The Bihar Chapter - 2010
The history of a nation is often written on its bones. The greatness of a nation cannot be fathomed alone by its economic power, political stability or its powerful and efficient infrastructure. It needs a legacy and a rooted ness that sets it apart from all the obvious benchmarks of conventional acceptance. The history of India is factually two- thirds the history of the state of Bihar. It is not by any sheer cosmic accident that Bihar is that land which has had the confluence of Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. Historians have debated and proved that there is no such place as Bihar where the origins of multitude religions can be traced in such pristine form anywhere else in the world. Israel comes next in the spectrum.
Bihar derives its name from the ancient reference to a Vihara, which literally meant ‘a resting place’. Even before the Greek city states had conceived and devised the concept of democracy, the Pillar of Democracy was erected in Vaishali and this was the first democratic was city capital that laid the rudimentary principles where the people came first and were the premium.
The unparalleled dynasties that emerged from Bihar and made India the envy of the world also mark the superlative and most powerful periods in Indian History. The glorious Gupta Period and the Mauyran Empire heralded India’s finest times on the global map ever. It was the acme of science, political thought, the performing and the applied arts and most importantly a centre of academia that still as in par to Constantinople in Europe and is still a challenge to several top notch academies even in modern times. The reign of Chandragupta Maurya and the globe’s first economist and logician, political diplomacy formulator and analyst, Chanakya were all products of this time. The prosperity and the happiness of the subjects during the times of the Maurya period have statistically proved that no other nation’s subjects have been found so consistently happy and peaceful for such a long duration in any other reigns- traversing from Egypt to ancient Rome to the mighty rulers of Europe and other continents.
All religions co habited peacefully and communal tensions were unknown. Jainism and Buddhism flourished in Bihar and so did Sikhism. The old city of Patna is strewn with such landmark monuments that a whiff of history still floats over the old city. The lush green landscape of Hajipur which was in ancient India known as Vaishali, remains an iconic place. The famous courtesan that the world has ever known, belonged to Vaishali. Her name was Amrapali in Sanskrit and Ambapali in the Pali language. Legend goes that the traces of her family or her parents could not be traced. She was simply found by the King’s coutiers in the royal mangrove sitting under a garden tree. They did not know her name and since she was found in a mangrove, they called her Amrapali. Her beauty, her artistic skills in dancing and playing musical instruments are the content of folklore even today. She was a profound soul who despite being in the mesh of hedonistic pleasure was seeking something eternal. She found her calling at the feet of Buddha and gave up her lavish courtly life by joining the Buddhist fold and lived and served the people according to the principles of Buddhism.
Huen Tsang the great Chinese traveler who faced all kinds of adversities and enormous oddities to reach India because he wanted to touch the land of the great Buddha was a wonderful travelogue writer. He studied in the Nalanda University and in his travel accounts describes the magnitude and the diverse capacities of learning that were provided to the students. The erudition and wisdom of the teaching staff in the University is a testimony to this great country’s love and devotion to books and education. In his writings, he also describes the socio economic situation of the times and narrates that no where can a spot of poverty or adversity be seen as the people are self sufficient, well provided and have no grievance against their ruler. He studied in the Nalanda University which though in ruins today, still speaks volumes of the centre of learning it once was. Students from all parts of the country and neighboring places like South East Asia and other far flung places came here to study and gain knowledge. The Nalanda University had the largest library in ancient India and housed over a million manuscripts.
The founder of Buddhism, Gotama Buddha was born in Lumbini, modern day, Nepal and attained Nirvana or Nibbana in Pali in Bihar under a Bodhi tree in Gaya. He altered the mindscape of mankind forever. He lived in this land till the very end.