History of Bihar

The history of Bihar is one of the most varied in India. Bihar consists of three distinct regions, each has its own distinct history and culture. They are Magadh, Mithila and Bhojpur.[1] Chirand, on the northern bank of the Ganga River, in Saran district, has an archaeological record from the Neolithic age (about 2500–1345 BC).[2][3] Regions of Bihar—such as Magadha, Mithila and Anga—are mentioned in religious texts and epics of ancient India. Mithila is believed to be the centre of Indian power in the Later Vedic period (c. 1100-500 BCE). Mithila first gained prominence after being settled by Indo-Aryan peoples who established the Videha kingdom.[4] The Kings of the Videha Kingdom where called Janakas. A daughter of one of the Janaks of Mithila, Sita, is mentioned as consort of Lord Rama in the Hindu epic Ramayana, written by Valmiki.[5] The Videha Kingdom later became incorporated into the Vajji confederacy which had its capital in the city of Vaishali, which is also in Mithila.[6]

Magadha, another region of Bihar was the centre of Indian power, learning and culture for about a thousand years. One of India's greatest empires, the Maurya empire, as well as two major pacifist religions, Buddhism and Jainism, arose from the region that is now Bihar.[7] Magadha empires, most notably the Maurya and Gupta empires, unified large parts of the Indian subcontinent under their rule.[8] Their capital Pataliputra, adjacent to modern-day Patna, was an important political, military and economic centre of Indian civilisation during the ancient and classical periods of Indian history. Many ancient Indian texts, aside from religious epics, were written in ancient Bihar. The play Abhijñānaśākuntala was the most prominent.

The present-day region of Bihar overlaps with several pre-Mauryan kingdoms and republics, including Magadha, Anga and the Vajji confederation of Mithila. The latter was one of the world's earliest known republics and had existed in the region since before the birth of Mahavira (c. 599 BCE).[9][10] The classical Gupta dynasty of Bihar presided over a period of cultural flourishing and learning, known today as the Golden Age of India.

The Pala Empire also made their capital at Pataliputra once during Devapala's rule. After the Pala period, Bihar played a very small role in Indian history until the emergence of the Suri dynasty during the Medieval period in the 1540s. After the fall of the Suri dynasty in 1556, Bihar again became a marginal player in India and was the staging post for the British colonial Bengal Presidency from the 1750s and up to the war of 1857–58. On 22 March 1912, Bihar was carved out as a separate province in the British Indian Empire. Since 1947 independence, Bihar has been an original state of the Indian Union.

Prehistoric era

The earliest proof of human activity in Bihar is Mesolithic habitational remains at Munger.

Prehistoric rock paintings have been discovered in the hills of Kaimur, Nawada and Jamui. It was the first time that a Neolithic settlement was discovered in the thick of the alluvium, over the bank of the Ganges at Chirand.[11] The rock paintings depict a prehistoric lifestyle and natural environment. They depict the sun, the moon, stars, animals, plants, trees, and rivers, and it is speculated that they represent love for nature. The paintings also highlight the daily life of the early humans in Bihar, including activities like hunting, running, dancing and walking.[12] The rock paintings in Bihar are not only identical to those in central and southern India but are also akin to those in Europe and Africa. The rock paintings of Spain's Alta Mira and France's Lascaux are almost identical to those found in Bihar.[13]

The Epics Period Kingdoms

Anga Kingdom

Anga kingdom is described in the Mahabharata. Karna, a friend of Duryodhana, was the king of Anga. Khagaria, Bhagalpur and Munger are the present-day regions corresponding to the ancient Anga kingdom.

Videha (Mithila) Kingdom

Videha is mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as comprising parts of Bihar and extending into small parts of Nepal. The Hindu goddess Sita is described as the princess of Videha, daughter of Raja Janak. The capital of Videha is believed to be either Janakpur (in Present-day Nepal),[14] or Baliraajgadh (in Present-day Madhubani district, Bihar, India).[15]

Magadha Kingdom

The Magadha was established by semi-mythical king Jarasandha, who the Puranas state was a king of the Brihadrathas dynasty and one of the descendants of King Puru. Jarasandha appears in the Mahabharatha as the "Magadhan Emperor who rules all India" and meets with an unceremonious ending. Jarasandha was the greatest among them during epic times. His capital, Rajagriha or Rajgir, is now a modern hill resort in Bihar. Jarasandha's continuous assault on the Yadava kingdom of Surasena resulted in their withdrawal from central India to western India. Jarasandha was a threat not only for the Yadavas but also for the Kurus. Pandava Bhima killed him in a mace dual aided by the intelligence of Vasudeva Krishna.

Thus, Yudhishthira, the Pandava King, could complete his campaign of bringing the whole of India into his empire. Jarasandha had friendly relations with Chedi king Shishupala, Kuru king Duryodhana and Anga king Karna. His descendants, according to the Vayu Purana, ruled Magadha for 1000 years followed by the Pradyota dynasty, which ruled for 138 years from 799–684 BCE. However, there is insufficient evidence to prove the historicity of this claim. These rulers are nonetheless mentioned in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain texts. Palaka, the son of the Avanti king Pradyota, conquered Kaushambi, increasing the kingdom's power.

