Bihar: A Profile

Bihar, the ancient land of Buddha, has witnessed golden period of Indian history.

Bihar History

Bihar, the ancient land of Buddha, has witnessed golden period of Indian history. It is the same land where the seeds of the first republic were sown and which cultivated the first crop of democracy. The name is derived from Vihar, the Buddhist term for monastery. Earliest myths and legends of Hinduism, the Sanatana (Eternal) Dharma - are associated with Bihar. Sita, the consort of Lord Rama, was a princess of Bihar. She was the daughter of King Janak of Videha. The present districts of Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Madhubani, and Darbhanga, in north-central Bihar, mark this ancient kingdom. It was here that Prince Gautam attained enlightenment, became the Buddha- at the present Bodh Gaya- a town in central Bihar; and the great religion of Buddhism was born. It is here also that Lord Mahavira, the founder of another great religion, Jainism, was born and attained nirvana (death). The ancient kingdoms of Magadh and of Licchavis, around about 7-8th century B.C., produced rulers who devised a system of administration that truly is progenitor of the modern art of statecraft. Kautilya, the author of Arthashastra, the first treatise of the modern science of Economics, lived here. Also known as Chanakya, he was the wily and canny adviser to the Magadh king, Chandragupta Maurya.


Bihar is the 12th largest state in the country in area and 3rd largest in terms of population. Innumerable cultures and religions originated from this place. It is divided into two natural regions viz., North Bihar Plain and South Bihar Plain. The total area of the State is 94,163.00 sq. kms. Out of this, only 56.03 lakh hectare is the net cultivated area while the gross cultivated area is 79.46 lakh hectare. The total population of the state is 82 million and it covers an area of 173,877 sq km. The main languages spoken are Hindi, Maithili, Bhojpuri and Urdu. The state is divided into 40 constituencies. Patna is the capital of Bihar. It was once Capital of the Mighty Magadh Empire. Patna was known in ancient times as Pataliputra, Pataligrama, Pushp Pur, Kusumpur and Azimabad etc. Bihar is well known for the hub of technical brains, paradise for the intellect, and center for learning religious values & cultural ethics since ancient times.


The State of Bihar was reorganised on November 15, 2000 with 38 districts of undivided Bihar. It lies mid-way between West Bengal in the east and Uttar Pradesh in the west. It is bounded by Nepal in the North and by Jharkhand in the south. The state has several rivers such as Ganga, Sone, Bagmati, Kosi, Budhi Gandak, Punpun, etc. Forty-one per cent of cultivated area is flood prone and another forty per cent is drought prone.

The economy of Bihar is predominantly rural in as much as 89.50 per cent population is living in rural areas as against 74.30 per cent for the country. The literate people in the State constitute 47.53 per cent of the population. As much as 42.60 per cent of population is still living below poverty line in the State, as compared to only 26.10 per cent at all-India level.


The people of Bihar can be generally categorized as largely non-tribals with some sprinkling of tribal people. The hallmark of the Biharis is a rustic simplicity with intrinsic humility coupled with enormous self-respect. They are traditionally very hospitable to strangers. Hindi is by far the most common language of the state, understood by all. There is a significant number of Bengali speaking people also. They are descendants of the settlers from the old British Presidency of Bengal. English is the language of commerce and is spoken by the educated masses. In addition people speak many dialects in different regions. The major dialects are: Bhojpuri, Magahi and Maithili.


Bihar is located in the eastern part of the country (between 83°-30` to 88°-00` longitude). It is an entirely land–locked state, although the outlet to the sea through the port of Kolkata is not far away. Bihar lies mid-way between the humid West Bengal in the east and the sub humid Uttar Pradesh in the west which provides it with a transitional position in respect of climate, economy and culture. Bihar is mainly a vast stretch of very fertile flat land. It has several rivers namely Ganga, Son, Bagmati, Kosi, Budhi Gandak, and Falgu. Central parts of Bihar have some small hills, for example the Rajgir hills. The Himalayan Mountains are to the north of Bihar, in Nepal. To the south is the Chota Nagpur plateau, which was part of Bihar until 2000 but now is part of a separate It is bounded by Nepal in the north and by Jharkhand in the south. The Bihar plain is divided into two unequal halves by the river Ganga which flows through the middle from west to east.

