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Bihar or Behar (bēhärˈ), 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, on a tributary of the Ganges River, was the former capital of Magadha. It has many Muslim sites of pilgrimage.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a state in northeastern India. Borders on Nepal. Area 174,000 sq km; population 55.1 million (1968, estimate). The administrative center is the city of Patna.

Natural features. The northern part of Bihar is occupied by the Indo-Gangetic Plain, with weakly dissected terrain and a dense system of rivers; the south is occupied by the Chota Nagpur Plateau (with elevations over 1,000 m) and the Rajmahal Hills (with elevations of 500–753 m). The climate is tropical monsoonal, with dry winters and humid summers. Precipitation is about 1,000 mm per year. There are fertile alluvial soils in the north and red and red-yellow laterites in the south. The vegetation is primarily deciduous mixed tropical forest (sal, Albizzia, acacia, and others) and bamboo thickets.

Economy. Bihar is a predominantly agrarian state; it is also the chief mining region of India, with a developing heavy industry.

In the area of agriculture, the position of the large landlords (the former zamindars) is strong. Agricultural laborers constitute nearly one-third of the people employed in agriculture. One-half the state’s area is sown and one-fifth is irrigated, mainly in the right-bank area. The main food crop is rice. Corn, wheat, barley, and leguminous plants are also cultivated. Jute is grown in the northeast (about one-fifth of the national output of India); sugarcane is grown on the plains, especially on the left bank; and potatoes are planted (over one-fourth of the national output). The cattle population is 15 million head (1966), and there are also 3.6 million head of buffalo. The traditional occupation of the inhabitants (in the south of the Chota Nagpur Plateau) is the collecting of lacquer; Bihar is the country’s leading state in this area of production.

Bihar is the only Indian state in which the majority of manufacturing workers are employed in machine-building, metallurgy, and the chemical industry. The most developed among the other branches is the sugar industry; there are jute and cotton factories and tobacco enterprises.

The Damodar basin (in the valley of the Damodar River—a right tributary of the Ganges) is the site of one-half of India’s coal mining, nearly all of it coking coal (Jharia, Bokaro). Deposits of iron ore (one-fourth of the total output; in the area of Singhbhum), copper ore (Ghatsila), and mica—the richest in the world (one-half of the national output; the main center is Kodarma)—are worked on the Chota Nagpur Plateau. Bihar provides raw uranium and bauxites (Lohardaga; over one-half of the total output). A complex hydraulic-engineering construction project is being carried out on the Gandak and Kosi rivers (left tributaries of the Ganges); it provides not only irrigation and protection of the left bank from floods but also for the creation of a system of electric power plants and a navigable canal. Along with West Bengal, Bihar is carrying out the first project in India for the complex development of the basin of the Damodar River. As of 1970, a metallurgical combine in Bokaro and a state factory for heavy machine-building, casting, and forging in Ranchi were under construction, both with the aid of the USSR. A metallurgical complex is in operation in Jamshedpur, and there are also heavy machine-building enterprises belonging to the Tata monopoly. Other significant industrial centers include Dhanbad (a center for coal extraction and machine-building), Ghatsila (copper works), Muri (an aluminum oxide plant), Gomiya (an explosives plant), and Dalmianagar (cement, paper, and sugar industry). There is a large state nitrogen fertilizer plant in Sindri and a state oil refinery in Barauni that was built with the aid of the USSR, for which the raw material comes by pipeline from Assam. There are product-distribution lines between Barauni and Calcutta and Barauni and Kanpur.


The name “Bihar” has been known since the late first to early second millennium. It gradually came into usage to designate ancient Magadha, Mithila, and certain other neighboring regions. Bihar became part of the states of the Pala and Sena (eighth to 12th centuries); between the late 12th and mid-18th centuries it belonged to the Delhi sultanate, the Great Mogul state, and the Bengal nabob regime. It was under English control between 1757 and 1765. It became a province in 1911 and has been a state in the Republic of India since 1950.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a state of NE India: consists of part of the Ganges plain; important for rice: lost the S to the new state of Jharkhand in 2000. Capital: Patna. Pop.: 82 878 796 (2001). Area: 99 225 sq. km (38 301 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005