The Mahajanapadas

The Mahajanapadas era

In the later Vedic Age, a number of small kingdoms or city states, dominated Magadha. Many of these states have been mentioned during in Buddhist and Jaina literature as far back as 1000 BCE. By 500 BCE, sixteen monarchies and 'republics' known as the MahajanapadasKasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji (or Vriji), Malla, Chedi, Vatsa (or Vamsa), Kuru, Panchala, Machcha (or Matsya), Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kamboja— stretched across the Indo-Gangetic plains from modern-day Afghanistan to Bengal and Maharashtra. Vajji covered the modern North Bihar, Magadha covered South-western Bihar while Anga covered South-eastern Bihar. Many of the sixteen kingdoms had coalesced to four major ones by 500/400 BCE, that is by the time of Siddhartha Gautama. These four were Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala and Magadha.[16]

In 537 BCE, Siddhartha Gautama attained the state of "enlightenment" in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. Around the same time, Mahavira who was born in a place called Kundalagrama in the ancient kingdom of Lachuar in Jamui District in modern-day Bihar. He was the 24th Jain Tirthankara, propagated a similar theology, that was to later become Jainism.[17] However, Jain orthodoxy believes it predates all known time. The Vedas are believed to have documented a few Jain Tirthankaras and an ascetic order similar to the sramana movement.[18] The Buddha's teachings and Jainism had doctrines inclined toward asceticism, and were preached in Prakrit, which helped them gain acceptance amongst the masses. They have profoundly influenced practices that Hinduism and Indian spiritual orders are associated with namely, vegetarianism, prohibition of animal slaughter and ahimsa (non-violence).

While the geographic impact of Jainism was limited to India, Buddhist nuns and monks eventually spread the teachings of Buddha to Central Asia, East Asia, Tibet, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. Nalanda University and Vikramshila University one of the oldest residential universities were established in Bihar during this period.

According to both Buddhist texts and Jain texts, one of Pradyota tradition was that king's son would kill his father to become the successor. During this time, it is reported that there was high crimes in Magadha. The people rose up and elected Shishunaga to become the new king, who destroyed the power of the Pradyotas and created the Shishunaga dynasty.

The Magadha Empire

Shishunaga (also called King Sisunaka) was the founder of a dynasty collectively called the Shishunaga dynasty. He established the Magadha empire (in 684 BCE). Due in part to this bloody dynastic feuding, it is thought that a civil revolt led to the emergence of the Shishunaga dynasty. This empire, with its original capital in Rajgriha, later shifted to Pataliputra (both currently in the Indian state of Bihar). The Shishunaga dynasty was one of the largest empires of the Indian subcontinent.

The Hariyanka dynasty king Bimbisara was responsible for expanding the boundaries of his kingdom through matrimonial alliances and conquest. The land of Kosala fell to Magadha in this way. Estimates place the territory ruled by this early dynasty at 300 leagues in diameter, and encompassing 80,000 small settlements. Bimbisara is contemporary with the Buddha, and is recorded as a lay disciple. Bimbisara (543–493 BCE) was imprisoned and killed by his own son who became his successor, Ajatashatru (491–461 BCE), under whose rule, the dynasty reached its largest extent.


Licchavi was an ancient—before the birth of Mahavirarepublic in what is now the Bihar state of India.[10] Vaishali was the capital of Licchavi and the Vajjian Confederacy. The Mahavamsa tells that a courtesan in that city, Ambapali, was famous for her beauty, and helped in large measure in making the city prosperous.[22]

Ajatashatru went to war with the Licchavi several times. Ajatashatru is thought to have ruled from 551 BCE to 519 BCE and moved the capital of the Magadha kingdom from Rajagriha to Pataliputra. The Mahavamsa tells that Udayabhadra eventually succeeded his father, Ajatashatru, and that under him Pataliputra became the largest city in the world. He is thought to have ruled for sixteen years. The kingdom had a particularly bloody succession. Anuruddha eventually succeeded Udaybhadra through assassination, and his son Munda succeeded him in the same fashion, as did his son Nagadasaka.

This dynasty lasted until 424 BCE, when it was overthrown by the Nanda dynasty. This period saw the development in Magadha of two of India's major religions. Gautama Buddha in the 6th or 5th century BCE was the founder of Buddhism, which later spread to East Asia and Southeast Asia, while Mahavira revived and propagated the ancient sramanic religion of Jainism.

The Nanda dynasty was established by an illegitimate son of King Mahanandin from the previous Shishunaga dynasty. The Nanda dynasty ruled Magadha during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. At its greatest extent, the Nanda Empire extended from Burma in the east, Balochistan in the west and probably as far south as Karnataka.[23] Mahapadma Nanda of Nanda dynasty, has been described as the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas. He defeated the Ikshvaku dynasty, as well as the Panchalas, Kasis, Haihayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Surasenas and the Vitihotras. He expanded his territory to the south of Deccan. Mahapadma Nanda died at the age of 88 and, therefore, he ruled during most of the period of this dynasty, which lasted 100 years.

In 321 BC, exiled general Chandragupta Maurya, with the help of Chanakya, founded the Maurya dynasty after overthrowing the reigning Nanda king Dhana Nanda to establish the Maurya Empire. The Maurya Empire (322–185 BC), ruled by the Mauryan dynasty, was geographically extensive, powerful and a political-military empire in ancient India. During this time, most of the subcontinent was united under a single government for the first time. The exceptions were present day Tamil Nadu and Kerala (which was a Tamil kingdom at that time). The empire had its capital city at Pataliputra (near modern Patna). The Mauryan empire under Chandragupta Maurya would not only conquer most of the Indian subcontinent, defeating and conquering the satraps left by Alexander the Great, but also push its boundaries into Persia and Central Asia, conquering the Gandhara region. Chandragupta Maurya then defeated an invasion led by Seleucus I, a Greek general from Alexander's army. Chandragupta Maurya's minister, Kautilya Chanakya, wrote the Arthashastra, a treatise on economics, politics, foreign affairs, administration, military arts, war and religion.

Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded by his son, Bindusara, who expanded the kingdom over most of present-day India, other than the extreme south and east. At its greatest extent, the Empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it reached beyond modern Pakistan, annexing Balochistan and much of what is now Afghanistan. The Empire was extended into India's central and southern regions by the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded the republic of Kalinga.

