In the Early Vedic Period (beginning about 1500 BC) several kingdoms existed
in the Bihar plain. North of the Ganges was Videha, the land belonged to the
father of Princess Sita, the wife of Lord Rama and the heroine of the Ramayana.
Maharishi Valmiki, who wrote Ramayana, lived in ancient Bihar. During the same
period, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Magadha was Rajagrha. A new
kingdom later arose in southern Videha, with its capital at Vaisali. By about
700 BC, the kingdoms of Vaisali and Videha were replaced by a confederacy of the
Vrjjis—said to be the first republican state known in history.
Some of the most important early interpretations of the Vedas was done in Bihar. It was here that Prince Gautam attained enlightenment, became the Buddha- at the present Bodh Gaya- a town in central Bihar; and the great religion of Buddhism was born. It is here also that Lord Mahavira, the founder of another great religion, Jainism, was born and attained nirvana . That site is located at the present town of Pawapuri, some miles to the south east of Patna, the Capital of Bihar., it is here that the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh was born and attained the sainthood of Sikhism, that is became a Guru. A lovely and majestic Gurudwara built to commemorate his memory - the Harmandir- is located in eastern Patna. Known reverentially as the Patna Sahib, it is one of the five holiest places of worship (Takhat) for Sikhs.
Megasthenes, an emissary of Alexander's General, Seleucus Necator, lived in Pataliputra (ancient name of Patna, the Mauryan capital) around 302 B.C. He left behind a chronicle of life in and around Patliputra. This is the first recorded account by a foreign traveler in India. The Magadha remained under the control of Asoka, the great emperor of India and he inscribed stone pillars and spread Buddhism. At Nalanda, the world's first seat of higher learning, an university, was established during the Gupta period. This great Gupta dynasty fell a victim to the onslaught of the Huns in the middle and late 5th century. During the ensuing Muslim period (about 1200 to 1765), Bihar had little independent history, remaining a provincial unit until 1765, when it came under British rule and—together with Chota Nagpur—was merged with the state of Bengal.
Originally, Chota Nagpur was mostly forest-clad and was ruled by chiefs of various aboriginal tribes. Though British authority was only gradually established in the plains to the north during the second half of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, occasional revolts against them took place in Chota Nagpur, the most important being the Ho revolt of 1820 to 1827 and the Munda uprising of 1831 to 1832. Later, Bihar was an important centre of the Indian mutiny and revolt of 1857 to 1859 against British political authority. Bihar formed a part of the Bengal Presidency until 1912, when the province of Bihar and Orissa was formed; in 1936 the two became separate provinces.
Bihar played an active role in the successive phases of Indian nationalism. Mahatma Gandhi, the national leader who advocated nonviolent resistance, first launched the satyagraha (“devotion to truth”) movement against the tyranny of the European indigo planters in the Champaran region of northern Bihar. Rajendra Prasad, who played a leading part in the freedom movement and was elected the first president of independent India, was born in the Saran district, northwest of Patna.
Upon India's independence in 1947, Bihar became a constituent part (becoming a state in 1950), and in 1948 the small states of Saraikela and Kharsawan were merged with it. In 1956, when the Indian states were reorganized on a linguistic basis, a territory of some 3,140 square miles was transferred from Bihar to West Bengal. More recently, the state of Jharkhand was created from the southern part of Bihar.