Bihar is a state in East India. It is the 13th largest state in terms of geographical size of and 3rd largest by population and fastest growing state. It is bounded by Uttar Pradesh to its west, Nepal to the north, the 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 from west to east. Bihar has forest area of 6,764.14 km2, which is 7.2% of its geographical area. In 2000, southern Bihar was separated from Bihar to form the new 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. In Bihar, there are many languages. However, Bhojpuri is the most popular language.
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 civilisation. Close to Patna, Nalanda and Vikramshila were centres of learning which were established in the 5th and 8th century respectively in Bihar, and are counted as amongst the oldest international universities of the time.
Since the late 1970s, Bihar has lagged behind other Indian states in terms of its social and economic development. 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.
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 684 BC 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 Pataliputra which later became the capital of Magadha. 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, Ashoka, who was born in Pataliputra (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 as the Golden Age of India in science, mathematics, astronomy, commerce, religion and Indian philosophy. Bihar and Bengal was invaded by Rajendra Chola I of the Chola dynasty in the 11th century.
The Buddhism in Magadha declined completely with the invasion of 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 during 12th century. D. N. Jha suggests, instead, that these incidents were the result of Buddhist-Brahmin skirmishes in a fight for supremacy. 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.
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. According to Bihar Vibhuti Vol 111 published by Bihar govt. archives, South Asian History & culture published from London & Vision & Mission Manohar Delhi Veteran Freedom Fighter Dr. Maghfoor Ahmad Ajazi vehemently opposed Two Nation theory of Jinnah & creation of Pakistan. All India Jamhur Muslim League was formed parallel to Muslim league to oppose Jinnah, with Raja of Mahmoodabad as president & Dr. Ajazi as general secretary.
Pre and post Independence
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 mobilize 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.
Bihar played a very important and vital role in the Independence of India. Much revolutionary activity took place in Bihar during the movement for Indian independence, and Champaran, especially, figured largely in that movement. MK Gandhi and many other leaders of the independence movement held marches and rallies in Bihar. Babu Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur is the most famous independence activist of Bihar.