Bihar (Hindi, Urdu, pronounced, is a state in eastern India. It is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size at 38,202 sq mi (98,940 km2) and 3rd largest by population. Almost 58% of Biharis are below the age of 25, which is the highest proportion in India.
Bihar lies mid-way between West Bengal in the east and Uttar Pradesh in the west. It is bounded by the country of Nepal to the north 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 kmē, which is 6.8% 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.
Ancient Bihar (which consisted of Anga, Videha/Mithila, Magadha and Vajji/Vrijji) was a centre of power, learning and culture in ancient and classical India. Out of five "The Greats" from India, four greats belonged to this region of India, Magadh: Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Samudragupta and Vikramaditya. 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.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.
Today, Bihar lags behind the other Indian states in human, economic development terms. Economists and social scientists claim that this is a direct result of the skewed 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 current 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.
A recent New York Times article talks about the vastly improved law and order situation in the state and the phenomenal economic growth shown over the course of last 5 years. Another BBC article titled "Where 'backward' Bihar leads India" talked about how the state has made strides in the areas of women 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.
The name Bihar is derived from the Sanskrit and Pali word Vihara (Devanagari), which means "abode". The region roughly encompassing the present state was dotted with Buddhist vihara, the abodes of Buddhist monks in the ancient and medieval periods. Medieval writer Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani records in the Tabakat-i-Nasiri that in 1198 AD, Bakhtiyar Khalji committed a massacre in a town now known as Bihar Sharif, about 70 km away from Bodh Gaya.Later, Bakhtiyar learned that the town was a college, and the word for college is bihar.