Bihar - Climate, Wetlands, Wildlife & Tourism

Bihar is a state in the eastern part of India. It is the 13th-largest state of India, with an area of 94,163 km2 (36,357 sq mi). The third-largest state of India by population, it is contiguous with Uttar Pradesh to its west, Nepal to the north, the northern part of West Bengal to the east, with Jharkhand to the south. The Bihar plain is split by the river Ganges which flows from west to east.

The name Bihar is derived from the Sanskrit and Pali word, Vihara meaning “abode”. The region roughly encompassing the present state was dotted with Buddhist vihara, the abodes of Buddhist monks in the ancient and medieval periods. Medieval writer Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani records in the Tabakat-i-Nasiri that in 1198 AD, Bakhtiyar Khalji committed a massacre in a town now known as Bihar Sharif, about 70 km away from Bodh Gaya.

Bihar has a diverse climate. Its temperature is subtropical in general, with hot summers and cool winters. Bihar is a vast stretch of fertile plain. It is drained by the Ganges River, including its northern tributaries Gandak and Koshi, originating in the Nepal Himalayas and the Bagmati originating in the Kathmandu Valley that regularly flood parts of the Bihar plains. The total area covered by the state of Bihar is 94,163 km2 (36,357 sq mi). The state is located between 24°-20′-10″ N ~ 27°-31′-15″ N latitude and between 83°-19′-50″ E ~ 88°-17′-40″ E longitude. Its average elevation above sea level is 173 feet (53 m).

The Ganges divides Bihar into two unequal halves and flows through the middle from west to east. Other Ganges tributaries are the Son, Budhi Gandak, Chandan, Orhani and Phalgu. Though the Himalayas begin at the foothills, a short distance inside Nepal and to the north of Bihar, the mountains influence Bihar’s landforms, climate, hydrology and culture. Central parts of Bihar have some small hills, for example the Rajgir hills. To the south is the Chota Nagpur plateau, which was part of Bihar until 2000 but now is part of a separate state called Jharkhand.

The culture and heritage of Bihar can be observed from the large number of ancient monuments spread throughout the state. Bihar is visited by many tourists from around the world, with about 24,000,000 (24 million) tourists visiting the state each year.

In earlier days, tourism in the region was purely based on educational tourism, as Bihar was home of some prominent ancient universities like Nalanda & Vikramashila.

Tourist Attractions in Bihar
There are places on earth, known for their splendid beauty, rich cultural heritage, spontaneous magnetism, and inherited charisma. In India, it is Bihar, which offers to experience everything at once. Such is the stature of this place. Indeed, most of its places are just like unexplored pearls in an ocean. And that makes Bihar even more significant.

Bodhgaya is a place just perfect to experience the vibrations of enlightenment and spirituality for you. That is what makes Bodhgaya the most visited destinations of the world. As India is land of sages, gurus, and heightened spirituality, Bodhgaya becomes even more important for those in quest of unearthing spirituality to its roots. It is here a prince raised his consciousness to become a lord. It is here a man became the Mahatma. Bodhgaya is located in the central part of Bihar near the Nirajana River. The river is also known as Falgu. It is exactly 13 km from the Gaya town.

Nalanda represents rich ancient legacy of knowledge in Bihar. Founded in the 5th century AD, Nalanda constitutes the most ancient university in the region. From Patna, one has to cover just 90 km to reach Nalanda. Buddha used to visit this place occasionally. Hieun Tsang stayed here in the 7th century AD and he is the one who created the atmosphere for further studies in the region.

There are places in this world, which might seem ordinary but going little close to them will make you realize their rich ancient historical legacy. Vaishali is one of them. Vaishali looked like an ordinary place covered with lush green mango and banana trees, but excavations revealed its rich and impressive historical past. They tell us that King Vishal ruled once here with his might and power. It is this place, which remained once the center for trade and industry.

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Kushinagar, situated against a pastoral landscape, is approximately 53 km west of Gorakhpur. Kushinagar is famous because of its affiliations with Budha’s cremation. It is here Buddha finally got rid of this birth-death cycle, which is synonymous to liberation in Hindu religious philosophy.

Pawapuri is also known as Apapuri located 38 km from Rajgir and 90 km from Patna. This place draws its affiliations to Jainism as Lord Mahavira breathed his last at Pawapuri. This place is also known for its rich cultural legacy in terms of spiritualism and enlightenment.

Rajgir is located near Nalanda and is just 15 km away from it. Rajgir is among the few top most visited destinations of India. The place is surrounded by lush green environment and is the most beautiful places of India.

Patna has emerged as one of the most sought tourist places in Bihar. Located on the southern parts of the Ganges, the place offers rich historical legacy coupled with myriad ways of fun and enjoyment. Acting as centre for art and culture, the city flaunts its historic charm and provides ample of opportunities to its travelers reaching the city from all over the world.

