Marching ahead: from adversity to prosperity

14 May,2012


By A Correspondent


One has heard stories of people overcoming difficulties and embracing freedom, but when a similar feeling is drawn to an entire state it is something that appears to be fairy tale-like in sentiment. Bihar, the second fastest growing state in India, however, is a real life story of march from adversity to prosperity.


The economy of the state has grown at an annual rate of 11.36% between 2004-05 and 2010-11. In the year 2010-11, it grew at a rate of 14.8%. Key focus areas are Infrastructure, Healthcare and Education – the necessary pegs to make growth more inclusive. To add more teeth to the growth tiger, the state is seeing an enhanced anti-corruption drive being bought in by its babus. Surprising as it may sound, Bihar was identified as the “least corrupt state” in a study by economists Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari in the year 2011.


The impact of this growth is not seen only on selected pockets, but on the day to day life of people. The increasing consumerism can be gauged by the face that small towns like Motihari and Betiah today have outlets of branded companies like Allen Solly, Cotton County, Reebok, Koutons, Ant, Palm Treee, Lilliput, Allen Cooper, Peter England, Belmonte, Charlie Outlaw, Cantabil, Duke, Priknit, and more.


A very interesting fact about Bihar is that Almost 58% of Biharis are below 25 years of age – the highest in India. Bihar, in times immemorial was the land of learning, culture and prosperity. In fact, the name Bihar is derived from the Sanskrit and Pali word Vihara – Buddhist vihara (abodes) dotted the region in the ancient and medieval periods.


It was about a hundred years back that Britishers separated Bihar from Bengal (March 22, 1912), and 2012 is being celebrated as ‘Bihar Shatabadi celebration Utsav’. Hindi, Urdu and Maithli are the official languages of the state. The commonly spoken Bihari languages are Maithili, Angika, Magadhi and Bhojpuri, most of which are dialects of Hindi.


Bihar has a glorious history and many a monument in the state are testimonials of the same. A few quick mentions here:


  • Four of five “The Greats” from India, belonged to Magadh – a region of Bihar: Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Samudragupta and Vikramaditya.
  • 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.
  • Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment on the bank of river Falgu in Bodh Gaya, Bihar.
  • The great Pathan of Bihar, Sher Shah Suri, became the ruler of North-India in 1540. Economic transformations, infrastructural improvement, highways, discovery of Rupiya, establishment of modern post offices and policing concept are just a few of his achievements.
  • Babu Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur and his army contributed to the India’s First War of Independence (1857).
  • Mahatma Gandhi launched his civil-disobedience movement, Champaran Satyagraha from Bihar.
  • Bihar’s contribution to the Freedom Struggle, with outstanding leaders like Brajkishore Prasad, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Jayaprakash Narayan and others is noteworthy.
  • The state of Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in the year 2000.


Culture: Imprints of the glorious history of Bihar can easily be seen on its culture, performing arts and craft.


Performing arts:

Bihar has contributed to the Hindustani classical music, and has produced musicians like Ustad Bismillah Khan, Dhrupad singers like the Malliks (Darbhanga Gharana) and the Mishras (Bettiah Gharana), and many more. Tappa and Thumri are other popular classical music streams In Bihar. Pandit Govardhan Mishra is perhaps the most versatile living exponent of Tappa singing in the country today.


Folk forms of Bihar music too are extremely popular. The beat and rhythm of Bihari folk music is delightful to even the ears unfamiliar with the language. Sohar is an extremely popular folk form, sung at the time of a child’s birth in the family. Extremely soothing, it is performed by a group of women in chorus with a lead singer. Sumangali is a wedding song, performed by groups of women to celebrate the steps of a marriage ceremony in Bihar.


Ropnigeet is a work song sung at the time of sowing paddy seeds. Paddy sowing is associated with hope, rejuvenation and the beginning of a new working season. Katnigeet of Bihar is a folk music form that is associated with the harvesting of paddy in the state. Chaita or fagua is the beautiful folk music performed specially during the festival Holi. Usually naughty and humorous, they add to the spirit of festival.



Dance forms of Bihar are yet another expression of its rich culture. Chhau dance, originally a tribal war dance, was earlier performed in order to perfect fighting techniques. It has, over the years, evolved into a narrative ballet, full of energetic rhythm and vigour.


Jat-Jatin is performed by the Harijans, mostly in Mithila region. One person performs the role of Jat (husband) and Jatin (wife) wearing masks and goes through the story of their life.