The Maurya Empire was inherited by Bindusara's son, Ashoka. Ashoka initially sought to expand his kingdom but in the aftermath of the carnage caused during the invasion of Kalinga, he renounced bloodshed and pursued a policy of non-violence or ahimsa after converting to Buddhism. Following the conquest of Kalinga, Ashoka ended the military expansion of the empire, and led the empire through more than 40 years of relative peace, harmony and prosperity. Ashoka's response to the Kalinga War is recorded in the Edicts of Ashoka,[24] one of the oldest preserved historical documents of the Indian subcontinent.[25][26][27]

According to Rock Edicts of Ashoka:

"Beloved-of-the-Gods [Ashoka], King Priyadarsi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. 150000 were deported, 100000 were killed and much more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma and for instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas."

Ashoka, S. Dhammika, The Edicts of King Ashoka, Kandy, Buddhist Publications Society (1994) ISBN 955-24-0104-6

The Mauryan Empire under Ashoka was responsible for the proliferation of Buddhist ideals across the whole of East Asia and South-East Asia. Under Ashoka, India was a prosperous and stable empire of great economic and military power whose political influence and trade extended across Asia and into Europe. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka embraced Buddhism. Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka and South-East Asia. The Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath, is the emblem of India. Archaeologically, the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls into the era of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW). The Arthashastra, the Edicts of Ashoka and Ashokavadana are primary sources of written records of the Mauryan times.

Ashoka was followed for 50 years by a succession of weaker kings. Brihadrata, the last ruler of the Mauryan dynasty, held territories that had shrunk considerably from the time of emperor Ashoka, although he still upheld the Buddhist faith. The Shunga dynasty was established in 185 BC, about fifty years after Ashoka's death, when the king Brihadratha, the last of the Mauryan rulers, was assassinated by the then commander-in-chief of the Mauryan armed forces, Pushyamitra Shunga.

Pushyamitra Shunga was a Yadava who then took over the throne and established the Shunga dynasty. Buddhist records such as the Ashokavadana write that the assassination of Brihadrata and the rise of the Shunga empire led to a wave of persecution of Buddhists,[28] and a resurgence of Hinduism. According to John Marshall,[29] Pushyamitra Shunga may have been the main author of the persecutions, although later Shunga kings seem to have been more supportive of Buddhism. Other historians, such as Etienne Lamotte[30] and Romila Thapar,[31] partially support this view.

Middle Kingdoms

Gupta Coins

The Gupta dynasty ruled from around 240 to 550 CE. The origins of the Gupta Dynasty are shrouded in obscurity. The Chinese traveller Xuanzang provides the first evidence of the Gupta kingdom in Magadha. He came to India in 672 CE and heard of 'Maharaja Sri-Gupta' who built a temple for Chinese pilgrims near Mrigasikhavana. Ghatotkacha (c. 280319) CE, had a son named Chandra Gupta I (Not to be confused with Chandragupta Maurya (340–293 BC), founder of the Mauryan Empire). In a breakthrough deal, Chandra Gupta I was married to a woman from Lichchhavithe main power in Magadha.

Samudragupta succeeded Chandra Gupta I in 335, and ruled for about 45 years, until his death in 380. He attacked the kingdoms of Shichchhatra, Padmavati, Malwas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Maduras and the Abhiras, and merged them in his kingdom. By his death in 380, he had incorporated over twenty kingdoms into his realm, his rule extended from the Himalayas to the river Narmada and from the Brahmaputra to the Yamuna. He gave himself the titles King of Kings and World Monarch. He is considered the Napoleon of India. Chandra Gupta I performed Ashwamedha Yajna to underline the importance of his conquest.

Chandra Gupta II, the Sun of Power (Vikramaditya), ruled from 380 until 413. Only marginally less successful than his father, Chandra Gupta II expanded his realm westwards, defeating the Saka Western Kshatrapas of Malwa, Gujarat and Saurashtra in a campaign lasting until 409. Chandragupta II was succeeded by his son Kumaragupta I. Known as the Mahendraditya, he ruled until 455. Towards the end of his reign a tribe in the Narmada valley, the Pushyamitras, rose in power to threaten the empire.

Skandagupta is generally considered the last of the great rulers.[33] He defeated the Pushyamitra threat, but then was faced with invading Hephthalites or Huna, from the northwest. He repulsed a Huna attack c. 477. Skandagupta died in 487 and was succeeded by his son Narasimhagupta Baladitya.

The Gupta Empire was one of the largest political and military empires in ancient India. The Gupta period is referred to as the Classical age of India by most historians. The time of the Gupta Empire was an "Indian Golden Age" in Indian science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy.[34]

The Gupta Empire had their capital at Pataliputra. The difference between Gupta Empire's and Mauryan Empire's administration was that in the Mauryan administration power was centralised but in the Gupta administration power was more decentralised. The empire was divided into provinces and the provinces were further divided into districts. Villages were the smallest units. The kingdom covered Gujarat, North-East India, south-eastern Pakistan, Odisha, northern Madhya Pradesh and eastern India with capital at Pataliputra, modern Patna. All forms of worship were carried out in Sanskrit.

Rapid strides were made in astronomy during this period. Aryabhata and Varahamihira were two great astronomers and mathematicians. Aryabhata stated that the earth moved round the sun and rotated on its own axis. Aryabhata, who is believed to be the first to come up with the concept of zero, postulated the theory that the Earth moves round the Sun, and studied solar and lunar eclipses. Aryabhata's most famous work was Aryabhatiya. Varahamihira's most important contributions are the encyclopaedic Brihat-Samhita and Pancha-Siddhantika (Pañcasiddhāntikā). Metallurgy also made rapid strides. The proof can be seen in the Iron Pillar of Vaishali[35] and near Mehrauli on the outskirts of Delhi, which was brought from Bihar.[36]

This period is also very rich in Sanskrit literature. The material sources of this age were Kalidasa's works. Raghuvamsa, Malavikagnimitram, Meghadūta, Abhijñānaśākuntala and Kumārasambhava, Mrichchakatika by Shudraka, Panchatantra by Vishnu Sharma, Kama Sutra (the principles of pleasure) and 13 plays by Bhasa were also written in this period.

