I am happy to talk about my own state of Bihar. The more I learn about this state, the more I fall in love with it. The history of this great state to Bihar is essentially the history of ancient India. Its capital, Patna (ancient Patliputra) built by Ajatashatru in 490 B.C. as a small fort later became the capital of Magadha that stretched from Eastern India to Afghanistan. It was from here that the mighty Indian empires such as the Nandas, Mauryans, Sungas, Guptas and Palas used Patliputra as their capital. During the reign of famous Indian king called “Ashoka the Great”, the city became one of the biggest cities of the world. It was the Afghan king, Sher Shah Suri who made Patliputra the capital of his empire and changed its name to what is called “Patna” today.
Bihar is well known as the land of monasteries, which is well evident from its name itself, which is derivation of the word “Vihara”. The serendipity of the state offers a pleasant escape from the humdrum monotony of city life. The temples, monasteries, mosques, and mausoleums of Bihar boast of a great historic past, which are related to the all major religions of India like Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism Sikhism and Islam. The holy river Ganga flows wide and deep through the enriched plains of Bihar, and passes through the middle of the state from west to east. The other important rivers of the state are Kosi and Gandak which flow from the north, and river Sone which flows from the south join the Ganga.
The crowning glory of the state is its cherished linkage to the ‘Light of Asia’ Lord Buddha. The state boasts of special tourist attraction known as the Buddhist circuit, which is linked to the trail of the pilgrimage undertaken by Lord Buddha. The special circuit begins at Patna, the capital city, where you can view the exclusive Buddhist sculptures and the terracotta urns that contains ashes of Lord Lord Buddha at Patna museum. The trail then passes through Vaishali, Nalanda, Rajgir, Hills of Gridhrakuta and finally Bodh Gaya. All these places have special connection to the life of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira.
Places of historical and religious significance in Bihar
Vaishali hosts the ruins of the location where the second Buddhist council took place. It used to be the capital of Licchavis, the world’s first republics. It is here that Mahavira was born and brought up hence making it an important pilgrimage site for the followers of Jainism. Buddha too visited Vaishali where he stayed and preached. Some of the places to visit in Vaishali include Relic stupa, Kutagarasala Vihara (monastery where Buddha stayed), World Peace Pagoda (a Japanese stupa) and a museum operated by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Nalanda boasts of the splendor of the world’s first university. This is the special place where Lord Buddha himself had imparted his teaching. The famous Chinese traveler and Buddhist pilgrim, Hieun Tsang was enrolled as a student in this university. During its height its popularity, this place of learning attracted scholars and students from as far away as Tibet, China, Greece, and Persia. It was in 1193 when Turkish invader “Bakhtiyar Khilji” ransacked and burnt this university, burnt the surrounding monasteries and killed its scholars. It is said the library was so vast that it continued to burn for 3 months. One of my favorites places in Bihar and highly recommended. The ruins of the university is a popular tourist attraction.
Rajgir is the place where Lord Buddha spent his first 5 years after attaining enlightenment or nirvana. According to the scriptures, the first of the 6 Buddhist councils was held in Rajgir soon after the nirvana of Lord Buddha. Some of the places to visit in Rajgir include Vulture’s Peak here Buddha happened to sit, Pipphali Cava, Venuvana Monastery, Bimbisara’s jail (Bimbisara was the first king to convert to Buddhism) and Jarasandha’s Akhara. One just cannot miss Rajgir when visiting Bihar.
The hills of Grdhrakuta in Rajgir is esteemed place where Lord Buddha delivered many of his sermons. Buddhists from all over the world visit these hills.
Bodh Gaya is host to the Mahabodi Temple which marks the exact location where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. A visit to Bihar will not be complete without a visit to Bodh Gaya. It is here in Bodh Gaya where Buddha achieved Nirvana (enlightment). The famous Mahabodhi Temple is the spot where Buddha used to medicate. There is a tree called the “Bodhi tree” that marks the exact spot where he attained englightment. This scared fig tree where Buddha used to sit under, many believe is the direct descendant planted in 288 B.C.
