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Bihar is a state of the Indian union situated in the eastern part of the country. Its capital is Patna. Etymologically, the name Bihar derives from the Sanskrit Vihara which means abode. The Buddhist Vihara, which were the abode of the Buddhist monks, dotted the area in the ancient and medieval periods.
To Bihar's north is the Kingdom of Nepal. On its other three sides Bihar is surrounded by the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the west, Jharkhand to the south and West Bengal to the east. Bihar lies in the very fertile Gangetic plains. Culturally, it is a part of the Hindi heartland of India. Bihar has the notorious reputation of being India's most lawless state.
Bihar has a very rich history. It was called Magadha in ancient times. Its capital Patna, then known as Pataliputra, was the center of the Mauryan empire, which dominated the Indian subcontinent from 325 BC to 185 BC. Emperor Ashoka was the most famous ruler of this dynasty. Bihar remained an important place of power, culture and education during the next one thousand years. The Vikramshila and Nalanda Universities, now defunct, were one of the oldest and best centres of education.
Bihar is the birthplace of many religions, including Buddhism and Jainism. Buddha attained Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, a town located in the modern day district of Gaya. Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, was born in Vaishali. The word "Bihar" has its origin in the Sanskrit word Vihara meaning Buddhist Monasteries. At one time these "viharas" were strewn all over the landscape of Bihar, around villages and cities.

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