Bihar: The cradle of spiritual and academic excellence

Bihar's origin could be derived from its name, which comes from the old term "VIHARA" (monastery). For 1000 years, Bihar, also known as Magadha, was world's epicentre of power, learning, and culture. This ancient place, where India's great empires rose, is a land of monasteries, with Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, and Sikh temples aplenty. Bihar is a state where the remains of the world's oldest university, Nalanda University, was lying dormant in the nothingness of time, where once Aryabhatta and Buddha were alumnus of the institution. There was a time when the University had 90,00,000 books, 10,000 students and 2,000 employees, which aimed for both enlightenment and academic excellence.[1]

Bihar, the world's rich knowledge heartland, has had a tremendous role in shaping the Indian subcontinent's cultural, intellectual, spiritual, and political landscape, with the Nalanda and Takshila Universities imparting knowledge to students from within and outside the country. The Chinese monk, Hiuen Tsang penned down a thorough description of his life in Nalanda, which he visited twice in the seventh century and spent two years learning under Shilabhadra, the monastery's leader at the time.[2] Aryabhatta, who gave the digit zero to the world, which drives the global technical might, was born here. His greatest work, Aryabhatiya, a collection of mathematics and astronomy, was universally recognized in mathematical literature and has been preserved till date. Arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry, and spherical trigonometry are all covered in the Aryabhatiya's mathematical section along with continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums-of-power series, and a table of sines.[3] Through Chanakya, Bihar handed the world its first treatises on political theory and social justice. The earliest comprehensive work on economics, Arthashastra (meaning 'the Science of Material Gain' in Sanskrit), examines monetary and fiscal policy, welfare, international relations, and war plans in depth.[4] Moreover, the pioneer of a corruption free society in the world, Moggaliputta, hailed from Bihar.

It was a kingdom where the Great Buddha attained enlightenment[5] and King Asoka eschewed war conquest in favour of dhammavijay. The idea of a welfare state, which the entire world strives to accomplish, was established thousands of years ago in Bihar by King Ashoka.[6] Bihar is noted for being the birthplace of both Buddhism and Jainism, while Patna is the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh[7], making it a vital and a sacred destination for Sikhs all around the world. The Maurya and Gupta dynasties, for example, consolidated significant swaths of South Asia under centralised control. During the ancient and classical eras of history, the city of Patna, formerly known as Pataliputra, was a major political, military, and commercial centre of Indian civilisation.[8]

Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India's first President, was born in the state of Bihar, which is also the land that gave birth to souls like Ustaad Bismillah Khan, whose song greeted freedom at Red Fort and who took Shehnai throughout the world. Shri Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, the gentleman who showed mirror to India, who bonded with every Indian’s heart and soul through his words by conjuring an abode of feelings through his literary works in all forms, was born here.[9] Jaiprakash Narayan, the greatest social reformer of independent India, popularly referred as Lok Nayak (people's hero), who is attributed with being the face of the people's movement, particularly the young, that sprung out to oppose Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Emergency regime, was born here[10]. The hallowed town of Vaishali, which happens to be the world’s first republic, is the place from where the struggle for independence took the greatest form, wherein Mahatma Gandhi started his Satyagraha struggle against British authority.[11]

Despite its rich cultural, reformist, educational, and spiritual heritage, Bihar remained undeveloped until recently, receiving the nickname "Bimaru State." Low literacy, political instability, political parties' unwillingness to bring about a paradigm shift in Bihar's governance and administration, endemic corruption, and jungle raj are among the reasons. However, due to a shift in political thinking, things have started to fall into place recently. Four of Bihar's districts are among the country's top five in terms of educational achievement, with the Niti Aayog ranking Muzaffarpur, Aurangabad, Banka, and Sheikhpura in that order under its Aspirational Districts programme for October 2021, under the Champions of Change Delta Ranking.[12] While the country's top political leadership, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi[13], aspires to make Bihar self-sufficient, there is rationale to believe that the state will regain its lost charm in the near future, as Bihar is the only place in the world that teaches the importance of recovery through a tradition known as Chatth Puja, which worships both the rising and setting suns, implying that what has risen will set and what has set, will rise again.


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