Bihar, an eastern Indian state and the place that gave birth to Buddhism and Jainism and helped in the growth of Sikhism and Hinduism, has a past that is unmatched anywhere in the world. It was the center of first republic in the world at Vaishali and the city of Patliputra was largest and grandest in the world at the height of its glory. Even today, the state is the largest mineral producing region in India and contributes immensely in national wealth creation. There is an array of tourist destinations of diverse interests in the state, though their potential has not been exploited fully till now. The state that represents every thing good and bad within the country is waiting to be explored and rediscovered.
Bihar is located in the eastern region of India, bordering Nepal in the North, West Bengal in the east, Uttar Pradesh in the West, and Madhya Pradesh and Orissa in the South. Bihar lies between the latitudes 21°58' and 27°31' North and longitudes 83°19' and 88°17' east.
Bihar can be divided into three distinct regions i.e. the north Gangetic plains, Central Bihar, and South Bihar plateau. The North Gangetic plain is an extension of the Terai region of Nepal with many tributaries of the Ganges like Kosi, Gandak, Baghmati, and Kamla Balan flowing through it. It is a flood prone region and one of the most backward regions in the country. Central Bihar, south of the Ganges, is a region with rich agricultural resources. The South Bihar plateau is the largest mineral-producing region in the country with some of the best-known industries in the country like TISCO, TELCO, Bokaro Steel Plant, and Heavy Engineering Corporation having their base here. Most of the north and central Bihar is plain has no significant elevation.
The early history of Bihar is lost as the major events and happenings were not documented but with the advent of Jain and Buddhist texts documentation of events began. And from these texts we get to know about the sixteen Mahajanapadas that flourished during the 6th century BC. Vaishali, Anga, Rajgriha, Pataliputra, Nalanda, and Mithila are just a few of the places in Bihar that knit the history of ancient India.
Vaishali in northern Bihar, the center of the Lichchavi kingdom is rated as the most ancient and credited as the world's first republic. It got its aura of sanctity with the birth of Lord Mahavira here. This was also the favorite resting place of Lord Buddha and he preached his last sermon here, which was later commemorated by a lion capital erected by King Ashoka. The legends of the courtesan Ambapali's exquisite beauty added to the glory and charm of Vaishali.
By the fifth century BC, the focus of history shifted to Magadh with its capital at Rajgriha (seen as the first recorded capital in Indian history), and later Pataliputra. Rajgriha witnessed the first Buddhist Council and the conversion of the Mauryan king Bimbisara to Buddhism. During the last days of the Buddha, the political masters thought of shifting their capital from Rajgriha to Pataliputra, which gradually became the pride of Asia and subsequently the capital to the great empires of Nandas, Mauryas, Sungas and Guptas. It was here that Megasthenes spent most of his time as an Ambassador of his Syrian king Seleukos Nikator.
During the medieval period, except for the brief twinkle of Sher Shah's reign who rose from his base in Bihar to the sultanate of Delhi that ruled over the entire country, the province of Bihar rarely enjoyed the status of an independent state; rather it swayed with the fortunes of Delhi, Jaunpur and Bengal. Various sultans of Delhi and later the Mughals, as well as emperors and princes, criss-crossed Bihar in order to crush the rebellions in distant Bengal.
Much later, Babur, in pursuit of the Lodhis, came as far as Bihar. Babur's death brought Humayun to the throne of Delhi and he had a hard time fighting his Afghan adversary from Bihar, Sher Shah. Most of their decisive battles were fought in and around Bihar. Sher Shah was more than a match for Humayun and gradually he paved his way to the throne of Delhi. During his brief reign of five years, Sher Shah proved himself to be one of the greatest rulers of medieval India.
After the coming of the British to India, Bihar again played an important role in deciding the future course of the country and Buxar became the place where the final battle for supremacy in north India was fought between the East India Company and the combined forces of the Mughals, and Nawabs of Bengal and Awadh in 1764.
Bihar was part of the Bengal presidency till 1911, when a separate province comprising Bihar and Orissa was created. In 1936, Bihar was made an independent province.
Apart from the documented history, Bihar finds mention in the legends and tales related to the Ramayan. It is believed that the Goddess Sita, the wife of Lord Ram, was born in Mithila to King Janak, the ruler of the region.