In medicine, the Guptas were notable for their establishment and patronage of free hospitals. Although progress in physiology and biology was hindered by religious injunctions against contact with dead bodies, which discouraged dissection and anatomy, Indian physicians excelled in pharmacopoeia, caesarean section, bone setting, and skin grafting. Indeed, Hindu medical advances were soon adopted in the Arab and Western worlds. Ayurveda was the main medical system.

According to some historian's work,

The Gupta Empire is considered by many scholars to be the "classical age" of Hindu and Buddhist art and literature. The Rulers of the Gupta Empire were strong supporters of developments in the arts, architecture, science, and literature. The Gupta Empire circulated a large number of gold coins, called dinars, with their inscriptions. The Gupta Dynasty also left behind an effective administrative system. During times of peace, the Gupta Empire system was decentralised, with only taxation flowing to the capital at Pataliputra. During times of war however, the government realigned and fought its invaders. The system was soon extinguished in fighting off the Hunnic Invasions.[37][38]

The Pala Empire was a Buddhist dynasty that ruled from the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. The name Pala (Modern Bengali: pal) means protector and was used as an ending to the names of all Pala monarchs. The Palas were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism. Gopala was the first ruler from the dynasty. He came to power in 750 in Gaur by a democratic election. This event is recognised as one of the first democratic elections in South Asia since the time of the Mahā Janapadas. He reigned from 750-770 and consolidated his position by extending his control over all of Bengal as well as parts of Bihar. The Buddhist dynasty lasted for four centuries (750-1120 CE).

The empire reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala. Dharmapala extended the empire into the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent. This triggered once again the power struggle for the control of the subcontinent. Devapala, successor of Dharmapala, expanded the empire to cover much of South Asia and beyond. His empire stretched from Assam and Utkala in the east, Kamboja (modern day Afghanistan) in the north-west and Deccan in the south. According to Pala copperplate inscription, Devapala exterminated the Utkalas, conquered the Pragjyotisha (Assam), shattered the pride of the Huna, and humbled the lords of Pratiharas, Gurjara and the Dravidas.

The Palas created many temples and works of art as well as supported the Universities of Nalanda and Vikramashila. Both Nalanda University and Vikramshila University reached their peak under the Palas. The universities received an influx of students from many parts of the world. Bihar and Bengal were invaded by the south Indian Emperor Rajendra Chola I of the Chola dynasty in the 11th century.[39][40] The Pala Empire eventually disintegrated in the 12th century under the attack of the Sena dynasty. Pala Empire was the last empire of middle kingdoms whose capital was once in Pataliputra (modern Patna) under Devapala's rule.

Medieval Period

Medieval Period

Bihar was largely in ruins when visited by Xuanzang, the famous Buddhist monk from China, and suffered further damage at the hands of Muslim raiders in the 12th century.[41] With the advent of the foreign aggression and eventual foreign subjugation of India, Bihar passed through very uncertain times during the medieval period. Muhammad of Ghor attacked this region of the Indian subcontinent many times. Muhammad of Ghor's armies destroyed many Buddhist structures, including the great Nalanda university.[42]

Muslim advance

The Buddhism of Magadha was finally swept away by the Islamic invasion under Muhammad Bin Bakhtiar Khilji, one of Qutb-ud-Din's generals destroyed monasteries fortified by the Sena armies, during which many of the viharas and the famed universities of Nalanda and Vikramshila were destroyed, and thousands of Buddhist monks were massacred in the 12th century.[43][44][45][46][47]

Medieval Bihar saw a period of glory lasting about six years during the rule of Sher Shah Suri, who hailed from Sasaram. Sher Shah Suri built the longest road of the Indian subcontinent, the Grand Trunk Road, which started at Calcutta (Bengal) and ended at Peshawar, now Pakistan. The economic reforms carried out by Sher Shah, such as the introduction of the Rupee and Custom Duties, are still used in the Republic of India. He revived the city of Patna, where he built his headquarters.[48][49]

Hemu, the Hindu Emperor, the son of a food seller, and himself a vendor of saltpetre at Rewari,[50] rose to become Chief of Army and Prime Minister[51][52] under the command of Adil Shah Suri of the Suri Dynasty. He had won 22 battles against the Afghans, from Punjab to Bengal and had defeated Akbar's forces twice, at Agra and Delhi in 1556,[53] before succeeding to the throne of Delhi and establishing a 'Hindu Raj' in North India, albeit for a short duration, from Purana Quila in Delhi. He was killed in the Second Battle of Panipat.

Mughal rule

From 1557 to 1576, Akbar the Great, the conquering Mughal Badshah (emperor), Bengal (Which controlled Bihar) to his empire, dividing Bihar and Bengal each into one of his original twelve subahs (imperial top-level provinces; Bihar with seat at Patna) and the region passed through uneventful provincial rule during much of this period.[54]

With the decline of Mughals, Bihar passed into the control of Nawabs of Bengal. This period saw Bihar's exploitation at the hands of the rulers in the form of high taxes, but the Nawabs of Bengal also allowed trade to flourish in the region. Some of the greatest melas of the Indian subcontinent, such as the Soenpur Mela, which was the biggest cattle fair in India, were allowed to continue and even flourish with traders coming from near and far.