Other Major Tourist Spots
All the places owe their origin and significance to the age-old tradition of Bihar. As there is a widespread belief that traces of Ramayana are present here, all the major tourist places are in accord with the sentiment. Some of the places, which can be visited for the purpose are:
Ram Rekha Ghat (Buxur)
Tar (Bhojpur)
Ahirauli (Buxur)
Kako (Jehanabad)
Pretshila Hills (Gaya)
Phullahar (Madhubani)
Sita Kund (Munger)
Ramchura (Vaishali)
Ahilya Asthan (Darbhanga)
Janki Temple (Sitamarhi)
Janki Temple (Punausa)
Haleshwar Asthan (Sitamarhi)

Bihar is truly a splendid home for wildlife. There are a total of 21 wildlife sanctuaries and 2 national parks in Bihar that makes it the best in the country for witnessing the wonders of the nature. The area covered by each of them is quite huge which gives ample space for the creatures to thrive in natural habitats. The state has taken special initiatives to take care of the animals and maintain the fragile ecosystem. The wildlife sanctuaries here are also renowned because they are home to some endangered species whose number has increased over the last few years. Rajgir Wildlife Sanctuary and Valmiki Wildlife Sanctuary are the most famous of all the sanctuaries in Bihar.

These sanctuaries are also a great place for all the bird watchers as they are home to some magnificent and rare species of avi fauna. Apart from hundreds of species of resident birds, there are similar number of migratory birds coming every year during winters.

Rajgir Wildlife Sanctuary
Rajgir Wildlife holds in its belly spectacles of numerous kind. The splendid sanctuary covers an area of around 34 sq km. It is definitely less than most of the sanctuaries in India, but this also makes it the most interesting as well because the number of animals is equal to any other sanctuary. Leopards, Nilgai, Barking deer, and Hyena are the most commonly seen. There are many more sanctuaries in close proximity like the Gautam Buddha Sanctuary in Gaya and Koderma Wildlife Sanctuary.

Bhimbandh Sanctuary
Situated close to Bhagalpur, the Bhimbandh Sanctuary covers an area of 682 sq km. It is more famous for the splendid bird life than land animals. There are approximately 106 varieties of resident birds. And the number of birds shoots up during the migration season (Winter) that sees birds coming from Central Asia and nesting here. Tigers, panthers, wild boars, smabar, chitals and nilgai are the most commonly seen land animals in Bhimbandh Sanctuary.

Valmikinagar Wildlife Sanctuary
The Valmiki National Park is situated inside the Valmiki Sanctuary situated in the West Champaran district of Bihar. The eastern Himalayas form the backdrop of the sanctuary making it exceptionally beautiful destination to visit. So even if you are not able to see any wildlife, you will not return disappointed. Flora here contains extensive savannah lands and marshy lands. Tigers are the amin attraction of the park. Other animals that you will see here are Sambars, leopars, nilgai, hyenas, civets and jungle cats and many more. Right adjacent to the sanctuary is the famous Valmiki Ashram.

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Palamau Tiger Reserve
Spread over an area of nearly 1026 sq km, Palamau Tiger reserve is among the most interesting and rewarding sanctuaries in Bihar, and perhaps in entire India. Palamau reserve is cut across by Koel River and many of its tributaries. However most of the animals here depend on man made water resources for survival. This makes it quite easy for tourists to sight some magnificent animals. Tigers, leopards, elephants, the Indian wolf, gaur and many more are regular visitors to the shores of these man made lakes. It is nearly 180 Km from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state. The nearest airport too is in Ranchi.

Kabar Tal, a 7,400-ha lake in Begusarai district of Bihar, is ecologically one of the most important wetlands in the state and is considered one of South Asia’s largest freshwater lakes. The lake hosts 106 species of resident birds and is a nesting ground for 59 species of migratory birds. In addition, the wetland supports a large number of flora and fauna round the year. Economically, too, the lake is significant because it yields about two tonnes of fish everyday and is the single biggest source of irrigation in the area. The wetland is used simultaneously for rice cultivation, fishing, and many other uses. Agriculture is the most important use of the wetland and the basic source of income in the area. In 2004, more than 41 species of fish were recorded from the lake. The lake is known to support a rich and diverse aquatic flora.

In 1986, Kabar Tal was declared a protected area. The wetland, despite being a proposed Ramsar site since 1987, was not included among the 13 others declared as wetlands of international importance in 2002. Kabar Tal of late has drawn national and international attention and the Union government has identified it among the wetlands of national importance– the only one with this designation in Bihar. The Ministry of environment and forest has identified more wetlands, including Kabar Tal, to be included in the list of wetlands of national importance.

There is shrinkage in the wetland’s area from 6,786 ha in 1984 to 6,043 ha in 2002. Despite the government’s declaration of Kabar Tal as a Bird sanctuary in 1989 and subsequent prohibitory measures, Kabar Tal continues to be exploited for fodder, fuel, fish, and other wetland products. The wetland is under threat from anthropogenic pressures. There is threat because of reclamation of land for agriculture and excessive removal of biomass by human population. The lake is threatened by pollution and effluents released by the local habitants. The water of the lake is turbid and acidic in nature. The DO in the lake is 7.6 mg/L. The lake is categorized as highly eutrophic lake. Due to this, the use of the water by the local people has resulted in dermatological and digestive disorders among the inhabitants. The massive inflow of silt is also decreasing the depth of the lakes. Every year about 3.8 cm of silt is deposited in the Kabar Tal Lake.

As a part of its flood control strategy, the State government had constructed a canal in the decade of the fifties, to drain out the excess floodwaters into the Ganga River during the monsoons. However, in the succeeding decades, lack of maintenance caused the sediment deposits to choke this outlet. In 1994, State government wanted to drain the water out of Kabar Tal and convert it into a farmland. According to them, it would be a service to the farmers who have their names entered in the state revenue records as owners of the lake area. This resulted in the loss of biodiversity in the wetland.

The other wetlands in the state are Barilla and Kusheshwar Asthan.

Editor's Note

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