Bihar is a state in northern India. It is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size at and 3rd largest by population. It is bounded by Uttar Pradesh to its west, Nepal to the north, Northern part of West Bengal to the east and by Jharkhand to the south. The Bihar plain is divided into two parts by the river Ganges which flows through the middle from west to east. Bihar has forest area of 6,764.14 km2, which is 7.2% of its geographical area. In 2000, Bihar was subdivided, the southern part becoming the state of Jharkhand. Close to 85% of the population lives in villages. Almost 58% of Biharis are below the age of 25, which is the highest proportion in India.
Ancient Bihar was a centre of power, learning and culture in ancient and classical India. From Magadha arose India's first and greatest empire, the Maurya empire as well as one of the world's most widely adhered-to religions, Buddhism. Magadha empires, notably under the Maurya and Gupta dynasties, unified large parts of South Asia under a central rule. Its capital Patna, earlier known as Pataliputra, was an important centre of Indian civilization. Close to Patna, Nalanda and Vikramshila were centres of learning established in the 5th and 8th century respectively in Bihar, and are counted as one of the oldest international universities of the time.
Since the late 1970s, Bihar lagged behind other Indian states in social and economic development terms. Economists and social scientists claimed that this is a direct result of the policies of the central government, such as the Freight equalization policy, its apathy towards Bihar, lack of Bihari sub-nationalism (resulting in no spokesperson for the state), and the Permanent Settlement of 1793 by the British East India Company. The state government has however made significant strides in developing the state. The improved governance has led to an economic revival in the state through increased investment in infrastructure, better health care facilities, greater emphasis on education, and a diminution in crime and corruption. Indian Global business and economic leaders feel that Bihar now has good opportunity to sustain its growth and thus they have shown interest in investing in the state. Additionally, for the period 2011–2012, Bihar was also India's fastest growing state, with a growth rate of 13.1% for the year 2011–12, which had followed a growth rate of 14.8% for the previous year. Bihar has managed to record 11.95% annual growth rate, the highest among all the states, during the 11th Plan period.
Indians of Bihari origins are commonly found in the Indian Diaspora, most notably in Mauritius where 64% of the population is of Bihari origins due to the massive influx of Indentured Labourers brought to the island by the British Administration at the end of the 19th Century
Different regions of Bihar like Magadha, Mithila, Anga, Vaishali are mentioned in different religious texts and epics of ancient India. The power centre of ancient Bihar was around the region of South-West Bihar called Magadha, which remained the centre of power, learning, and culture in India for 1000 years.
The Haryanka dynasty founded in 684BC ruled Magadha from the city of Rajgriha(modern Rajgir), two well known kings were Bimbisara and his son Ajatashatru who imprisoned his own father to get the throne. Ajatashatru founded the city of Patliputra as his new capital. He declared war and conquered Vajji another powerful Mahajanapada north of Ganges with their capital at Vaishali. Vaishali was ruled by Licchvi who had a republic form of government where king was elected from the number of rajas. Haryanka Dynasty was followed by Shishunaga dynasty and later Nanda Dynasty replaced them with a vast empire from Bengal to Punjab.
The Nanda Empire was replaced by Maurya Empire. India's first empire, the Maurya empire as well as Buddhism arose from the region that now makes up modern Bihar. The Mauryan empire, which originated from Magadha in 325 BC, was started by Chandragupta Maurya who was born in Magadha, and had its capital at Pataliputra (modern Patna). The Mauryan Emperor, who was born in Patliputra (Patna) is believed to be one of the greatest rulers in the history of India and the world.
Bihar remained an important place of culture and education during the next 1000 years. The Gupta Empire that originated from Magadha in 240 AD is referred to as the Golden Age of India in science, mathematics, astronomy, commerce, religion and Indian philosophy. During Gupta Rule, India was called the "Golden Bird". The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavours, as well as a very strong powerful global economy. Historians place the Gupta dynasty alongside the Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Roman Empire as a model of a classical civilisation. The capital of Gupta empire was Pataliputra, present day Patna. The Vikramshila and Nalanda universities were among the oldest and best centres of education in ancient India. Some writers believe the period between 400 AD and 1,000 AD saw gains by Hinduism at the expense of Buddhism. The Hindu kings gave many grants to the Buddhist monks for building Brahmaviharas. Bihar and Bengal was invaded by Rajendra Chola I of the Chola dynasty in the 11th century.