Guru Nanak Dev visited Patna and stayed at Bhagat Jaitamal's house near in Gaighat, Patna in 1509 CE.[55] Later Guru Tegh Bahadur came to Patna with his family in 1666.[56] The 10th and the last Guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh was born at Patna Sahib, Patna in 1666.[57] Prince Azim-us-Shan, the grandson of Aurangzeb was appointed as the governor of Pataliputra in 1703.[58] Azim-us-Shan renamed Pataliputra as Azimabad, in 1704.[59][60]

The British

British East India Company

After the Battle of Buxar, 1764, which was fought in Buxar, hardly 115 km from Patna, the Mughals as well as the Nawabs of Bengal lost effective control over the territories then constituting the province of Bengal, which currently comprises Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha. The British East India Company was accorded the diwani rights, that is, the right to administer the collection and management of revenues of the province of Bengal, and parts of Oudh, currently comprising a large part of Uttar Pradesh. The diwani rights were legally granted by Shah Alam, who was then the sovereign Mughal emperor of India. During the rule of the British East India Company in Bihar, Patna emerged as one of the most important commercial and trading centres of eastern India, preceded only by Kolkata.

Babu Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur and his army, as well as countless other persons from Bihar, contributed to the India's First War of Independence (1857), also called the Sepoy Mutiny by some historians. Babu Kunwar Singh (1777–1858) one of the leaders of the Indian uprising of 1857 belonged[61] to a royal Rajput house of Jagdispur, currently a part of Bhojpur district of Bihar. By that time Bihar had many feudal estates or Zamindars. Most notably Tikari Estate, Raj Darbhanga, Tajpur Estate, Mohrampur Jagir, Bettiah Raj, Hathwa Raj and Banaili Estate. At the age of 80 years, during India's First War of Independence, he actively led a select band of armed soldiers against the troops under the command of the East India Company, and also recorded victories in many battles.[62]

The British Raj

Under the British Raj, Bihar particularly Patna gradually started to attain its lost glory and emerged as an important and strategic centre of learning and trade in India. From this point, Bihar remained a part the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj until 1912, when the province of Bihar and Orissa was carved out as a separate province. When the Bengal Presidency was partitioned in 1912 to carve out a separate province, Patna was made the capital of the new province. The city limits were stretched westwards to accommodate the administrative base, and the township of Bankipore took shape along the Bailey Road (originally spelt as Bayley Road, after the first Lt. Governor, Charles Stuart Bayley). This area was called the New Capital Area. The houses of the English residents, were all at the west-end at Bankipore. The greater part of the English residences were on the banks of the river, many of them being on the northern side of an open square, which formed the parade ground, and racecourse (present Gandhi Maidan). There was also the Golghar a wondrous bell-shaped building, one hundred feet high, with a winding outer staircase leading to the top, and a small entrance door at the base, which was intended for a granary, to be filled when there was the expectation of famine. It was initially considered to be both politically and materially impracticable.

To this day, locals call the old area as the City whereas the new area is called the New Capital Area. The Patna Secretariat with its imposing clock tower and the Patna High Court are two imposing landmarks of this era of development. Credit for designing the massive and majestic buildings of colonial Patna goes to the architect, I. F. Munnings. By 1916-1917, most of the buildings were ready for occupation. These buildings reflect either Indo-Saracenic influence (like Patna Museum and the state Assembly), or overt Renaissance influence like the Raj Bhawan and the High Court. Some buildings, like the General Post Office (GPO) and the Old Secretariat bear pseudo-Renaissance influence. Some say, the experience gained in building the new capital area of Patna proved very useful in building the imperial capital of New Delhi.

The British built several educational institutions in Patna like Patna College, Patna Science College, Bihar College of Engineering, Prince of Wales Medical College and the Bihar Veterinary College. With government patronage, the Biharis quickly seized the opportunity to make these centres flourish quickly and attain renown. In 1935, certain portions of Bihar were reorganised into the separate province of Orissa. Patna continued as the capital of Bihar province under the British Raj.

Independence movement

Bihar played a major role in the Indian independence struggle. Most notable were the Champaran movement against the Indigo plantation and the Quit India Movement of 1942.

After his return from South Africa, it was from Bihar that Mahatma Gandhi launched his pioneering civil-disobedience movement, Champaran Satyagraha.[63] Raj Kumar Shukla drew Mahatma Gandhi's attention to the exploitation of the peasants by the European indigo planters. Champaran Satyagraha received the spontaneous support from many Biharis, including Brajkishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad (who became the first President of India) and Anugrah Narayan Sinha (who became the first Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister of Bihar).[64]

In India's struggle for independence, the Champaran Satyagraha marks a very important stage. Raj Kumar Shukla drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi, who had just returned from South Africa, to the plight of the peasants suffering under an oppressive system established by European indigo planters. Besides other excesses they were forced to cultivate indigo on 3/20 part of their holding and sell it to the planters at prices fixed by the planters. This marked Gandhi's entry into the India's independence movement. On arrival at the district headquarters in Motihari, Gandhi and his team of lawyers—Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Brajkishore Prasad and Ram Navami Prasad, who he had handpicked to participate in the satyagraha—were ordered to leave by the next available train. They refused to do this, and Gandhi was arrested. He was released and the ban order was withdrawn in the face of a "Satyagraha" threat. Gandhi conducted an open inquiry into the peasant's grievances. The Government had to appoint an inquiry committee with Gandhi as a member. This led to the abolition of the system.

Raj Kumar Shukla has been described by Gandhi in his Atmakatha, as a man whose suffering gave him the strength to rise against the odds. In his letter to Gandhi he wrote "Respected Mahatma, You hear the stories of others everyday. Today please listen to my story.... I want to draw your attention to the promise made by you in the Lucknow Congress that you would come to Champaran. The time has come for you to fulfill your promise. 1.9 million suffering people of Champaran are waiting to see you."