Theatre too is a popular form of expression. Bidesia, Reshma- Chuharmal, Bihula-Bisahari, Bahura-Gorin, Raja Salhesh, Sama Chakeva, and Dom Kach are some of the interesting theatre forms.


Arts and crafts:

Madhubani style of painting from Mithila region, with its origins in the age of Ramayana, is among the better known Indian painting styles. Powdered rice is coloured and stuck to create intricate paintings with themes revolving around Hindu deities. Manjusha Kala or Angika Art, also known as snake painting, is a popular art form of Anga region.


As for crafts flourishing in the state, they are all about creating attractive and useful articles using materials available in the region. For instance, villages around Bodhgaya create fascinating bamboo and cane articles, leather works, statues of white metal and wooden toys. Bhagalpur is famous for its tusser silk industry, and is one of the best in manufacturing silk yarn and weaving lovely products out of it. Cotton dhurries and curtains produced by artisans in central Bihar, particularly in the Patna and Bihar-Sharif areas too are beautiful – and add to the decor of any house.


Other crafts of Bihar include sujni embroidery, lac bangle making, and creation of decorative and utility items of a local dried grass – seenki.



Bihari cuisine, usually cooked in mustard oil, is a gastronomic delight. Litti-chokha is a popular Bihari preparation. Litti, made up of dough stuffed with sattu, is first boiled and then shallow fried in oil. A more delicious version is Litti grilled on red hot coal – and then dipped in ghee. Chokha, the accompaniment, is made of mashed potatoes or brinjal, fried onions, salt, cilantro, and carrom seeds. This meal is usually served with coriander chatni.


Kichdi with its Chaar yaars is yet another temptation. Khichdi, commonly treated as sick people’s food is cooked and served in style in Bihar -Chaar Yaar means “four friends”. Sumptuous Bihari Kichdi is usually served with its four friends i.e. Raita, Papad, ghee and Pickle!! Kadhi bari, very similar to Punjabi Kadi is a popular favourite and consists of fried soft dumplings made of besan (gram flour) that are cooked in a spicy gravy of yogurt and besan. And then there are Chitba and Pitthow, two rice preparations of the Anga region.


Bihar also offers a number of sweet delicacies: Anarasa (tastes amazing when hot & fresh), Belgrami, Chena Murki (chill it to enjoy it more), Motichoor ke Laddoo, Kala Jamun, Kesaria Peda, Khaja, Khurma, Pua & Mal Pua, Thekua, and Tilkut. Non-vegetarian cuisine dished out in Bihar is equally sumptuous. Tash, a very popular non-vegetarian dish is made by frying marinated mutton and eaten with Chewra. Fish Curry cooked in mustard paste with Rice (maaach-bhaat) is also a popular dish.


Impact of Islamic culture and cuisine too can be seen on Bihar – Bihari Kababs made with Beef strips or Lamb strips are tempting. Meat is marinated with a rich mix of spices overnight and grilled. It is served with green salad. Shami Kabab, Nargisi Kufte, Shabdeg, Yakhnee Biryanee, Motton Biryani, Shaljum Gosht, Baqer Khani, too are very popular. The daily meal in most household comprises of boiled rice, daal and sabzi in lunch. Roti is usually served for dinner. And the best breakfast favorites are Chura – Dahi and Poori – Aloo dum.



Bihar has robust Bhojpuri cinema. First Bhojpuri film was Ganga Jamuna released in 1961. In the 1980s, enough Bhojpuri films were produced to tentatively make up an industry. Films such as Mai and Hamar Bhauji continued to do well. However, in 1990s, it saw an all time low.


The industry took off again in 2001 with the super hit Saiyyan Hamar. Panditji Batai Na Biyah Kab Hoi and Sasura Bada Paisa Wala other hits came in close succession. The industry now supports an awards show and a trade magazine.



Fairs & Festivals of Bihar:


Chhath, also called Dala Chhath – a prominent festival in Bihar is celebrated twice a year: Chaiti Chhath is celebrated in summers, and Kartik Chhath, a week after Deepawali. Chhath is the worship of the Sun God. The worshipper is segregated from the household for two days before Chhath. Rendition of regional folk songs, for a number of days at the time of the festival brings the festival to life. Naag Panchami falls in the rainy month of Sravana when there is danger of death from snake bite. People offer the snake god milk to please him. Rajgir is the prime centre of naga worship. As per Mahabharata this is an abode of serpents and excavations here have shown many objects used in serpent cult. Teej and Chitragupta Puja are other major festivals of Bihar. In addition to it, Holi, Diwali, Dussera, Iid, Christmas and other festivals are also celebrated with joy and enthusiasm.


