Bihar Sharif

Bihar Sharif is the headquarters of Nalanda district and the fifth-largest sub-metropolitan area in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Its name is a combination of two words: Bihar, derived from Buddha vihara, also the name of the state; and Sharif for the resting place of Sufi saint Sheikh Sharfuddin Yahya Maneri. The city is a hub of education and trade in south Bihar, and the economy centers around agriculture supplemented by tourism and household manufacturing.

Under the Pala Empire, a major Buddhist monastic university was built at the site of Bihar Sharif. It eventually became the capital of Magadha, and then part of the Muslim Delhi Sultanate in the late 12th century, though local Rajputs soon re-established effective control. In the early 14th century, it was permanently captured by the Delhi Sultanate. Bihar Sharif was later ruled by other Muslim dynasties and then the British until Indian independence in 1947. The city has important Jain, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim heritage and landmarks.

Bihar Sharif is one of the hundred Indian cities competing to gain funds under Narendra Modi‘s flagship Smart Cities Mission. Bihar Sharif will be competing for one of the last 10 spots against 20 cities from across India.


Pre-Islamic period

The name Bihar is derived from vihar or vihara, meaning Buddhist monastery, a reference to the ancient Odantapuri University established near the city in the 7th century CE by Palaking Gopala I. The settlement does, however, predate the Buddha. It became the capital of the Magadha kingdom from the rule of the Pala Empire. Odantapuri is considered to have been the second oldest of India’s Mahaviharas, and it was located at the foot of Bari Pahari (English: Big Hill). According to Tibetian records it had about 12,000 students there and was an important centre of Buddhist learning. Acharya Sri Ganga of Vikramashila was a student there.

Delhi Sultanate era

In 1193, during the time of Ikhtiyar ad-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji‘s conquest of Bihar, he came to conquer Nalanda castle which was, in fact, Nalanda University. En route to Nalanda, he allegedly damaged the Buddhist monasteries of a place now called Bakhtiyarpur. He then came to Vihar, where he completely destroyed Odantapuri University, which his spies thought was a castle, and the Buddhist viharas before leaving for Nalanda. A few years after Khilji’s departure, local Bundela Rajputs regained control of the city from its Muslim rulers. Bundela Rajputs then ruled the area until the reign of Raja Biththal, remaining autonomous for all practical purposes despite nominal control from Delhi.

Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq (r. 1324–1351 CE) then sent Syed Ibrahim Mallick with an army of Afghans to conquer the Magadha region. After a fierce battle, the outnumbered Raja army was defeated and Raja Biththal was killed. The conquest of Bihar was a major achievement for Delhi, and on this occasion the Sultan conferred upon Syed Ibrahim Mallick the title of “Madarul Mulk”, after which he was called “Mallick Baya”. He was then appointed governor of Bihar by the Sultan, and he ruled over the region until his assassination in 1353 CE. Descendants of the Bundela Rajputs are now settled in Tungi village and Garhpar in Bihar Sharif.

Later history

After the Delhi Sultanate, the first Sur emperor, Sher Shah Suri (r. 1540–1545 CE), moved the regional capital to Patliputra (modern-day Patna), and the whole Magadha region came to be called Bihar.

In 1867, the city was officially declared a municipality.[2]

Tensions between the city’s two main religious communities, Hindus and Muslims, simmered from the time of the 1947 partition of India. On 30 April and 1 May 1981, these boiled over into major violence in the city and surrounding villages, in which an estimated 150 to 200 Muslim were killed by mobs. The immediate reason was an attempt by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, a Hindu national militia) to create communal rather than class identity for political purposes. In the aftermath, 550 people were arrested including five high-ranking RSS members.[4]

Heritage and important sites

The city has many artefacts and relics of Buddhist and Jain heritage. (Mahavira, often regarded as the founder of Jainism, is said to have attained Nirvana at the nearby town of Pawapuri.) Broken idols of Buddha and Mahavira can be found in the Nalanda Museum and in many temples. Nalanda College in Bihar Sharif and the locality of Garhpar have Buddhist monasteries. The ruins at Nalanda are 13 km (8.1 mi) from Bihar Sharif.[citation needed] There is also a notable pillar in Bihar Sharif dating to the 5th century at the time of the Gupta empire.[2]

Another notable site in the city is the Langot Fair at Baba Maniram Akhara; the Akhara of Sant Maniram was founded by Raja Biththal to train youth in fighting. The mausoleum of Syed Ibrahim Mallick was initially a temple constructed by Pala King Gopala, the founder of Odantpuri University, where thousands of Brahmins were brutally killed by Ibrahim Mallick; the temple was then reshaped as mosque. Badi Dargah, the shrine of the Sufi saint Sheikh Sharfuddin Yahya Maneri, is located near the ruins of Odantapuri. He is credited with converting many Hindus in the districts of Patna, Bihar Sharif, Gaya, Jehanabad, Arwal, Nawada, Jamui and Sheikhpura, and many Muslims celebrate Urs at the shrine each year in the month of Shawwal on the hijri calendar.