Demographic division

The community wise break up of the state comprises 15% Muslims, 16% Scheduled Castes, 11% Ahirs/Yadavs and Brahmins, Kurmis, Rajputs and Koeris are around 5% each. Other communities like Kumhars, Kahars, Kandus and Kayasthas are under 2% each. Of the Scheduled Castes, Chamars are around 5%, Dosadhs 5% and Musahars 3%. Amongst Scheduled Tribes, Santhals are around 4%, Oraons are 2%, Mundas are 1.5% and Hos are 1% dominant.

Culture and Tourism

The `Bihari` culture can be divided into four geographical regions, namely- Angika Culture, Bhojpuri Culture, Maithili Culture and Magahi Culture. Since most of the people are Hindu, traditional festivals like Holi, Saraswati Puja, Durga Puja or Dussehra, Deepwali and Bhaiya Dooj are all celebrated. But Chaath dedicated to Sun God is one festival that is unique to the place.

Bihar has a very old tradition of beautiful folk songs sung during important family occasions such as marriage, birth ceremonies. Bihar also has a tradition of lively Holi songs known as Phagua filled with fun rhythms.

The state has also produced many Hindi writers like Raja Radhika Raman Singh, Shiva Pujan Sahay, Divakar Prasad Vidyarthy, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Ram Briksha Benipuri, Phanishwar Nath Renu and Baba Nagarjun.

Important places of tourist interest are Rajgir (pilgrim place for the Buddhists), Bodh Gaya (most sacred place for Buddhists), Gaya, (center of pilgrimage for Hindus), Nalanda (ruins of the world`s earliest Buddhist University) and Vaishali (the seat of the first republic of the world in the sixth century BC). Also, of Ashoka`s monolithic pillars, the finest perhaps is the lion crowned pillar at Lauriya Nandangarh in West Champaran, which consists of a polished block of sandstone. Two other inscribed pillars are found at Rampurwa and Lauriya Areraj (with a lion capital) in East Champaran, and a fourth at Basarh (Vaishali). All four were set up on the imperial road from Pataliputra to Nepal.

Other places of tourist interest in Bihar include Bhimbandh, famous for hot springs; Maner, a sacred Muslim shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Makhdoom Shah; Vikramshila, the ruins of a Buddhist University; and Sasaram, the site of the tomb of Afghan emperor Sher Shah Suri.

Patna Qalam and Mithila paintings are two of the most impressive and popular crafts of Bihar. The style is famous for its soft colors and the use of hand made paper or mica sheets. Most of these paintings depict the day-to-day life of the people of Bihar.

Besides usual rural handicrafts like hand-painted wall hangings, wooden stools, miniatures in paper and leaves, stone pottery, bamboo, leather goods and appliqué work, Bihar is famous for its Madhubani paintings. These works of art often adorn city homes and are also exported.

Jat-Jatin Dance of the Mithila region is performed by the lower castes where one person performs the role of Jat (the husband) and Jatin (the wife) wearing masks and goes through the story of their life.

Bihar still has a lot to offer as it the land of the magnificent Ganges, lush green plains, beautiful flora and fauna, attractive tourist destinations like the world famous ancient seats of learning like Nalanda and Vikaramshila, marvelous Madhubani Paintings (Mithila Arts), enchanting Sujuni work, gorgeous Bhagalpuri Silk, rich mineral resources, the world famous delicious litchi (lychee) and mangoes, and much more.


