Profile of Bihar

The Land

The topography of Bihar can be easily described as a fertile alluvial plain occupying the north, the Gangetic Valley;

The northern plain extends from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to a few miles south of the river Ganges as it flows through the State from the west to the east.

Rich farmland and lush orchards extend throughout the north. Following are the major crops: paddy, wheat, lentils, sugarcane, jute (hemp, related to the marijuana plant, but a source of tough fibers and “gunny bags”.) Also, cane grows wild in the marshes of West Champaran. The principal fruits are: mangoes, banana, jack fruit and litchis. This is one the very few areas outside China which produces litchi. There is very little industry in the plain region except for the sugar factories that are scattered all over the northern plains, particularly in the western region. Jute is transported to the jute factories located mostly in Calcutta.

Among the wildlife, notable are: deer, bears, numerous species of birds, including the peacock, pheasant, and wild fowl, and most notably, the tiger. The forest around Valmiki Nagar, West Champaran is one of the last remaining refuges of this highly endangered species.

The forests of Bihar yield valuable commercial products besides the timber. Cane trees are used in the manufacture of an indigenous product for making furniture. A resinous material secreted by the lac insect is valuable commercially. It is the source of shellac. Also, bangles made of lac are very popular among women of Bihar. The silkworm is the source of magnificent silk – haracteristically, the tusser or tussah silk.

The majestic banyan tree (Ficus bengalensis), and the related pipal (Ficus religiosa), dot the entire landscape of the State.

The People

The people of Bihar can be generally categorized as largely non-tribals with some sprinkling of tribal people.

The non-tribal group belong to various castes, prominent among which are: kayasthas, bhumihars, rajputs, and the so-called backward castes – yadavs, koeris, musahars, chamars, and others.

The hallmark of the Biharis is a rustic simplicity with intrinsic humility coupled with enormous self-respect. They are traditionally very hospitable to strangers.

The Language

Hindi is by far the most common language of the state, understood by all. There is a significant number of Bengali speaking people also. They are descendants of the settlers from the old British Presidency of Bengal. English is the language of commerce and is spoken by the educated masses.

In addition people speak many dialects in different regions. The major dialects are: Bhojpuri, Magahi and Maithili. Bhojpuri is spoken in the districts of Champaran (East and West), Saran, and Shahabad. Magahi is the dialect of Central Bihar, i.e., the districts of Patna, Gaya and Bihar. Maithili, and its variants, is the dialect of the people in the north-east, i.e., the districts of Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Saharsa, Purnia and Bhagalpur.

Of all the dialects and languages, only Maithili can be classified as a distinct and uniquely Bihari language. It has a very old literature of its own. (Hindi, as a distinct literary form, came about only very recently – towards the turn of this century.) The famous poet, Vidyapati, of medieval Bihar, was the composer of lyrical poems in Maithili. These songs are devoted to the worship of Lord Krishna and Shiva. Shrimati Vindhyabasini Devi is a current exponent of the songs of Vidyapati. The French music publishers, Ocora, have published a compact disc of her Vidayapati’s songs. (Ocora C580063, “Mithila Chants d’amour de Vidyapati”, with Jawahar Lal Jha and Ganesh Kant Thakur)

Religions And Festivals

The majority of people are Hindu. So all traditional Hindu festivals are observed – Holi, Saraswati Puja, Durga Puja or Dusserah, Deepavali, Bhaiya Dooj etc. But there is one festival that is uniquely associated with Bihar, and that is the festival of Chhath described below.

Muslims comprise a vast minority. Christians, although proportional to the whole population a small minority, are very large in absolute numbers. Many beautiful Catholic and Protestant church buildings dot the landscape of towns in Bihar. Special mention may be made of the St. Joseph’s Convent, the St. Xavier’s School with its chapel, Padri-Ki-Haveli, and the church at the Holy Family Hospital in Patna.

Surprisingly, Bihari Sikhs, in the land that gave the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, are very few in number. A large number of Sikhs from the Punjab migrated to Bihar during the partition of India in 1947. This uprooted, but highly
enterprising, group of people quickly established itself as very successful member of the business and industrial community in Bihar. They are now an integral part of the Bihari population. The Harmandir Takht, the gurudwara that
commemorates Guru Gobind Singh, is a sacred place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs. To the Sikhs this holy place is reverentially known as Patna Sahib.

Festivals of all these religions are, of course, observed in Bihar.

