Geography and History of Bihar

Geography and history goes hand in hand in order to facilitate a detailed overview of the state. In fact, through a deep analysis of the geography and history of Bihar one can get an estimate of the cultural heritage and traditions prevalent in Bihar.

Geography of Bihar

Talking about the first category of the geography and history of Bihar, i. e. geography, we assume the following:
  • Area - 94,163 square kilometers.
  • Latitude - 21°58'10" and 27°31'15" North.
  • Longitude - 82°19'50" and 88°17'40" East.
  • Boundaries - West Bengal, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, the Himalayas and Nepal.
  • Capital - Patna.
  • Population - 8,28,78,796.
  • River - Ganga, Sone, Poonpoon, Falgu, Karmanasa, Durgawati, Kosi, Ghaghara, etc.


The vast area included in Bihar makes it one of the largest states in India. It is located in the eastern part of the country. The area of Bihar has been estimated to be 94,164 square kilometers

The entire area of the state has been politically divided into 9 divisions and 37 districts with Patna as its capital.

The total strength of the population inhabiting the area is around 82.88 million out of which the majority are males and the rest are females, the sex ratio being 100: 92.

The people occupying the vast area of Bihar have a literacy rate of 47.53 % and the most widely spoken language is Hindi.

Apart from the valleys of the Ganges, the area included in Bihar houses the hilly regions as well which you will see if you go to the places like Rajgir, Ranchi and so on. These hills make Bihar a cradle of natural beauty.

The area of Bihar can be topographically narrated as a rich alluvial plain lying on the north consisting chiefly of the Gangetic Valley. The plains on the north starts from the foothills of the Himalayas and extends to the south of the river Ganges.

Soil and Vegetation

The soil and vegetation of Bihar constitute two of its most important natural resources. Nearly all the economic activities of the state are directly or indirectly determined by the nature of the soil and vegetation. Thus the soil and vegetation forms the foundation of its agricultural and industrial development.

The soil covering most of Bihar is thick alluvium which shrouds the Siwalik and older tertiary rocks. The soil is mostly fresh loam replaced every year by intermittent deposition of silt, clay and sand by different rivers. It lacks phosphoric acid, nitrogen and humus but potash and lime are generally present in large amounts.

There are three important types of soil in Bihar:

Piedmont Swamp Soil - found in northwestern section of west Champaran district.
Terai Soil - found in northern section of the state along Nepal border
Gangetic Alluvium - covering the Bihar plains
Bihar falls within the tropical to sub tropical zone. Rainfall is the single most important cause that decides the type of vegetation. Bihar possesses a monsoon climate with an average annual rainfall of 1200 mm.

The sub Himalayan foothill of Someshwar and Dun ranges in Champaran comprise a broad belt of moist deciduous forests. The characteristic trees are Shorea Robusta (Sal), Shisham, Cedrela Toona, Khair and Semal.

The fertile alluvial plain of Bihar stretches from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to a few miles south of the river Ganges. Extensive farmland and luxuriant orchards are scattered throughout the state. The most important crops are paddy, wheat, lentils, sugarcane, jute. Cane grows naturally in the marshes of West Champaran. The chief fruits are mangoes, banana, jack fruit and litchis. This is one the very few areas outside China which grows litchi.


Topography of Bihar shows a distinctive pattern. Bihar portrays an undulating topography giving rise to short-range variations in terrain and soil and water conditions; thereby influencing the crops that are grown in this region.

Talking in terms of topography, Bihar is divided into three main divisions, which are characterized by distinctive soil pattern, viz.:

The upper terraces or uplands - light-textured soil.
The middle terraces or medium lands - heavily textured soils.
The lower terraces or lowlands - heavily textured soils.
The soil texture, an indelible part of the topography of Bihar, influences the soil moisture storage capacity, which along with the water-table depth, determines the availability of moisture for the cropping pattern.

Further, the topography of Bihar is subject to various intensities of use, viz.:

Harsh soils, erosion and unsuitable water conditions make this topography of Bihar unfit for cultivation.
Barhi, the uplands (also known as 'tanr') close to the homesteads are supplied with water from the dug wells and are suitable for growing vegetables, high-yielding variety of potato, wheat, rice, etc.
The lower portions of the uplands, i. e. the mid-uplands (known as 'ajan' in Giridih and 'kanali' in Purulia) are suitable for rice varieties.
The lowlands in spite of being the most fertile has a limited cropping pattern which is confined to growing rice due to excessive moisture and poor drainage.


The climate of Bihar embodies the general climatic pattern of the Indian subcontinent. It shows a continental monsoon climate due to considerable distance from the sea.