A number of fairs take place in Bihar in the course of a year: The Sonepur cattle fair, held on the banks of Gandak river is nearly a month-long event starting approximately half a month after Deepawali. It is considered to be the largest cattle fair in Asia. In addition to a number of animals on sale, a number of folk take place here – attracting people from far and near. The month-long Shravani Mela (organised in July – August), held along a 108-kilometre route linking the towns of Sultanganj and Deoghar (now in Jharkhand state), is of great ritual significance. Pilgrims, known as Kanwarias, clad in saffron coloured clothes, walk the stretch to Deogar to bathe a sacred Shiva-Linga. Around September Gaya is visited by people from all over the country. They come here for the famous Pitrapaksha mela or the ancestor worship. The vedic Sraddha ceremonies (pind daan) is perfomed for the soul of the dead. Its history is traced back to the time of Buddha, who performed the first pindan here.


Places to see:

National parks:

Bihar has 21 wildlife sanctuaries and two national parks. These sanctuaries not only house a number of wild animals – but also rich flora. The Palamau Tiger Reserve is spread across Netarhat knoll. Mahua, Sal, Palas and Bamboo trees make it an idealhabitat for tigers, leopards, cheetal, Sambhar, Bison, elephants, wolf, Nilgai and other wild animals. Small hillocks and majestic water-falls enhance its beauty multiple times.


The Valmiki National Park is located in the western outskirts of Champaran. This national park stands at the fourth spot in India as far as the number of tigers is concerned. The rivulet called Gandak and the grandeur of Mount Everest on the western side create a spellbinding picture. The chief attractions at the Valmiki National Park in Bihar are Tiger, sloth Bear, Wolf, Deer, Leopard, Python, Peafowl, singlehorned Rhinoceros and many other majestic animals. The other prominent names in the list of Bihar Wildlife Sanctuaries are Rajgir Wildlife Sanctuary, Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhimbandh Sanctuary, Udhwa Lake Bird Sanctuary, Topchanchi Wildlife sanctuary, and Lawalong Wildlife Sanctuary.


Historical places:

Gaya, as per a puranik legend, is one of the holiest spots in the world. As per this legend the Gods felt threatened by the power of an Asura, named Gaya, and thought of eliminating him. The Asura put a precondition to his death that he should be buried in the holiest spot of the world. This place is Gaya. The central point of the Hindu pilgrimage in Gaya is the Vishnupada temple built by Rani Ahilyabai of Indore in 1787. The spot where it is built is said to be the same where Vishnu killed Gaya.


Bodh Gaya, the place of the Buddha’s Enlightenment, is regarded as the spiritual home of Buhddhists. Situated near the Niranjana river, it is one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage centres. A number of believers from across the world throng here every year. Mahabodhi Temple, a Buddhist shrine and UNESCO World Heritage Site is also situated here. Nalanda, was home to the world’s first university for higher learning. This university initially was a Buddhist monastery. It is stated that Lord Buddha stayed at Nalanda several times. Lord Mahavir too is believed to have attained ‘moksha’ at Pawapuri, located in Nalanda. As per one sect of Jainism, he was born in the nearby village of Kundalpur.


Rajagriha is sacred to the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Muslims. It was the capital of the powerful kingdom of Magadh. As per to the Ramayana, it was founded by King Vasuand was called Vasumati. Rajagriha name was attributed to it during Buddha’s time due to many palaces around it. Lord Mahavir gave his first sermon on Vipula Hill. Each hill of Rajgiris associated with various Tirthankars. There are Jain temples on all the hills of Rajagriha There is a natural pond on Vipula Hill known as Makhdum Kund after Muslim saint Makhdum Saheb, who spent 12 years in the jungles of Rajagriha in 13th century AD.


Kesariya too is a Buddhist pilgrimage place. In the time of the Buddha, it was known as Kessaputta. It was here that the Buddha delivered His famous Kalama Sutta to the Kalama people. Vaishali was a center of religious renaissance in ancient times. Puranas as well as the Ramayana refer to Vaishali as a separate kingdom. In addition to its association with the Hindu mythology, it also figures prominently both in the Jain and Buddhist literatures. It was in Vaishali itself that Lord Buddha announced his approaching Nirvana and also preached his last sermon. Interestingly, Vaishali was also seat of the ‘Vajji Republic’, which was the world’s first republic with a duly elected assembly of representatives and efficient administration.


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