There is one Hindu festival that is uniquely Bihari, and that is the festival of Chhath. This is observed mostly by the people of North Bihar. It is devoted to the worship of the Sun God. It is, therefore, also known as SuryaShashti. The festival begins on the sixth day of the month of Kartik in the Hindu lunar calendar. This will correspond to late October to mid November, depending on the year. It is one of the holiest festivals for biharis and extends to four days. On day 1, the devotees take a cleansing dip – preferably in the holy river Ganges – and bring river water to prepare the offerings. On day 2, a fast is observed for the whole day and in late evening, the devotees, after performing a worship at home, break their fast. The offerings – typically a porridge of rice, puris (deep fried puffs of wheat flour) and bananas – are shared among family and visiting friends and relatives. Day 3 is spent in the preparation of offerings at home during the day.

In the evening the devotees move to a river bank (or a pond) with the entire family and friends. There the offerings are made to the setting sun. At nightfall, the devotees along with the family and friends return home where another colorful celebration takes place. Under a canopy of sugar cane sticks, clay elephants containing earthen lamps, and containers full of the offerings, are placed. There the fire god is worshipped.

The devotees maintain a strict fast without even water. Then next morning a similar procession of the devotees, family and friends, moves again to the river bank. Offerings are made to the rising sun. At the completion of the offerings, there is great celebration. The devotees break their fast and the rich offerings are made available to the family, friends, relatives and the onlookers! The offerings are also very characteristic. They are: a deep fried and sweet rolls of stone ground wheat flour, grapefruit, whole coconuts, bananas, and grains of lentils. These items are contained in small, somewhat semicircular, pans woven
out of bamboo strips.

Kartik Purnima & The Sonpur Fair

The month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar is especially important. It is in this month that the major religious festivals occur, namely Dusserah (or Durga Puja), Deepavali, and Chhath. It is a month, like Lent for Christians, when penance is observed. The end of the month, Purnima (or full moon), is therefore a great joyous occasion (not much different than Mardi Gras!) On this day a ritual bath is taken in the holy river Ganges, or any other river. Sonepur, a river town and important railroad junction, situated across the river from Patna at the confluence of the rivers Gandak and Ganges, is of special importance. A huge fair is held here at this time which is the largest fair of its kind in the world, for it is a fair specially for the trade of animals. Cattle, horses, camels and elephants can be seen in large numbers. It attracts a huge number of people, not only from all over Bihar, but also from other parts of India and foreign countries. The Government of Bihar  puts up special accommodations suited to the needs of foreign visitors.

Commerce & Industry

The principal commercial products of Bihar are:

Crops – rice, wheat, lentils, maize (corn), sugar cane.

Fruits – mangoes, bananas, jack-fruit, and litchis.

Fibers – silk (particularly from the Bhagalpur region in the East, producers of a distinct quality of silk, namely, tussar or tussah); and jute, transported to factories located mostly near Calcutta for easy export of the finished material.

Forest Products – hard wood timber, saal and sakhua from the north; also cane for weaving, particularly from the swamps in West Champaran district of North Bihar.

North Bihar, a rich agricultural area, has many industries associated with agricultural products. There are numerous sugar factories scattered throughout the area. Many rice and edible oilmills also dot the landscape. It also has some sundry, but important, manufacturing plants, for example the Button Factory at Mehsi (East Champaran0, and the old and renowned rail wagon manufacturing plant, the Arthur Butler & Co, at Muzaffarpur. Immediately after independence however, a major industrial complex grew around Barauni. The industrial plants located there are: the Fertilizer Factory, the Oil (petroleum) Refinery Plant, and the
Thermal Power Station. Recently, a Thermal Power Plant has also begun operation at Kanti, in the Muzaffarpur district along its border with East Champaran.

Regarding commerce and North Bihar, mention must be made of the gigantic annual cattle fair at Sonpur in the Saran district, close to the confluence of the Gandak and Ganges rivers. The fair is held around the religious festival of Kartik Purnima – full moon in the month of Kartik in the Hindu lunar calendar (corresponding to some time in Oct-Dec in the Gregorian calendar), which marks the end of the holy month of Kartik. Kartik Purnima in 1998 falls on Nov 4. This fair is reputed to be one of the world’s largest such fair, where not just cattle but also exotic animals and horses and elephants are traded in large number. It attracts a large number of tourists from many countries. The Government of Bihar, through their Department of Tourism, provide many amenities for their boarding and lodging.

Profile of Bihar
Geographical Location Between
24º 20′ 10″ and 27º3’15” North Latitude
83º 19′ 50″ and 88º17’40” Eastern Longitude
Soil of Bihar Clay Soil, Sandy Soil, Loamy Soil.
Main Rivers Ganga , Saryu , Gandak ,Bagmati , Koshi , Sone ,Punpun , Phalgu
Height above Sea Level 173 feet ( 53 meters)
Climate Temperature

Varies from a maximum of 44ºC in Summer to a minimum of around 5ºC in the Winters

Rainfall (1999)

Medium to Heavy :1384.3 mm (average)

Total Area 94163.00 Sq.Kms.(2001 Census)
Connectivity Bihar is well connected by roads.