Bihar Sharif is located 74 km (46 mi) from Patna, the capital of Bihar state (via NH 30 and 31). It is situated at the foot of Badi Pahari (a.k.a. Hiranya Parbat) and on the bank of the Panchanan River. The land around Bihar Sharif is very fertile, with alluvial soil deposited by several rivers. These local rivers include the Mahane, the Panchanan – which divides west of Pawapuri into the Goithwa, Soyaba and smaller rivers – the Zerain, and others.[citation needed] To the west is the Paimar River, a tributary of the Ganges.[2]


Agriculture is the main economic activity of Bihar Sharif, with crops including cauliflower, potato, mustard seed and other vegetables, which are sold to neighbouring states. Tourism to nearby sites like NalandaRajgir and Pawapuri also boosts the city’s economy considerably, as do footwear and garments manufactured by household industries.[clarification needed]

As of 1981, the city had a major beedi cigarette industry which employed 15,000 people, mainly Muslims and some lower-caste Hindus.[4]

In recent years the city has changed from a trade-based economy to an education hub. Various schools and coaching centres are a new symbol of awareness about education among people in the surrounding rural areas.

Bihar Sharif was one of three cities selected in Bihar state to be among the 100 Indian cities developed as smart cities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s flagship Smart Cities Mission.[5] It was not included in the first twenty cities to receive funding.[6]


As of the 2011 India census, Bihar Sharif had a population of 297,268,[7] up from 231,972 in 2001[8] and around 130,000 in 1981.[4] The sex ratio was 916 females per 1000 males, with a slightly higher ratio of 927 females per 1,000 males among children.[7] The overall literacy rate was 75.30%, with male literacy at 80.80% and female literacy at 69.28%.[7]Caste groups with significant populations include the Kurmi, Koyri, Yadav, and Baniyas. Most Muslims speak Urdu and belong to the Sunni Hanafi denomination. The Koyri and Baniya are old settlers[vague] while others have moved from villages around the city.[when?][citation needed]


Religions in Bihar Sharif
Religion     Percent  
Hindus   65.86%
Muslims   33.59%
Christians   0.17%
Jains   0.01%
Others†   0.36%
Distribution of religions
†Includes Sikhs (0.01%), Buddhists (0.01%).

According to the 2011 census, 65.86% of the city’s population identifies as Hindu, 33.59% identifies as Muslim, 0.34% did not answer the census question, 0.17% identifies as Christian, and fewer than fifty identified with each of the other religious groups on the survey.[7] A 1981 report lists a 48% proportion of Muslims and notes this as unusual for the area.[4]

In 2012, plans were announced for the construction of a local Bahá’í House of Worship in Bihar Sharif.[10] This would be only the second House of Worship for India’s nearly two million Bahá’ís[11] (the first being the well-known Lotus Temple in Delhi),[12] and one of the first two local Bahá’í Houses of Worship in Asia (the other being in BattambangCambodia).[10]


The city is connected by road to major cities like PatnaRajgirNalandaHarnautJamshedpurRanchiDhanbadKodermaKolkataGayaHazaribagJahanabadBakhtiyarpurBarh, and Ramgarh. Being the district headquarters, it has a regular bus service to all major hubs in the region.

Bihar Sharif Junction is on the BakhtiyarpurTilaiya line, part of the national broad gauge network. The city is served by the Shramjeevi Express, a direct daily superfast train to New Delhi. There are also numerous passenger and express connections to the state capital, Patna, and to the hub at Rajgir which connects to many destinations in the country. Very recently, the Fatuha–Islampur branch line has been connected to this route. The extension of passenger services to link Bihar Sharif with HilsaSheikhpura and Gaya began in 2013.

The nearest airport is Patna Airport, with carriers operating domestic flights to major Indian cities.


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