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Bihar - Overview
Bihar-SecretariatWhen you will ask someone about the northern state of Bihar and its tourist attractions, most probably he will explain the state more as a pilgrimage destination rather than as a common tourist destination. Of course, religious centres of Bihar attract pilgrims from all over the world, but the state also houses several other attractions in form of historical and cultural sites. These draw holidayers from far and wide. Apart from these, the folk art of the state is also renowned all over the country.

Spreading over an area of 94,164 sq. kms, the state has a population of 82,878,796 and 37 districts. Bihar is bordered by the Kingdom of Nepal to the north and Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the west, West Bengal to the east and Jharkhand to the south. Geographically, Bihar is a vast stretch of fertile plains and rivers like Ganga, Kosi, Son, Bagmati, Budhi Gandak, Falgu flow through the state. Culturally, the state of Bihar is a part of the Hindi heartland of India and most of the people speak Hindi. Urdu, Angika, Bhojpuri, Magadhi and Maithali are other languages spoken by the people of Bihar.

Take a trip to Bihar this vacation. Although that state doesn't offer much in the form of adventure, wildlife and many other tourism aspects, but its monasteries, temples and ancient monuments are quite enough to make your vacation a memorable experience. Beside, the friendly people of Bihar will surely impress you with their lively nature and warm hospitality.
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Bihar - History
The state of Bihar boasts of a rich history, broadly it can be divided into Ancient, Medieval and Modern period.

Ancient Period : During the ancient times, Bihar was called Magadha. Pataliputra, now Patna, was the centre of the Mauryan Dynasty. Mauryans dominated the Indian subcontinent from 325 B.C to 185 B.C and Emperor Ashoka was their prominent ruler. For next one thousand years, Bihar remained an important centre of power, culture and education. The Vikramshila and Nalanda Universities, were among the best centres of education in ancient India but they were destroyed in the wars of medieval period. From 185 B.C to 80 A.D, Bihar was ruled by Sunga Dynasty, from 80 A.D to 240 A.D by regional king, from 240 A.D to 640 A.D by Gupta Dynasty, from 600 A.D to 650 A.D by Harsha Vardhana and 750 A.D to 1200 A.D by Pala Dynasty.

Medieval Period : In the 12th century, Muhammed Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji a pashtun and a General of Muhammed Ghori captured Bihar. From here, the decline of the intellectual and spiritual legacy of Bihar started and many of the Viharas along with Nalanda and Vikramshila Universities were demolished in this period. Next, Bihar saw a short period of glory for six years, during the rule of Sher Shah Suri, who was a pasthun from Sasaram. Sher Shah Suri constructed the Grand Trunk Road, the longest road of the Indian subcontinent, which begins from Sonargaon in Bangladesh and ends at Peshawar in Pakistan. During 1557-1576, the Mughal emperor, Akbar, annexed the regions Bihar and Bengal to his empire. Further, with the decline of Mughal Dynasty, Bihar came under the control of the Nawabs of Bengal.

Modern Period : After the famous Battle of Buxar in 1765, the British East India Company obtained the diwani rights for Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. From here onwards, Bihar remained a part of the Bengal Presidency of the British until 1912, when Bihar was carved out as a separate province. In the year 1935, some portions of Bihar were once again reorganized into the separate province of Orissa. In 2000, 18 administrative districts of Bihar state were separated to form the new state of Jharkhand.

Bihar - Tourist Destinations
Bihar has occupied a mentionable place in the tourist map of India and it houses a number of tourist destinations which attract both tourists as well as pilgrims. State capital, Patna itself is a popular tourist destination, besides, it is also an ideal base for visiting almost all the destinations of Bihar. Tourist Destinations in Bihar have been broadly divided into three distinct circuits namely - Tirthankar Circuit, Buddhist Circuit and Nirvana Circuit. Tirthankar Circuit includes the capital city Patna and important destinations such as Vaishali, Rajgir, Pawapuri and Deoghar. Buddhist Circuit consists of Patna, Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Rajgir and Vaishali. Nirvana Circuit comprises Patna, Rajgir, Kushinagar, Bodhgaya, Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and Nalanda.

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Bihar - Temples
Apart from having an extremely rich cultural background, Bihar also boasts of a glorious religious heritage. In ancient past, Bihar was the seat of Buddhist learning, evidences are still present in the form of temples and monasteries at Gaya and nearby areas. In addition to Buddhist temples, Bihar also has a number of Hindu and Jain temples.

Some of the noted temples that you should visit during your visit to the state of Bihar are Bodhi Temple (Gaya), Maha Bodhi Temple (Gaya), Bodhgaya Temple (Gaya), Parasnath Temple, Bari Patan Devi Temple (Patna), Aranya Devi Temple (Patna), Chaubishi Jain Mandir (Patna), Jalamandir (Patna), Ajgaivinath Temple (Deoghar), Chutia Temple (Chota Nagpur), Durga Temple, Mandar Hill Temple, Kurkihar Temple, Hariharnath Temple, Mundesvari Temple, Vaishali Temple and Masarah Temple.

Bihar - People & Culture
Culture of BiharPeople of Bihar are lively and friendly in nature, they heartily welcome the guests visiting the state. Bihar is inhabited by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and people of the several other religions. Although the religious boundaries virtually separate the people of Bihar, but their way of living is quite common. Besides, the cultural links also connect the people of the state together.

From cultural aspect, Bihar consists of four main regions such as Bhojpur, Mithila, Magadha and Chotanagpur. Bihar has an age-old tradition of folk songs and dance forms that are presented during important occasions such as marriage ceremony, birth ceremony, fairs and festivals etc. During the Holi festival, people of the state sing lively Holi songs known as 'Phaguna songs', which are full of fun and enjoyment. Amongst the folk dance forms, some of the popular forms are Dhobi Nach, Gond Nach, Jhumar Nach, Manjhi Nach, Jitiya Nach, More Morni Nach, Gond Nach and Natua Nach.