NH 30 & 31 connects Varanasi, Lucknow, New Delhi and Kolkata. National Waterway No. 1 is used for cargo transport between Haldia (West Bengal) and Patna.

Air services connect Patna with Kolkata, Ranchi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Delhi, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Allahabad and Kathmandu ( Nepal ) .

State is well connected by railway network – with major city of Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi, Bombay, Varanasi, Jammu, Guwahati etc.

Length of Roads (1999-2000)

National Highway :  26594.75 Kms
State Highway :  11050.12  Kms
Other P.W.D Road :15385.88 Kms

Geographical Boundaries North: NepalSouth: Jharkhand

East: West Bengal

West: Uttar Pradesh

Length & Breadth Length: North to South 345 kms.Breadth: East to West 483 kms.
Physiography, Flora & Fauna Physiographically the entire state is part of the Ganga-Plains. The formation of plains have come out with sediments deposited by the River Ganga, Gandak and Sone. The River Ganga divides whole Bihar into two physical divisions- the north Bihar Plain and South Bihar Plain. The river system is the lifeline of the state.
State Capital PATNA

It was once Capital of the Mighty Magadh Empire.

Patna was known in ancient times as Pataliputra, Pataligrama, Pushp Pur, Kusumpur and Azimabad etc.

Hon’ble Chief Minister, Bihar :
Shri Nitish Kumar

Hon’ble Minister, Tourism & Roads Construction, Bihar :
Shri Nand Kishore Yadav

Secretary, Tourism, Bihar:
Shri Anjani Kumar Singh, IAS

Chairman & Managing Director, BSTDC, Bihar:
Shri Rajesh Bhushan, IAS

Director, Tourism, Bihar:
Shri Yogendra Bhagat
Symbol of the City: Golghar

Important River:
The Ganga

Important Bridge: The Mahatma Gandhi Setu

(The Longest River Road Bridge, across the River Ganga which connects North Bihar (Hazipur) and South Bihar (Patna)

Airport Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport, Patna;
Gaya International Airport, Gaya
High Court Patna High Court
State’s Official Languages Hindi / Urdu
Districts 38
(Arwal, Patna, Nalanda, Rohtas, Bhabhua, Bhojpur, Buxar, Gaya, Jehanabad, Nawada, Siwan, Gopalganj, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Shivahar, West Champaran, East Champaran, Vaishali, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur, Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura, Purnia, Araria, Kishanganj, Katihar, Banka, Bhagalpur, Munger, Lakhisarai, Aurangabad, Saran, Shekhpura, Jamui, Khagaria and, Begusarai)
People There are tribal as well as non-tribal people in the state. They can be better classified as non-tribal of north and aborigines of the south. The latter are tribal in character. The non-tribal group belong to various castes, prominent among which are : Kayastha, Bhumihars, Rajputs, and the so-called backward castes. The aborigines belong to various tribes.
Density of Population 880 per sq. Km. (2001 Census)
Population 6,45,30,554 (1991 Census)8,28,78,796 ( Provisional ) (2001 Census)
Population Growth Ratio 23.38 % [1981-91]28.43 % [1991-2001]
Most Populous districts Patna, East Champaran and Muzaffarpur.
Food Habits Rice, Dal, Chapaties, Vegetables, Non-Vegetarian items ; Items of Gram Flour;Litti, and Chura-Dahi (Curd) in Mithila .
Common Languages Hindi, Urdu & Local Dialects (Bhojpuri, Magahi,Maithili)
Festivals Chhath (Oct.- Nov.), Jeutia, Teej, Godhan, Buddha Purnima, Shrawani Purnima (Kanwar Festival: when Pilgrims collect holy water from the Ganga at Sultanganj and offer it to Lord Shiva at Deoghar (Jharkhand), Madhu Shravani of Mithila,Pitripaksha etc.
Art and Craft Madhubani Paintings, Appliqué work, Bamboo products, Jute products
Important Fairs Harihar Kshetra (Sonepur) Cattle Fair is one of the biggest Cattle fair in Asia. Shrawani Fair of Sultanganj.
Traditional Costumes Male:
Kurta-Dhoti, Kurta-Pajama, Pant-Shirt
Female :
Saree , Salwar-Kurta
Districts having the largest area Lakhisarai, Gaya, West Champaran and East Champaran.
Major Industries/Crops/Minerals Top

Industries: Sponge Iron,, Oil Refinery, Forging, Fertilisers, Jelly Filled Commu nication Cables, Watch Factory, Fruit Processing, Bulk Drugs.

Crops: Paddy, Wheat, Maize, Pulses, Sugarcane, Potatoes, Tobacco, Oilseeds, Onion, Chilies, Jute, Mesta.