Bihar

Bihar is one of the major states of the Indian Union. Many ancient civilisations in the world have evolved around magnificent rivers, but very few rivers in the world have moulded the culture, economy and personality of the people evolving on their banks as the great river Ganga. Cutting straight across Bihar from west to east, the bounteous Ganga had rendered the region so fertile and plentiful, that its natural prosperity nurtured a great fountainhead of political and cultural civilisations down the millenia.

Ruins of Nalanda University

The ruins of Nalanda UniversityHere, kingdom after kingdom rose and fell, leaving their indelible mark on history. Rival kings fought legendary battles, devastating the land and the people. Yet, by some strange alchemy, the same land also saw the birth of some of the most gentle and progressive religious teachers like Buddha, Mahavira and Guru Gobind Singh.

Bihar is bound on the north by Nepal, on the east by West Bengal, on the west by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and on the south by Orissa.

The name 'Bihar' is derived from 'Vihara', meaning monastery. Bihar has been a great religious centre for Hindus, Jains and most importantly, the Buddhists. It was at Bodhgaya in Bihar, that the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree, and attained enlightenment. A descendant of the same tree, still flourishes in Bodhgaya today. Nalanda, which was a world - renowned Buddhist university in the 5th century AD, is also located in Bihar. Rajgir, a pilgrimage place for Buddhists and Pawapuri, where Lord Mahavira breathed his last, are near Nalanda.

Madhubani artist

A Madhubani artist

Other places of tourist interest in Bihar include Hazaribagh, a wildlife reserve, famous for its national park; Bhimbandh, famous for hot springs; Maner, a sacred Muslim shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Makhdoom Shah; Vikramshila, the ruins of a Buddhist university; Deoghar, famous for a Hindu shrine and Sasaram, the site of the tomb of Afghan emperor Sher Shah Suri .

Bihar boasts of an enviable wealth of rural handicrafts comprising of hand - painted wall hangings, wooden stools, miniatures in paper and leaves, stone pottery, bamboo and leather goods, and applique work. But Bihar's most famous and fascinating indigenous art forms, by far, are its Madhubani paintings. This art is a strict monopoly of the women of Mithila. Done in primary colours of natural origin on paper and cloth, they narrate mythological and religious events.

The principal foodgrains of Bihar are paddy, wheat, maize and pulses. Main cash crops include sugarcane, potato, tobacco, oilseeds, onion, chillies, jute and mesta.

The major industries of the state include steel, iron, heavy vehicles, aluminium, oil refining, railway wagons, copper smelting, cement and communication cables. Bihar is also very rich in minerals. The main minerals found in this state are coal, iron, copper, mica, pyrite, limestone, bauxite, and graphite.

Bodhgaya Pawapuri