Gandhi reached Patna on 10 April 1917 and on 16 April he reached Motihari accompanied by Raj Kumar Shukla. Under Gandhi's leadership the historic "Champaran Satyagraha" began. The contribution of Raj Kumar Shukla is reflected in the writings of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first President of India, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Acharya Kriplani and Mahatma Gandhi. Raj Kumar Shukla maintained a diary in which he gave an account of struggle against the atrocities of the indigo planters, atrocities so movingly depicted by Dinabandhu Mitra in Nil Darpan, a play that was translated by Michael Madhusudan Dutt. This movement by Mahatma Gandhi received the spontaneous support of a cross section of people, including Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Bihar Kesari Sri Krishna Sinha, Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha and Brajkishore Prasad.

Shaheed Baikuntha Shukla was another nationalist from Bihar, who was hanged for murdering a government approver named Phanindrananth Ghosh. This led to the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. Phanindranath Ghosh hitherto a key member of the Revolutionary Party had betrayed the cause by turning an approver and giving evidence, which led to his murder. Baikunth was commissioned to plan the murder of Ghosh. He carried out the killing successfully on 9 November 1932. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and, on 14 May 1934, he was hanged in Gaya Central Jail.

In North and Central Bihar, a peasant movement was an important side effect of the independence movement. The Kisan Sabha movement started in Bihar under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati who in 1929 had formed the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS) to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights.[65] Gradually the peasant movement intensified and spread across the rest of India. All these radical developments on the peasant front culminated in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 1936, with Swami Sahajanand Saraswati elected as its first President.[66] This movement aimed at overthrowing the fedual zamindari system instituted by the British. It was led by Swami Sahajanand Saraswati and his followers Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Rahul Sankrityayan and others. Pandit Yamuna Karjee along with Rahul Sankrityayan and other Hindi literaries started publishing a Hindi weekly Hunkar from Bihar in 1940. Hunkar later became the mouthpiece of the peasant movement and the agrarian movement in Bihar and was instrumental in spreading the movement. The peasant movement later spread to other parts of the country and helped in digging out the British roots in the Indian society by overthrowing the zamindari system.

Bihar's contribution in the independence movement has been immense with famous leaders like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati,[67] Shaheed Baikuntha Shukla, Bihar Bibhuti Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Mulana Mazharul Haque, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, Satyendra Narayan Sinha (Singh), Basawon Singh (Sinha), Yogendra Shukla, Sheel Bhadra Yajee, Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Dr. Maghfoor Ahmad Ajazi and many others who worked for India's indepdence and worked to lift up the underprivileged masses. Khudiram Bose, Upendra Narayan Jha "Azad" and Prafulla Chaki were also active in revolutionary movement in Bihar.

Towards the end of 1946, between 30 October and 7 November, a large-scale massacre of Muslims in Bihar made Partition more likely. Begun as a reprisal for the Noakhali riot, whose death toll had been greatly overstated in immediate reports, it was difficult for authorities to deal with because it was spread out over a large number of scattered villages, and the number of casualties was impossible to establish accurately: "According to a subsequent statement in the British Parliament, the death-toll amounted to 5,000. The Statesman's estimate was between 7,500 and 10,000; the Congress party admitted to 2,000; Mr. Jinnah claimed about 30,000."[68]

The first Cabinet of Bihar was formed on 2 April 1946, consisting of two members, Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha as the first Chief Minister of Bihar and Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha as Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister of Bihar (also in charge of Labour, Health, Agriculture and Irrigation).[69][70][71] Other ministers were inducted later. The Cabinet served as the first Bihar Government after independence in 1947. In 1950, Dr. Rajendra Prasad from Bihar became the first President of India.

Recent events

The 1974 smallpox epidemic of India occurred primarily in Bihar and a few other Indian states, killing thousands of people. The state of Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in the year 2000.[72] 2005 Bihar assembly elections ended the 15 years of continuous RJD rule in the state, giving way to NDA led by Nitish Kumar. Bihari migrant workers have faced violence and prejudice in many parts of India, like Maharashtra, Punjab and Assam.[73][74][75] To mark the separation of Bihar from Bengal on 22 March 1912, the completion of 100 years of existence is being celebrated in the name of Bihar Shatabadi Celebration Utsav.[76] There was a political crisis over post of the chief minister during February 2015.

