucracy, you will find Biharis all across the globe – From the World Bank to NASA, from the micro-specialist surgeon to the academic in your neighbourhood university and writers. Just cross check with any at random you will know we are not spinning a yarn here.
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