Bihar is a state in northern India. It is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size at and 3rd largest by population. Almost 58% of Biharis are below the age of 25, which is the highest proportion in India.
It is bounded by Uttar Pradesh to it's 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 notified forest area of 6,764.14 km2, which is 7.2% of its geographical area. Hindi and Urdu are the official languages of the state, while the majority of the people speak Angika, Bhojpuri, Magadhi, Maithili and Bajjika. In 2000, Bihar was subdivided, the southern part becoming the state of Jharkhand.
Ancient Bihar (which consisted of Anga, Videha/Mithila, Magadha and Vajji/Vrijji) was a centre of power, learning( it derived its name from Vihar, meaning centre of 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. Nalanda and Vikramshila were centres of learning established in the 5th and 8th century respectively in Bihar, and are counted amongst the oldest and truly international universities, where people all over the world came to study. Bihar has distinction of giving the world its first democracy through Lichchivi (modern days Vaishali) during ancient era.
For many years, 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 skewed policies of the central government, such as the freight equalisation 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 improving governance.
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 and 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. In the period 2011–2012, Bihar was the country's fastest growing state in economic terms, with a growth of 13.1% for the year 2011–12. This followed a growth rate of 14.8% in the previous year.
Recent commentators have referred to the improved law and order situation in the state and the economic growth, as well as the progress made in the areas of female empowerment, judicial reforms, tax reforms, and public safety. Between 2003 and 2008, the inflow of foreign tourists saw a near-sixfold rise from 61,000 to 346,000. In 2011, Bihar was identified as the "least corrupt state" in a study by economists Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari.
Ancient Bihar, known as Magadha, was the center of power, learning, and culture in India for 1000 years. India's first empire, the Maurya empire as well as Buddhism arose from the region that now makes modern Bihar. The Mauryan empire, 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 holi, 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 as "Golden Bird". The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavours, as well as very strong powerful global economy. Historians place the Gupta dynasty alongside with 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 the 400 AD and 1,000 AD saw gains by Hinduism at the expense of Buddhism. The Hindu kings gave much grants to the Buddhist monks for building Brahmaviharas.
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 the years 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, Sheh Shah was killed. His nephew Adil Shah Suri had 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 Orissa. 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 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.
It was from Bihar that Mahatma Gandhi launched his pioneering civil-disobedience movement, Champaran Satyagraha. Bhumihar Brahmins in Champaran had earlier revolted against indigo cultivation in 1914 (at Pipra) and 1916 (Turkaulia) and Pandit Raj Kumar Shukla took Gandhi to Champaran and the Champaran Satyagraha began. Raj Kumar Shukla drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi to the exploitation of the peasants by European indigo planters. Champaran Satyagraha received the spontaneous support from many Bihari nationalists like Rajendra Prasad who became the first President of India and Anugrah Narayan Sinha who ultimately became the first Deputy Chief Minister cum Finance Minister of Bihar.
In the northern and central regions of Bihar, peasants movement was an important consequence of the Freedom Movement. The Kisan Sabha movement started in Bihar under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati who had formed in 1929, the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS), to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights. Gradually the peasant movement intensified and spread across the rest of India. All these radical developments on the peasant front culminated in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 1936 with Saraswati 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.
Freedom fighters such as Brajkishore Prasad, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sri Krishna Sinha, Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Jagjivan Ram, K. B. Sahay, Mulana Mazharul Haque, Jayaprakash Narayan, Dr. Maghfoor Ahmad Ajazi, Thakur Jugal Kishore Sinha, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Jagannath Sarkar, Basawon Singh, Rameshwar Prasad Sinha, Yogendra Shukla, Baikuntha Shukla, Sheel Bhadra Yajee, and Pandit Yamuna Karjee were associated with Bihar. Khudiram Bose, Upendra Narayan Jha "Azad", Prafulla Chaki and Baikuntha Shukla were active in revolutionary movement in Bihar.
On 15 January 1934, Bihar was devastated by an earthquake of magnitude 8.4. Some 30,000 people were said to have died in the quake.
The state of Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in the year 2000. The 2005 Bihar assembly elections ended 15 years of Lalu Prasad Yadav RJD rule popularly known as Jungle Raj in the state, giving way to NDA led by Nitish Kumar.