The cuisine of the state is an interesting mix of North and East Indian cuisine. Rice, pulses, and roti are the most common food consumed by the people of this state. One exclusive item of this state is Sattu (gram powder), commonly taken as a mixture with water, salt, and limejuice. A favorite breakfast all over the state is Chura-Dahi (flattened rice and curd) taken together with sugar or jaggery. The influence of Bengal is evident in the way large quantities of fish are consumed in the state. There are several specialty sweets that are made all over the state for special occasions. Khaja, tilkut, anarsa and thekuwa are some of the preparations that form a part of every sweet-toothed Bihari`s dreams.


The economy of Bihar is largely service oriented, but it also has a significant agricultural base. The soil of Bihar is extremely fertile which makes it ideal for agriculture. Bihar is the first largest producer of vegetables and second largest producer of fruits in the country. Production of maize, sugarcane, litchi, makhana, mango, vegetables, and aromatic rice is also carried out. Bihar is the largest producer of honey in the country. Bihar has significant levels of production for the products of mango, guava, litchi, pineapple, brinjal, cauliflower, bhindi, and cabbage in India.

The major agro based industries of Bihar are of rice, sugar and edible oil. The state also has a small industrial sector. As of 2008, agriculture accounts for 35%, industry 9% and service 55% of the economy of the state.

Bihar has a number of major public sector projects like the Oil refinery of Indian Oil Corporation, economy manufacturing plant of Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation Ltd (HPCL) at Barauni, and Pyrites, Phosphates and Chemicals Ltd (PPCL) at Amjhor. Cotton spinning mills at Siwan, Pandaul, Bhagalpur, Mokamah and Gaya; 13 sugar mills in private sector and 15 in public sector located in South and North Bihar; distilleries at Gopalganj, West Champaran, Bhagalpur and Riga; finish leather industry in West Champaran, Muzaffarpur and Barauni; Jute mills at Samastipur and Katihar; medicine manufacturing unit at Hajipur; Food processing units and Vansapati manufacturing units at Aurangabad and Patna; Kalyanpur Cement Ltd at Banjari are some of the notable industries in Bihar.

Despite the states leading role in food production, investment in irrigation and other agriculture facilities has been inadequate in the past. Until the mid fifties, 25% of India`s sugar output was from Bihar. Dalmianagar was a large agro - industrial town.

There have been attempts to industrialize the state between 1950 and 1980: an oil refinery in Barauni, a motor scooter plant at Fatuha, and a power plant at Muzaffarpur. However, these were forced to shut down due to Central government policy which neutralized the strategic advantages of Bihar. Hajipur, near Patna, remains a major industrial town in the state, linked to the capital city through the Ganga bridge and good road infrastructure.


The constitutional head of the Government of Bihar is the Governor, who is appointed by the President of India. Devanand Konwar is the current Governor of Bihar.
The real executive power rests with the Chief Minister and the cabinet. The political party or the coalition of political parties having a majority in the Legislative Assembly forms the Government. It has a bicameral legislature. The members of the Legislative council are partially nominated and partially elected.

The first Chief Minister of Bihar was Sri Krishna Singh & first Deputy Chief Minister was Dr Anugrah Narain Sinha. Two regional parties - the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal United (JDU) - dominate the political landscape in the state. Both have links with the country`s main political parties, the RJD with Congress, and the JDU with the BJP.

Nitish Kumar had led the JDU-BJP coalition to victory in the last election in 2005, ending the RJD rule during which Bihar had become a synonym for backwardness, especially in later years when Lalu Prasad Yadav anointed his wife Rabri Devi as Chief Minister. Nitish had fought on the plank of development and the electorate`s anger against Lalu Yadav had helped him win the election. Five years after his victory, the image of Bihar as a lawless state seems to be changing.

The Naxalites` abduction of four policemen last month and the killing of one of them, indicated the helplessness of the administration and that all is still not well in the State where 31 out of 38 districts are Maoist-infested. The Election commission has sounded the bugle for Assembly elections and for the next two months, all eyes will be on Bihar as one of the most interesting political battles will be fought in the state.

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