Situated close to Bodh Gaya is the “city of Gaya” situated on the Falgu River that happens to be a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus. It is thought that Lord Vishnu killed the demon Gayasur. Many Hindus perform the Shraddha or the final rites of the dead to remove the sins of their ancestors. Popular place to visit in Gaya would be the Vishnupad Mandir. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu placed his right foot on Gayasura the demon’s head and he was pushed in the ground. The temple stands on the exact spot.
Bodh Gaya can be reached by train from Patna and Varanasi. The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation provides tours to this site.
Kesariya is the site of a stupa built by the King Ashoka. It is the highest Stupa found in the country with a height of about 104 feet from the base.
Another major attraction of the state is Pawapuri, also known as Apapuri, situated 101 kilometers from Patna. The final Tirthankar and founder of Jainism, Mahavira, who breathed his last in the place, have been cremated here. The Jalmandir is built in middle of a water tank, which was created by removal of Mahavira ashes from the spot. Samosharan is another famous Jain Temple situated in the city.
The state also boasts of Ramayan Trial, Sufi Trial in addition to the above mentioned most sought after Buddhist trail.
Anyone who plans on visiting Bihar, normally, will start from Patna. Patna is not only the capital city of Bihar, but also a place of great tourist attraction, which is visited by nearly 3 million people every year. Patna is one of those few places on this planet that have been continuously inhabited for more than three millennia.
If you are in Patna, then don’t miss visiting the Hanuman Mandir, Agan Kuan, Akal Takhat, ruins of Kumhrar, Didarganj Yakshi temple, Padri Ki Haveli, Patna Museum, Planetarium and the Golghar. For tourists interested in history and books, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, situated on the banks of Ganga in Patna, offers a unique repository of about 21000 Oriental manuscripts and 250,000 printed books of immense historical and intellectual value.
Apart from the religious and political attraction, Bihar has great eco trails to its credit
Kakolat waterfall in Gobindpur, 30 km from Nawada, is a place of panoramic scenic beauty, surrounded by green forests and nature at its best. The falls, which is nearly 160 feet high from ground level, cascades into a natural reservoir situated below it. The best time to visit this place would be when the fair is held here on the occasion of Bishua.
Bhimbandh wildlife sanctuary is another important place to visit when you are in Bihar. Situated at a distance of 56 km from Munger, 20 km from Jamui Railway Station and 200 km from Patna Airport, these forests cover an area of nearly 700 km on the rising and falling tract of Kharagpur Hills.
Bordered by the River Ganga, amazingly, this forest area is surrounded by densely populated towns and villages. A host of animals such as Tiger, Leopards, Sloth Bear, Nilgai, Sambhar, Barking deer, Wild Bear, or a four horned Antelope can be seen by a lucky tourist in this wildlife sanctuary.
Another attraction of the place is the hot springs, which surprisingly maintain a constant temperature (52° C to 65° C) all year around.
Places to look around nearby the sanctuary are Rishikund, HaHa Punch Kumari, Rameshwar Kund, Kharagpur Lake and Sringrishi. Staying there is not a big deal as there are tourist lodges and forest rest houses that offer accommodation facilities to tourists in the middle of the forest.
Bihar also hosts the largest cattle fair in Asia known as the Sonepur Mela is held in the month of October/November. The central draw of the fair is cattle trade. All species of birds, poultry, bovines and beasts of burden including elephants, are marketed here.
Bihar is a state that welcomes all tourists, no matter what they are looking for, for in its bosom it holds all the diverse attractions a tourist desires for.
You can learn more about the state of Bihar from my own forum on Bihar or on this site dedicated to Bihar. Anyone interested in history of India cannot miss Bihar in their travels to India. Similarly any Buddhist or a student of Buddhism must visit Bihar.
Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (A Government of Bihar Undertaking) that provides tours to many of the holy sites in Bihar.
Phone: +91-612-2225411, Fax: +91-612-2506218.
Web Site: http://bstdc.bih.nic.in
Bir Chand Patel Path, Patna. PIN-800 001. Bihar, India
— bihar (@bihar) October 9, 2012