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Bihar is a land of rich culture and tradition. Find out information on art & crafts, folk music, literature and cuisine of Bihar.

Culture of Bihar

Esteemed as one of the oldest human inhabited place, Bihar is the twelfth largest and third most populous state in India. With Patna as its capital as well as the largest city, Bihar is home to many important pilgrimage centers of almost all religions. Referred as Magadha in ancient texts, Bihar is marked as the place where one of the major religion - Buddism and one of the major Indian Dynasty - Maurya Dynasty originated. Ancient Bihar, which included regions like Anga, Mithila and Magadha, was a centre of culture, power and education. Ancient Bihar was home to two important Universities - Nalanda and Vikramashila. Home to many historically and culturally important places, Bihar has rich heritage to boast about. Though summer and winter experience extreme climates, the state enjoys a pleasant weather from October to November. Treasured with rich culture and heritage, Bihar is home to many indigenous art forms. Find more information regarding the culture of Bihar from the following Section of this article.

Arts and Crafts
Madhubani Painting: Otherwise known as Mithila painting, this style of painting is exclusive to Bihar and adjoining Terai region of Nepal. This painting is done with a colored paste made from rice powder. It is believed to be originated at the time of Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to make paintings for his daughter Sita's marriage with Ram. This painting was originally done on freshly plastered wall but, now it is made on cloths and canvases as well. It is done with twigs, brushes, fingers, matchsticks and nib pens. Eye-catching geometrical patterns are a major characteristic feature of this painting. Madhubani paintings are traditionally made during festivals, religious events, and other important occasions like such as birth, Upanayanam (Sacred thread ceremony) and marriage. The Major subject of paintings are Hindu Deities, natural objects like sun and moon, holy plants like Tulsi etc.

Patna School of Painting: Also known as Patna Qalaamas as well as Company Painting, this style of painting is an offshoot of the well-known Mughal Miniature School of Painting. This art form flourished in Bihar during early 18th to mid-20th century. Some of the Hindu artisans of Mughal painting who were working for the Mughal emperors, faced persecution from Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor, and sought refuge in Patna during late 18th century and this is how it got introduced in Patna. Thus, the common characteristics shared by both Patna and Mughal Paintings are thus not a coincidence. Patna School of Painting captured market scenes where as Mughal Paintings spoke only about royalty and court scenes. The paintings were done on paper and on mica with watercolours. These Paintings spoke much about the local rulers, festivals, day-to-day life of people and similar subjects. Patna Paintings thus became popular and an Art School namely College of Arts and Crafts was established in Patna under the leadership of Shri Radha Mohan.

Crafts: People in Patna make many articles using locally available materials. Bamboo-made baskets, cups and saucers painted with vivid colors are found in Bihari homes. A special container called pauti woven out of Sikki grass is given to bride as a gift when she leaves for her in-laws after wedding. Cotton durries and curtains are also found in plenty. Bhagalpur is well-known for its sericulture, making good amount of tusser silk.

Bihar is a land of many types of folk dances which manifest its rich traditions and ethnic identity. Some popular folk dances are: sohrai nach, dhobi nach, manjhi, jhumarnach, gondnach, more morni, jitiyanach, dom-domin, bhuiababa, kathghorwa nach, rah baba, jat jatin, bamar nach, jharni, jhijhia, launda nach, natua nach, bidapad nach, and gond nach.

Classical Singers: Bihar gave birth to many music legends like Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan, and Dhrupad singers like the Malliks (Darbhanga Gharana) and the Mishras (Bettiah Gharana)

Folk Songs: Another interesting thing about the Bihari music is that it has a very old tradition of folk songs, sung especially during important occasions, like marriage, birth ceremonies, festivals, etc. Padma Shri Sharda Sinha is the most famous Bihari folk singer. These folk songs are usually accompanied musical instruments like dholak, bansuri, tabla and harmonium. Bihar is also famous for its tradition of lively Holi songs 'Phagua', marked for its fun rhythms. Biraha songs, marked by extreme sadness originated in 19th century when many Biharis migrated to West Indies, Fiji and other British colonies as indentured labourers.

Theaters are part of Bihar culture. There are many traditional forms like Bidesia, Bihula- Sama Chakeva, Bisahari, Bahura-Gorin, Reshma-Chuharmal, Raja Salhesh, and Dom Kach, which originated in the Anga region of Bihar.

Bihar has given birth to many writers and scholars, like Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Ram Avatar Sharma, R. K. Sinha, Raja Radhika Raman Singh, Dr. Bhagwati Sharan Mishra, Shiva Pujan Sahay, Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Divakar Prasad Vidyarthy and many more.

Bihar witnessed a literary and cultural movement Bhookhi Peedhi, or 'Hungry generation' launched by two brothers, Samir Roychoudhury and Malay Roy Choudhury at the capital city Patna in November 1961. The movement was able to make an impact on most of the Indian languages of the time.

Bihar cuisine has both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. However, most of the Hindus refrain from non-vegetarian food on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Some casts of Hindus, Jains and Buddhist refrain from non-vegetarian food. Others consume fish, egg, chicken, mutton etc. Bihar cuisine is much similar to that of North-Indian cuisine but, it is influenced by eastern Indian cuisine like Bengali (Biharis use mustard oil for cooking). Kadhi Bari, Khichdi, Ghugni, Pittha, Chiwra, Sattu , Dhuska and Litti are some of the important traditional dishes.

Traditional Attire
Bihari men wear Dhoti and Kurta while women deck up themselves in sari. Salwar kameez is also popular among Muslim women.

Bihar has many important shrines of all major religions like Hindu, Muslim, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikh. Hinduism is the main religion whereas Islam is the second largest religion. It is believed that the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh was born in Bihar in 1666 and lived his early life here, before moving to Anandpur. Gautam Buddha was Enlightened at Bodh Gaya in Bihar. No need to say how important this city is for Buddists. Jainism is also related to Bihar. The 24th (last) Thirthankara Vardhamana Mahavira, was born in Vaishali around sixth century B.C.

Fairs & Festivals
Bihar is a land of festivals. Chhath, Deepawali, Shravani Mela, Teej, Chitragupta Puja, Makar Sankranti, Saraswati Puja, Holi, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, Muharram, Kali Puja, Ram Navami, Rakshabandhan, Maha Shivaratri, Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Christmas, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Guru Purab and Bhai Dooj are the important festivals in Bihar.

Bihar is a state with rich cultural heritage to boast about. Linked to epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, this state is blended with Indian culture. Important to all major religions, it is a land of rich heritage.