Bihar is also known all over the world for its unique art forms like Manjusha Kala or Angika Art of Anga region, Madhubani Art of Mithila region and Patna Kalam of Magadh region. Theatre is another medium, through which the people of Bihar express their culture. Some noted forms of theatre include Bahura-Gorin, Bihula-Bisahari, Dom Kach, Raja Salhesh, Reshma-Chuharmal and Sama Chakeva.

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Bihar - Cuisine
Most of the people in Bihar are vegetarian, however, a significant population of the state are traditional meat eaters too. Rice, dal (lentils), roti (wheat-bread), vegetables and achar (pickles) are staple food of Bihar. Apart from these, mutton, chicken and other types birds and fowls are also liked by the people of Bihar.

Some of the specialties of Bihar include Khichdi (a broth of rice and lentils seasoned with spices), Chitba, Pitthow, Tilba, Chuda, Litti, Makhana and Sattu.

Bihar is also home to a big Muslim population, so you will find the touch of 'Islamic culture and food' in the state. Famous Muslim delicacies are Bihari Kabab, Shami Kabab, Nargisi Kofta, Shabdeg, Mutton Biryani, Yakhnee Biryani etc. In addition to these, you can also savour a wide variety of sweet delicacies in Bihar, such as Kala Jamun, Khaja, Khurma, Khubi ka Lai, Motichoor ka Ladoo, Kesaria Peda, Anarasa, Belgrami, Chena Murki, Murabba, Tilkut, Pua and Mal Pua.

Bihar - Fairs and Festivals
People of Bihar celebrate several fairs and festival all through the year. Most of the fairs and festivals of the state have their link with a particular religion or region. Chhath, also called the Kartik Chhath- is a major festival in Bihar, celebrated every year around a week after Deepawali. Chhath is celebrated to worship the Sun God during which the ritual bathing take place twice, once in the evening and once in the morning, usually on the banks of rivers or a large water body.

Deepawali is another major festival of Bihar, which is celebrated to commemorate the return of Lord Rama after the battle with the demon king Ravana. Durga Puja or Dussehra is celebrated by the Hindus of Bihar. Holi, Teej and Chitragupta are other important festivals celebrated with pomp and gaiety by the people of Bihar. Bihula-Bishari Puja of Anga region is another popular festival. Apart from these, several other festival are also celebrated in Bihar such as Makar Sankranti, Saraswati Puja, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Muharram, Ram Navami, Raksha Bandhan, Maha Shivratari, Christmas, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima etc.

Amongst the fairs, the Sonepur cattle fair is most popular fair of Bihar and is considered the biggest cattle fair in Asia. The Sonepur fair is one month long event, held every year approximately one month after Deepawali on the banks of the Sone river in Sonepur town. Another important fair is Sharvani Mela held along a 108 km route linking the towns of Sultangang and Deoghar.

An annual affair, Sharvani Mela is organized in the Hindu month of Shravan that is the lunar month of July - August. During the mela, pilgrims (kanwarias) wear saffron colour clothes and collect water from a sacred river bank (Ghat) at Sultanganj. Thereafter, they walk barefooted to Deoghar to bathe a sacred Shiva Linga.

Bihar - Shopping
Bodhi Temple - GayaShopping is an important part of your trip to Bihar because the state offers a variety of items which you can take along as souvenir. If you are a discerning shopper and aware about what to buy and where, then shopping in Bihar can be a delightful experience for you. In state capital, Patna, there are a number of Government Emporia and private shops which offer local handicrafts, handloom products and other daily-usage products. Maurya Lok Complex, Hathua Market and Patna Market are some of the famous shopping centres in Patna. Along with the fixed shops, street-side vendors also offer excellent items at reasonable prices.

Bihar is known all over the world for Madhubani School of painting which is extremely beautiful handicraft. A school of folk painting, Madhubani School is carried over by women from generation and generation. Madhubani paintings usually illustrate various mythological themes, bases on the images of local deities and Hindu gods and goddesses.

Other items which you can try in Bihar include Stone and bead-jewellery, Hand-painted wall hangings, Miniatures in paper and leaves, Appliqué work on fabric, Stone pottery, Bamboo and cane work, Wooden stools, Leather goods and a special kind of sweet called 'Tilkut'.

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Climate
The climate of Bihar is somehow tropical in nature, the summers are hot and humid while the winters are cold. November to January are winter months, when the weather remains mildly cold and temperature drops to a minimum of 5oC and 10oC. April to June are hot months and the temperature soars to a maximum of 45oC. Monsoon reaches the state in late June and remains till September.

Best Time to Visit
October to March is the best time to visit Bihar.

Bihar - Transportation
Airlines : Bihar has three airports namely - Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Airport (Patna), Bhagalpur Airport and Gaya Airport. Patna airport is the main airport of the state, which is connected to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Lucknow and Ranchi. Patna airport has been categorized as a restricted international airport, with customs facilities to receive international chartered flights. Gaya airport is a small international airport and it has flights from Colombo and Bangkok.

Railways : Most of the towns in Bihar are well-connected by railway lines with rest of the country. Patna, Bhagalpur, Barauni, Gaya and Katihar are major railway stations of the state. These stations are connected by several mail and express trains with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and important places of the country.

Roadways : A vast network of National and State Highways interlink various places of Bihar and also connect the state with neighbouring states and rest of the country. The state capital, Patna has buses for almost all towns of Bihar. If you are coming to Bihar for Buddhist pilgrimage, the best option for you is to reach Patna first by air or train and then travel to Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir and Vaishali.

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