The Buddhism of Magadha was swept away by the invasion under Muhammad Bin Bakhtiar Khilji, during which many of the viharas and the famed universities of Nalanda and Vikramshila were destroyed, and thousands of Buddhist monks were massacred in 12th century. In 1540 the great Pathan of Bihar, Sher Shah Suri, from Sasaram, Bihar, took the reins of North-India. He was the first person who defeated the Mughals and army of Humayun, making Delhi as his capital. The Mughals had to leave India during his rule. Sher Shah is considered as one of the most progressive emperors during the Mughal era. He made several economic changes, infrastructural improvement, highways (the famous Grand Trunk road), establishment of the Rupiya (current Indian currency), and modern post offices, policing, community and free kitchens. The administrative reforms and social engineering ventures influenced the Mughal mindset of ruling in India under Akbar. Protocols of governance set by Sher Shah (Sher Khan) were to become the standard of governance, which along with exemplary management skills, influenced the future of the Mughal Empire, and were the impetus for Akbar to copy Sher Shah's model of administration, despite the fact that they were rivals.
In a freak accident, while cleaning a gun, Sher Shah was killed. His nephew Adil Shah Suri was named sultan, and appointed Hemu Vikramaditya as his prime minister and Army commander. Hemu fought and won twenty-two battles against Afghan rebels and Akbar's forces at Agra and Delhi. Hemu, who was given the title of 'Samrat' at Purana Quila, Delhi was then known as 'Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya'. Hemu lost his life while fighting 'Second Battle of Panipat' against Akbar on 7 November 1556. Between 1557 and 1576, Akbar, the Mughal emperor, annexed Bihar and Bengal.
The tenth and the last Guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna. After the Battle of Buxar (1764), the British East India Company obtained the diwani rights (rights to administer, and collect revenue or tax) for Bihar, Bengal and Odisha. The rich resources of fertile land, water and skilled labour had attracted the foreign imperialists, particularly the Dutch and British, in the 18th century. A number of Agrio based industries had been started in Bihar by the foreign entrepreneurs. Bihar remained a part of the Bengal Presidency of British India until 1912, when the province of Bihar and Orissa was carved out as a separate province. Since 2010, Bihar has celebrated its birthday as Bihar Diwas on 22 March. In 1935, certain portions of Bihar were reorganised into the separate province of Orissa.
Farmers in Champaran had revolted against indigo cultivation in 1914 (at Pipra) and 1916 (Turkaulia). In April 1917, Mahatma Gandhi visited Champaran, where Raj Kumar Shukla had drawn his attention to the exploitation of the peasants by European indigo planters. The Champaran Satyagraha that followed received support from many Bihari nationalists, such as Rajendra Prasad and Anugrah Narayan Sinha.
In the northern and central regions of Bihar, the Kisan Sabha (peasant movement) was an important consequence of the Freedom Movement. It began in 1929 under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati who formed the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS), to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights. The movement intensified and spread from Bihar across the rest of India, culminating in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 1936, where Saraswati was elected as its first president. This movement aimed at overthrowing the feudal zamindari system instituted by the British. It was led by Saraswati and his followers Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Rahul Sankrityayan, Pandit Karyanand Sharma, Baba Nagarjun and others. Pandit Yamuna Karjee along with Rahul Sankritayan and a few others started publishing a Hindi weekly Hunkar from Bihar, in 1940. Hunkar later became the mouthpiece of the peasant movement and the agrarian movement in Bihar and was instrumental in spreading it.
On 15 January 1934, Bihar was devastated by an earthquake of magnitude 8.4. Some 10,000 people were said to have died in the quake.
A book titled Bihar: The Heart of India was authored by Sir John Wardle Houlton and the book was published by Orient Longmans Ltd in 1949. Another book titled Bihar Breakthrough: The turnaround of a beleaguered state was penned down by Rajesh Chakrabarti,a policy academic at the Indian School of Business in 2013.
The state of Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar on 15 November 2000.