The factors regulating the climate of Bihar are:

Its lying between 22-degree north to 27-degree latitude within a tropical to sub tropical zone.
The Himalayan Mountains in the north determine the monsoon rainfall.
Bihar connects with the Ganga delta and Assam.
The climate of Bihar is represented by the following seasons :

Cold weather season - December to February
Hot weather season - March to May
Southwest monsoon - June to September
Retreating southwest monsoon - October to November

The onset of the rainy season takes place when a storm from the Bay of Bengal passes through Bihar. However the monsoon may set in as early as the last week of May or as late as the first or second week of July. The winter days are warm and mild but after sunset, the temperature drops abruptly, creating a sense of sharp coldness. Average temperatures in November in Bihar range between 19.6°C to 22.26°C. with January usually the coldest month. The average minimum temperature is between 7.56°C to 10.56°C though temperatures in Netarhat even fall to 7.56°C.

Similar to most of northern India, Bihar witnesses thunder-storms and dusty winds in summer. The hot winds (loo) of Bihar plains blow in April and May averaging a speed of 8-16 kilometers per hour. The rainy season begins in June. The rainiest months are July and August. In three particular zones, rainfall surpasses 1800 mm. The south-west monsoon normally retreats in early October and is accompanied by tropical cyclones arising in the Bay of Bengal and typhoons from the south China sea.

History of Bihar

Further, analyzing the second aspect of the geography and history, viz. the history of Bihar, we can summarize the following points:
  • History of Bihar dates back to the reign of Bimbisara.
  • Many famous emperors, including the Guptas, had their capital in Patiliputra.
  • Mohammad Bin Bakhtiar Khalji was the first Muslim ruler to spread his domain in this region.
  • Khaljis were followed by the Tughluqs and the Mughals.
  • Mughals had worked wonders in the administration of Bihar.
  • But with their downfall, the Nawabs got an upper hand over Bihar.
  • In the Battle of Buxar, Bihar passed on to the British.
  • In 1931, the states of Bihar and Orissa were curbed from the Bengal Presidency.
  • Ultimately, on 15th November, 2000, a separate state known as Jharkhand was culled out.

Ashoka, the great king of the Mauryan dynasty of Bihar is known to the people all over the world as the greatest preacher of the words of Lord Buddha. Ashoka at first was a powerful warrior and believed in the extension of his territory through fights. He started his journey of conquering more and more kingdoms. He was extremely successful.

But it was a very notable day when Ashoka suddenly realized that it was useless to conquer lands which involved brutal killings. He actually could not bear the sight of the river filled with blood of the innocent people and had a massive set back.

Emperor Ashoka thus became a follower of Lord Buddha and started on his way to win the hearts of the people rather than their kingdoms. He started propagating the ideals of Buddhism in and around India.

Ashoka was also known as Priyadarshi or Priyadassi. If you go to the sites where there was the Kingdom of Ashoka you will find the edicts inscribed on stone pillars. These edicts of Ashoka were established all across his kingdom.

The pillars, better known as the Ashokan pillars are always provided with the statue of one or more lions crowning a pedestal. The pedestal bears the inscriptions with symbols of wheels.

Ancient kingdoms of Magadh

The ancient kingdoms of Magadh and Lichhavis in Bihar have a unique place in the history as well as the economic background of India. The kingdom flourished in the region at about 7-8th century BC.

The rulers of the kingdoms of Magadh and Lichhavis in Bihar were very efficient and had developed a method of administration which actually paved the way to the modern economic concepts of the country at present. They had a strong foresightedness and could visualize the things beyond their time. The economic strategies that they have made were so efficient that they made Magadh one of the most prosperous kingdoms in India.

The kingdoms of Magadh and Lichhavis in Bihar boasts to be the abode of Kautilya, the author of Arthashastra. He was the first person who laid down the foundation of the modern science of economics. The great economist was popular in the name of Chanakya. He was the advisor to the rulers of the kingdom of Magadh in Bihar.

Chandragupta Maurya is one of the brightest stars in the sky of the kingdoms of Magadh and Lichhavis in Bihar. As a representative of Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya used to go to the far away places to strengthen the position of their state.

It was Chanakya who successfully prevented the Greek invaders from further killing. He actually established a good relationship of the kingdoms of Magadh and Lichhavis in Bihar with the Greeks.


India is known to the world as an ancient center for learning especially due to the presence of the place in Bihar called Nalanda. It is one of the earliest site of learning and knowledge not only of the country but of the world at large. The city of Nalanda is at present a place filled with the ruins of the ancient past consisting of the widely scattered red sandstones.

Whenever you turn back towards the rich cultural heritage of India in the age old days you will find the name of the Nalanda University. It had been the oldest university in the country. The university at Nalanda was founded by the rulers of the Gupta dynasty. The Nalanda University was the center of attraction for the students especially the Buddhist ones who used to come to this place from far and wide places of the world.

Nalanda University witnessed the emergence of the great scholars like Hiuen Tsang and Fahien who came to this place from their distant countries to learn in the university. Both of them have left immensely important accounts of the then Nalanda in Bihar. The accounts of these scholars form an important source of knowledge about the education, lifestyle, socio-economic conditions as well as the overall feature of Nalanda in the ancient past.

The early records show that Nalanda was frequently visited by Lord Mahavira as well as Lord Buddha. So the place is blessed with a great influence of these incarnations.

Last Updated on 14 June 2013