Many tourists are attracted to Bihar. In ancient times, it was called Magadha, and played an important role as the birthplace of Jainism and Buddhism. It was the site of the world's first university, Nalanda; and the seat of India's first empire, the Mauryan Empire, founded by the great Emperor Ashoka.

The Gupta Empire also originated from Magadha, and oversaw a Golden Age in science, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy.?Bihar's cultural heritage is visible in many ancient structures throughout the state.

Islamic culture has had a b influence, too, but more particularly on Bihari's cuisine. Bihar is known for sweets and snacks, especially Bihari rolls.

This state's fertile plains are watered by the Ganges, whose tributaries regularly flood, and in which the endangered Ganges river dolphin swims. Another endangered species, the tiger, is found in the Valmiki sanctuary.

Bihar lags economically. Over 90% of the population lives in rural areas. Ethnic Biharis living elsewhere in India are victims of prejudice, seen as ignorant peasants.

However the state government has increasing investment and reduced corruption, leading to an economic revival.


Patna, Bihar's capital, is quite traditional. Extended families stay together in one home and most marriages are arranged and caste-based. Weddings are lavish and ritualistic. Dowries are given by the bride's family to the groom. Life here is slowly becoming more progressive, though, with intermarriage among cultural groups and castes becoming more usual, and increasing numbers of women professionals.