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Bihar

Bihar or Behar (bēhärˈ) [key], state (2001 provisional pop. 82,878,796), 36,420 sq mi (94,328 sq km), E central India. Patna is the capital. Bihar is bounded by Nepal (N) and by Indian states—West Bengal (E), Jharkhand (S), and Uttar Pradesh (W). Bihar is a rich agricultural area, crossed by the Ganges River. Rainfall, frequently inadequate, is supplemented by irrigation, but the state is also subject to devastating flooding. Rice is grown where possible; corn, wheat, barley, sugarcane, tobacco, and oilseed are important crops. Jute is the main cash crop in the east. There is relatively little industry or mineral resources. There is some tourism, largely related to sites of importance to Buddhists. Transportation lines run east and west, linking northern and central India with the Bengal ports. Despite its agricultural wealth, Bihar is India's poorest state, with high illiteracy and infant mortality rates. The population, c.80% Hindu, is unusually homogeneous for India. Bihari, an Indo-European language, is predominant. Bihar is governed by a chief minister and a cabinet responsible to a bicameral legislature with one elected house and by a governor appointed by the president of India.

Bihar was part of the ancient kingdom of Magadha, and contains many sites associated with the Buddha's early life, including Bodh Gaya, the site of his enlightenment. Muslims occupied it in 1193 and the Delhi sultans in 1497. In 1765 the British took over Bihar and merged it with Bengal. The province of Bihar and Orissa was formed in 1912 (see Odisha); Bihar became a separate province in 1936. About 3,150 sq mi (8,160 sq km) situated along Bihar's eastern boundary were transferred to West Bengal state in 1956. The southern half of Bihar became the state of Jharkhand in 2000. Violence, intimidation, and fraud have often accompanied elections in the state, and direct federal rule was imposed during the election period in 1995.

Bihar Sharif bēhärˈ shärēfˈ or Bihar, city (1991 pop. 201,323), on a tributary of the Ganges River, was the former capital of Magadha. It has many Muslim sites of pilgrimage.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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