State of northeast India; area 99,199 sq km/38,301 sq mi; population (2001 est) 82,878,800. The capital is Patna. The River Ganges runs west–east in the north of the state, through intensely cultivated alluvial plains which are prone to drought and floods. The chief industries are copper, iron, and coal; Bihar accounts for 15% of India's mineral production. Three-quarters of the population live in the northern plains, and the majority are involved in agriculture, producing rice, jute, sugar cane, cereals, oilseed, tobacco, and potatoes. The languages spoken are Hindi and Bihari. As part of the Bihar Reorganization Act, the region was split in November 2000 to form the new state of Jharkhand.
The ancient kingdom of Magadha roughly corresponded to central Bihar and Jharkhand. Many Bihari people were massacred as a result of their protest at the establishment of Bangladesh in 1971. Elections were postponed and direct rule imposed after public disturbances in 1995.
Ancient history Bihar figures prominently in the most notable eras of India's history: it was the scene of Buddha's enlightenment and mission; later it was the Magadha of the Mauryan and the Gupta dynasties; Patna, as Pataliputra, was the capital. At the court there lived and worked men such as Kālidāsa, the playwright, and Aryabhatta, the mathematician, and was a centre from which Indians went out to preach Buddhism and to which Chinese came to study at the Buddhist Nalanda University. In the medieval period Bihar was ruled by the Delhi sultans and a succession of Muslim rulers, until it was taken over by the Moguls. In the mid-18th century the Mogul emperor gave the East India Company the diwani (revenue administration) of Bengal and Bihar.
The 20th century From 1912 to 1936 Bihar and Orissa were one province. More recently, Bihar has declined to be one of India's poorest states, and was beset by outbreaks of caste violence in the 1980s. The formation of the new state Jharkhand in 2000 produced a financial loss to the truncated Bihar, with 63% of its total revenue generated by the now independent southern region.
Recent industrialization Bihar's mineral reserves were cut by 65% with the formation of Jharkhand. However, it still accounts for a significant portion of the country's mineral production. India is the world's leading producer of mica, of which nearly half comes from Bihar. Since 1947, the government has undertaken major industrial projects in the state such as the Bokaro steel mill in the Damodar Valley, which provides employment for over 200,000 people. Steel is also produced at Jamshedpur at India's first integrated iron and steel works, opened in 1908. Oil from Assam is refined at Barauni.
Famous people associated with Bihar are Indian emperor Chandragupta Maurya and Mauryan emperor Asoka.