Timeline for Bihar

  • 2500–1345 BCE: Chirand, on the northern bank of the Ganga River, in Saran district, has an archaeological record from the Neolithic age.
  • 1100-500 BCE: Mithila region of present-day Bihar became the centre of Indian power in the later Vedic Period during the rule of Janaks of Videha.[77]
  • 560–480 BCE: The era of Buddha.
  • Around 500-around 300 BCE: Foundation and rule of world's first republic, Vajji, a confederation of various clans, in the Mithila region of present-day Bihar with capital at Vaishali and Lichhivis are the most powerful clan of Vajji.
  • 490 BCE: Establishment of Pataliputra (Modern Patna).
  • Before 325 BCE: Nanda clan rules in Magadha.
  • 450–362 BCE: Emperor Mahapadma Nanda is ruler of the Magadh Empire, Nanda Dynasty.
  • 304 BCE: Ashok Maurya born in Pataliputra
  • 325–185 BCE: Magadh Empire under the Maurya Dynasty
  • 340 BCE: General Chandragupta Maurya crowned Emperor of Magadh; Chandragupta is the first Mauryan emperor.
  • 273 BCE: Ashok Maurya crowned new Emperor of Magadh, Buddhism is exported to Persian Empire, Greece, China and East Asia
  • 273–232: Majority of 'Indian' region brought under the control of the Magadh Empire by Ashoka-The Great.
  • 232 BCE: Death of Emperor Ashok Maurya
  • 250 BCE: 3rd Buddhist Council
  • 185 BCE–80 CE: The Magadha Empire falls under the Shunga Dynasty after the military coup by General Pushyamitra Shunga.
  • 71–26 BCE: Magadh Empire falls under the Kanva dynasty
  • 240–600 CE: Magadh Empire falls under the Gupta Dynasty. First ruler is Chandra Gupta
  • 375–415: Emperor Chandragupta II
  • 500: Attack by Huns weakens the power of Guptas. Provinces break away from the Magadh Empire.
  • Around 6th century — 11th century : The rule of Pala and Sena dynastys in Mithila region.
  • 600–650: Harsha Vardhana empire expands into Magadh from the present-day Haryana.
  • 750–1200: The Pala Dynasty Expands into Magadh.
  • 11th century- around 1325: The Karnata dynasty rules Mithila region.
  • 1200: Bakhtiyar Khilji's army destroys the Buddhist universities at Nalanda and Vikramshila. Start of the Muslim Era.
  • 1200–1400: Sharp decline of Buddhism in Bihar and northern India in general.
  • 1250–1526: Magadh and Mithila regions come under the Delhi Sultanate.
  • 1526–1540: Mughal Emperor, Babur, defeats the last Sultan of Delhi, Lodi, and establishes the Mughal Dynasty.
  • 1540–1555: Shenshah SherShah Suri (from Sasaram, modern south Bihar) captures empire from Mughals (SherShah built the Grand Trunk Road, introduced the Rupee and Custom Duties).
  • 1556: Hindu King Hem Chandra Vikramaditya popular as Hemu takes control of Agra and Delhi as a Vikramaditya King and declares Hindu rule in North India.
  • 1556: Mughal dynasty regains control of Agra after the Battle of Panipat.
  • 1556–1764: Bihar becomes a province of the Mughal Empire.
  • 1666: Guru Gobind Singh The 10th and last Sikh Guru, is born in modern-day Patna.
  • 1757–1857: The British East India Company expands it rule into Bihar from Bengal.
  • 1764: Battle of Buxar, Core lands of Mughal-ruled Hindustan are put firmly under British Company government. Tax collection rights are now a duty of the Company.
  • 1764–1920: Migration of Bihari & Eastern United Provinces (modern-day Eastern Uttar Pradesh) workers across the British Empire under the rule of the Company and later Crown Government. Bihari migrant population dominate and settle in Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad-Tobago, Fiji, Mauritius, and Natal-South Africa. Smaller number of migrants also settles in Jamaica.
  • 1857: Period of the Revolution of 1857. East India Company Sepoys (80% Hindu according to William Daryample in the book "The Last Mughal") declare Bahadur Shah Zafar II Emperor of Hindustan. The region becomes the centre of resistance to the East India Company. End of the Muslim Era.
  • 1858: Mughal Sultanate-e-Hind reorganised to form the new British Indian Empire after the British Government abolishes the East India Company. Start of the British Age
  • 1877: House of Windsor is made the new Imperial Royal Family. Queen Victoria declared the first Empress of the British Indian Empire
  • 1912: Province of Bihar and Orissa separated from Bengal
  • 1913: Start of the dramatic slowdown in wealth creation throughout India including Bihar
  • 1916: Patna High Court founded
  • 1917: Mahatma Gandhi arrives in Champaran with a team of[78] eminent lawyers:[79] Brajkishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha and others.[78] The Champaran Satyagraha movement is launched. Establishment of Patna University.
  • 1925: Patna Medical College Hospital established under the name "Prince of Wales Medical College"
  • 1935: 1935 Government of India Act federates the Indian Empire.
  • 1936: Sir James David Sifton appointed the first Governor of Bihar.
  • 1937: Formation of[80] first Congress government in Bihar under provincial autonomy granted by British rule, Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha sworn[81] in as Chief Minister and Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha became[82] Deputy Chief Minister cum Finance Minister.
  • 1942: Quit India Movement.
  • 1946: First Cabinet of Bihar formed, consisting[69] of two members: Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha as first Chief Minister of Bihar and Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha[70] as Bihar's first Deputy Chief Minister cum Finance[83] Minister(also in charge of Labour, Health, Agriculture and Irrigation).Other ministers were inducted later.
  • 1947: Indian Independence; Bihar becomes a state in the new Dominion of India. Religious violence leads to the migration of millions of Bihari Muslims to the new Pakistani states of Sindh and East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh).
  • 1950: The Dominion of India is replaced by a republic in 1950. Enactment of Land Reforms bill in Bihar, and abolishment of Zamindari system.
  • 1952:Many development projects needed for the all round development of the state initiated, be it on irrigation front or on industrial front by the state government.[84] It included several river valley projects right from Koshi, Aghaur and Sakri to several other such river projects.[85]
  • 1952-57:Bihar rated as the best administered among the states in the country.[86]
  • 1955 The Birla Institute of Technology(BIT) is established[87] at Mesra, Ranchi.
  • 1957-62:Second five-year plan period, Bihar government brought several heavy industries like Barauni Oil Refinery, HEC plant at Hatia, Bokaro Steel Plant, Barauni Fertiliser Plant, Barauni Thermal Power Station, Maithon Hydel Power Station, Sulphur mines at Amjhaur, Sindri Fertiliser Plant, Kargali Coal Washery, Barauni Dairy Project, etc. for the all round development of the state.[88]
  • 1963–1967: Sri Krishna Ballabh Sahay became Chief Minister of Bihar by defeating his contestant Mahesh Prasad Sinha with support of Satyendra Narain Sinha. In his term of government, the state underwent further massive industrialisation.
  • 1973: Indian wealth creation begins to recover; surge in all India GDP starts again.
  • 1975–1977: Suspension of the Republican Constitution. Bihar is the centre of resistance against the Emergency. Janata Party Came to power at Centre and in Bihar; Karpoori Thakur became CM after winning chief minister-ship battle from the[89] then Janata Party President Satyendra Narayan Sinha.
  • 1984: Indira Gandhi Assassination leads to deadly anti-Sikh Riots in northern India, including Bihar
  • 1988-1990: Unceremonious removal of Bihar CM Bhagwat Jha Azad, Veteran[90] Leader Satyendra Narayan Singh sworn in as Chief Minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav became Leader Of Opposition.
  • 1990–2005: Lalu Prasad/ Rabri Devi term of Government (RJD Party). Period marks the complete collapse of the Bihar economy, massive rise in crime, and the development of mass migration to other states in Indian Union of all classes/ castes and religions.
  • 1992: Bihar escapes severe rioting after the destruction of Babri Masjid.
  • 2000: Bihar divided into two states by NDA central government - The northern part retains the name "Bihar", whilst southern (and more industralised region) becomes the State of Jharkhand.
  • 2002–2004: Deadly crime wave grips Patna and Bihar
  • 2003: First Bihari-Bhojpuri Immigrant Worker Crisis; Bihari migrants attacked in Mumbai, and hundreds killed and tens of thousands flee Assam
  • 2005: In Feb, Lalu Prasad/ Rabri Devi lose power after 15 years, Presidents rule declared after no party wins overall majority in lower house
  • 2005: In November, Janta Dal (United) with the BJP wins the state election with a working majority. Nitish Kumar becomes the first NDA Chief Minister of Bihar.
  • 2005–2007: Nitish Kumar is declared the best Chief Minister in India by the India Today magazine
  • 2007: First Global Meet for a "Resurgent Bihar" was organised in Patna.President APJ Abdul Kalam inaugurated the meet.Bhojpuri cinema hall complex bombed in Punjab. 6 UP and Bihari migrant workers killed.
  • 2008: Second Bihari-Bhojpuri Immigrant Worker Crisis: Migrants killed in racially motivated hate attacks in Maharashtra, Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland. Hundreads of thousands flee back to Bihar and UP's Purvanchal territory. Bihar economy makes remarkable recovery in Q1 2008, resulting in labour shortages in Punjab, Maharashtra.[91]

