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Bihar Tour
Capital : Patna
Area : 94.163 kmē Population : 96.444.000 (2008)
Altitude : 50 m
Language : Hindi, Urdu, Bihari(Maithili, Bhojpuri, Magahi u. a.), Bengali, Santali, English

Of all India's states, Bihar is the one most intimately linked to the Buddha's life, resulting in a trail of pilgrimages which have come to be known as the Buddhist circuit. The very name Bihar is derived from the world 'vihara', which means Buddhist monastery. The Buddhist trail begins at the capital city, Patna, where a noteworthy museum contains a collection of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures.

The Khuda Baksh Oriental Library has rare Muslim manuscripts including some from the University of Cordoba in Spain. 40 km away, Vaishali was the site for the second Buddhist Council as the presence of ruins testify. 90 km south of Patna is Nalanda which translates as 'the place that confers the lotus' (of spiritual knowledge).

A monastic university flourished here from the 5th to the 11th century. It is said to have contained nine million books, with 2,000 teachers to impart knowledge to 10,000 students who came from all over the Buddhist world. Lord Buddha himself taught here and Hieun Tsang, the 7th century Chinese traveller, was a student. Ongoing excavations have uncovered temples, monasteries and lecture halls.

Rajgir, 'the royal palace', 12 km south, was the venue for the first Buddhist Council. The Buddha spent five years at Rajgir after having attained enlightenment, and many of the remains at Rajgir commemorate various incidents, the hill of Gridhrakuta being perhaps the most important, as this is where the Buddha delivered most of his sermons.

Bodhgaya is the spot where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, with the Mahabodhi Temple marking the precise location. Bihar's Buddhist circuit has modest back-up facilities by way of accommodation, international dining and surface transport.

(For those interested in the Buddhist circuit, it may be worthwhile to note that Sarnath, in Uttar Pradesh, close to Varanasi, is an important part of the circuit, and has been beautifully developed. Besides the excavated sites, a museum here houses several Buddhist icons, among them the Ashoka Lion, India's national emblem).






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