Bihar offers to the discerning tourist a variegated wealth of our ancient civilization, history and culture and religion that India stands for. The ruins of ancient capitals and learning centres and the religious sites, which are dotted over the tourist map of Bihar, remain the major draw for the people who visit Bihar.
Bihar lies steeped in history as a mute witness of
The holy places of the Buddhist religion in Bihar form a circuit, which is renowned across the world as the most important among the tourist attractions in Bihar. And some important sites of Hinduism, Jainism and
* Nalanda: This renowned Buddhist University was founded in the 5th century by the Gupta emperors. There were
* Rajgir: This forest clad small hill grit town of today was once
* Bodhgaya: Lord Buddha meditated under a pipal tree here and attained enlightenment. The tree is called “Bodhi Tree”. A descendant of the same
* Patna: Today’s capital city was also the capital of ancient Bihar – Pataliputra. The history dates back to 2 millennia. In around the
* Vaishali: The city finds its mention in literature as old as the Ramayana. The second Buddhist council took place here. The place remains twice blessed by virtue of the birth of Jain prophet Lord Mahavira here in 527 BC. Historians also maintain that the world’s first elected assembly of representatives was formed here giving birth to a republic in
* Vikramshila: Excavations have unearthed the ruins of Vikramshila University founded by King
* Pawapuri: Here Lord Mahavira breathed his last around 500 B.C. and was cremated. It is said that the demand for his ashes was so great that a large amount of soil was removed from around the funeral pyre, creating the water tank. Today here stands a marble temple, the “Jalmandir”, later built in the middle of the tank.
Among other tourist attractions in
Patna is the Capital of Bihar and replete with several not-to-be-missed tourist attractions. Shershah Masjid, built in 1545 by Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan chieftain, is the oldest mosque in India and unique piece of architecture in Patna. Kumhrar is an ancient garden that provides a key to the great Mauryan Empire and its capital, Pataliputra. One can still see some remnants – a large pillared assembly hall, a Buddhist monastery, parts of Anand Bihar, and some clay figures at the site.
The Har Mandir Temple, also referred to as Patna Sahib, is the second most important pilgrimage of the Sikhs next only to the Golden Temple of Amritsar. The Gurudwara is built with immaculate white marble and is an aesthetic piece of art. Miss not to see the Golghar which is a unique single dome structure and an architectural marvel. Sanjay Gandhi Zoological Park is a great favorite with the local residents and a prized tourist attraction. It is also home to a picturesque collection of flora and fauna and a tempting golf course. You must not fail to drive on Gandhi Sethu, Asia’s longest roadway bridge – the pride of Patna.
Nalanda is a great tourist destination in Bihar. The Nalanda University was one of the greatest centers of Buddhist learning in ancient times and erudite scholars from far-flung corners came here. The architectural remains of Nalanda, the world’s oldest university, indicate to us that the university was a stately structure with lofty walls and a massive gate. It had eight separate compounds and ten temples with many meditation halls and classrooms. There were also many scenic lakes and parks. The commodious library was a nine storied building and the University attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous center of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries. The other important attractions of Nalanda are the Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall, the Surya Mandir, the Nalanda museum, and the Nav Nalanda Vihar. The present day ruins of its temples and monasteries creates an astounding impression of the sublime and ordered life of meditation and spiritual wisdom that prevailed here.
Bodhgaya, situated on the bank of river Niranjana, is the holiest site for the followers of Buddhism and it is a place of great historical and religious significance as Lord Buddha reportedly meditated under a pipal tree here and attained enlightenment. The tree is called Bodhi Tree and a descendant of the same tree, still flourishes here and draws a host of pilgrims as also the Mahabodhi Temple that stands testimony to the miracle. Bodhgaya houses an Archaeological Museum and many serene and sublime monasteries built by devotees from many Buddhist countries. The chief attractions of Bodhgaya include an 80 ft Statue of the Buddha, Lotus Tank, Buddha Kund, Rajayatana, Brahm Yoni, Chinese Temple & Monastery, Burmese Temple, Buddhist Monastery of Bhutan, International Buddhist House & Japanese Temple, Thai Temple & Monastery and Tibetan Monastery.
The time-honored Vaishali city finds mention in Ramayana and it is believed that the second Buddhist council took place here. The place has tremendous religious significance as it is here that the Jain prophet Lord Mahavira was born in 527 BC. It is also here that Lord Buddha preached his last sermon and announced his ensuing Nirvana. The other tourist attractions are the Vishwa Shanti Stupa, the Ashoka pillars, and many magnificent Buddhist and Jain structures. Vaishali is an adorable place surrounded by banana, mango, thick groves and rice fields.
Other attractions of Bihar
Sasaram houses the grand and beautiful mausoleum of Sher Shah, the man known for building the Grand Trunk Road across the whole of North India and the mausoleum is located in a romantic lake and resembles a floating structure. Make sure not to miss Pawapuri, where Lord Mahavira breathed his last around 500 B.C. and was cremated. Today you can see a marble temple, the “Jalmandir”, later built in the middle of the tank. Rajgir is a well-known pilgrimage destination for followers of different faiths – Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism alike. The small hill grit town is covered with lush green forest which considerably enhances the beauty of the place. The Swarna Gufa, Griddhakuta Parvat, hot springs, and the Vishwa Shanti Stupa are some of the chief tourist attractions here.
Northern Bihar – Sitamarhi and Sonepur
Northern part of Bihar is dominated by Sitamarhi and Sonepur. Other towns of Northern Bihar are Madhubani, Balmiki Nagar and Muzaffurpur. There are some great tourist spots in this region. You can visit Sitamarhi if you are interested in learning hindu mythology. This place is a cultural extravaganza. The festivals and rituals that take place here are most sought-after by the public. You can spend a day or two offering your worship to the almighty. The picturesque location of these temples helps you feel relaxed through the journey.
If you have a couple of more days in hand, visiting Sonepur is not a bad idea. The Sonepur Mela that is held every November is a visual treat for any tourist. The cattle fair is a huge even in this part of Bihar and people come from all over the world to watch it.
Southern Bihar – Bodhgaya and Nalanda
The Southern part of Bihar is dominated by religious destinations like Bodhgaya and Nalanda. Bodhgaya is a major Buddhist shrine close to capital city of Patna. The travel to this place is quite beautiful. Tourists swarm in throughout the year to capture a glimpse of the birthplace of Buddhism. To spend a day or two in this part of Bihar will be an enjoyable and a learning experience for any tourist.
Nalanda is another very important place in southern Bihar. If you are travelling from Patna, it takes you a day to travel. The ruins of Nalanda University are very popular because of the historical significance of the ancient Buddhist learning centres.
Other attractions include the Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall, Nalanda Museum, Nav Nalanda Vihar and the Surya Mandir. The tourists visiting this part of Bihar hardly miss these places. You can spend a day or two to take a look at the museum, libraries and the temples. There is scope for some shopping too in southern Bihar. You can bring home some exotic handicrafts, paintings and photographs.