See also

Further reading

  • Swami Sahajanand Saraswati Rachnawali (Selected works of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati) in Six volumes published by Prakashan Sansthan, Delhi, 2003.
  • Swami Sahajanand and the Peasants of Jharkhand: A View from 1941 translated and edited by Walter Hauser along with the unedited Hindi original (Manohar Publishers, paperback, 2005).
  • Sahajanand on Agricultural Labour and the Rural Poor translated and edited by Walter Hauser (Manohar Publishers, paperback, 2005).
  • Religion, Politics, and the Peasants: A Memoir of India's Freedom Movement translated and edited by Walter Hauser (Manohar Publishers, hardbound, 2003).
  • Pandit Yadunandan (Jadunandan) Sharma, 1947, Bakasht Mahamari Aur Uska Achook Ilaaz (Bakasht Epidemic and its Infalliable Remedy) in Hindi, Allahabad.
  • Indradeep Sinha, 1969, Sathi ke Kisanon ka Aitihasic Sangharsha (Historic Struggle of Sathi Peasants), in Hindi, Patna.
  • Das Arvind N., The republic of Bihar, Penguin Books, 1992,
  • George A. Grierson (1885). Bihar Peasant Life. Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta. 
  • Mishra Shree Govind, History Of Bihar 1740-1772, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1970
  • Verma B S, Socio-religious Economic And Literary Condition Of Bihar (From ca. 319 A.D. to 1000 A.D.), Munshiram Manoharlal, 1962
  • Naipaul V S, India: A Wounded Civilization, Picador, 1977
  • Trevithick Alan, The Revival Of Buddhist Pilgrimage At Bodh Gaya (1811–1949): Anagarika Dharmapala And The Mahabodhi Temple
  • Omalley L S S, History Of Magadh, Veena Publication, 2005, ISBN 81-89224-01-8
  • Ahmad Qeyamuddin, Patna Through The Ages: Glimpses of History, Society & Economy, Commonwealth Publishers,1988
  • Crindle John W Mc, Ancient India As Described By Ptolemy, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1927, ISBN 81-215-0945-9
  • Patra C, Life In Ancient India: As Depicted In The Digha Nikaya, Punthi Pustak, 1996, ISBN 81-85094-93-4
  • Hazra Kanai Lal, Buddhism In India As Described By The Chinese Pilgrims AD 399-689, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1983, ISBN 81-215-0132-6
  • Mccrindle John W, Ancient India As Described By Megasthenes And Arrian, Munshiram Manoharlal
  • Waddell, Austine L., Report On The Excavations At Pataliputra (Patna) - The Palibothra Of The Greeks, Asian Publicational Services, Calcutta, 1903
  • Brass Paul R., The politics of India since Independence, Cambridge University Press, 1990
  • Askari S. H., Medieval Bihar: Sultante and Mughal Period, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, 1990
  • Tayler William, Three Months at Patna during the Insurrection of 1857, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, 2007
  • Taylor P.J.O., What really happened during the Mutiny: A day by day account of the major events of 1857-1859 in India, Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-564182-5
  • Basham A. L., The Wonder that was India, Picador, 1954, ISBN 0-330-43909-X
  • Nambisan Vijay, Bihar in the eye of the beholder, Penguin Books, 2000, ISBN 978-0-14-029449-1
  • Radhakanta Barik - Land & Caste Politics in Bihar (Shipra Publications, Delhi, 2006)


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