Blissful Bihar: Beyond What Meets the Eye

Blissful Bihar: Beyond What Meets the Eye
The ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara in Bihar, Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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With a burst of culture and biodiversity, Bihar is often overlooked. Step into the land of bliss and find out why it must be on your 2021 bucket list

OT Staff
November 26 , 2020
04 Min Read

Bihar’s long and rich history dates back centuries—the former kingdom of Magadha and home to multiple dynasties, like the Mauryas and the Guptas. The state is also well endowed with natural wonders and is home to ample biodiversity. To ensure the safety of travellers, the state government has also issued stringent precautionary measures. Step foot into blissful Bihar and wonder why it is often overlooked. 

The Wild Side 
Bihar’s fertile fields and green forests on the banks of the river Ganga host some of the wildest beasts in their habitats. In the Terai region of the Shivalik Hills, spread over an area of 880 sq km, the Valmiki Tiger Reserve is home to tigers, leopards, flying foxes, flying squirrels, wild cats, langurs, sloth bears, antelopes, different species of birds and a variety of reptiles and butterflies. Travellers can indulge in safaris at the Valmiki Tiger Reserve at Rampur, or go trekking and birdwatching, or even pull off a full-moon visit, which is quite the experience. 

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The lush landscape at Ghora Katora

On the other side, lies the Pant Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as the Rajgir Wildlife Sanctuary, in Nalanda. With various illustrations and auspicious existence of hammocks from the Buddha and Jain era, this sanctuary is spread across 36 sq km and has some history in itself. Enriched with dense tropical forestry on the hills, the sanctuary hosts the likes of wild boars, nilgais, langurs, and pythons alongside species of large mammals, birds and reptiles, many of which are endangered. 

For those looking to escape the city, Ghora Katora, a lush, nature-bound water reservoir near Rajgir is a serene escape. Situated amid mountains, it is frequented by the young and old alike. It is believed that the horses of the kings of Rajgir used to drink water here. What also makes this escape unique is the fact that fuelled vehicles are not allowed here, engulfing visitors with an air of tranquility. 

Birds have a different habitat altogether in the state at the Kanwar Lake Bird Sanctuary. One of the greenest parts in the region, it was established in 1987 to ensure the preservation of migratory birds. The Kanwar Lake is known to be the largest freshwater oxbow lake in Asia. It is home to settler bird varieties as well as migratory ones. Keep an eye on the ground here to find musk deer, leopards and black bears living in complete harmony. 

The Ashokan pillar in Vaishali

On a Spiritual Trail 
The antiquity of this ancient land where India's first major empires rose and fell is evident from its name, derived from the ancient word ‘Vihara’. Located about 90kms southeast of the capital Patna, is Rajgir. Originally known as Rajagriha—translating to ‘home of the king’—it was initially the ancient capital of the city of Magadh. It was in Rajgir that Gautam Buddha spent several months meditating and preaching, and Lord Mahavira spent 14 years of his life at a single place during four monsoon months. Home to rock-cut caves, forts, Buddhist ruins, shell inscriptions, Hindu and Jain temples, and Muslim tombs, it speaks the language of the soul of Bihar. 

The Vishwa Shanti Stupa in NalandaFurther along in the Nalanda district, is one of the greatest centres of learning in ancient times. This small village in the Buddhist circuit is as serene as ancient times. The ruins of Nalanda University, constructed in the Kushana style of architecture, can also be found here.

It is in Nalanda that the pristine, marbled Vishwa Shanti Stupa, or the World Peace Pagoda, atop the Ratnagiri Hill resides. Although the climb uphill may seem daunting, the views continue to amaze travellers from all walks of life. The four golden Buddha statues—depicting his birth, enlightenment, preaching and death—are flocked by the followers of Buddhism and Jainism alike. Additionally, there is also a ropeway that can take travellers uphill. This pilgrimage trail also leads one to Bodh Gaya. Dotted with temples and monasteries, this 2,500-year- old birthplace of Buddhism lets you retrace the footsteps of Lord Buddha and his path to nirvana. Soaked in saffron and maroon robes, the chants and prayers of the monks here build a cocoon of peace. 

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