BIHAR occupies the flat eastern Ganges basin, south of Nepal, between Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. To its south, JHARKHAND, occupying the hilly Chotanagpur plateau north of Orissa, was hewn out of Bihar in 2000, following agitation by its tribal majority. Both states are beset by poverty, lack of infrastructure, inter-caste violence, corruption and general lawlessness.
Although the ordinary visitor is usually unaffected by the banditry and guerrilla war, Buddhist pilgrims and tourists have on occasion been robbed and few travellers spend much time here, which is a shame, because the region is a fascinating mix of religious history. Check the safety situation with your foreign office and the local press (www.patnadaily.com and www.bihartimes.com are good sources of information) before travel; state and tourist authorities tend to downplay safety concerns. Avoid the region during local elections, when tensions run high, and riots and violent crime are not uncommon.Read More
Jitwarpur, a village on the outskirts of the small town of Madhubani, in northern Bihar, is home to a vibrant tradition of folk art. Madhubani paintings by local women were originally decorations for the outside of village huts. The illustrations of mythological themes – including images of local deities as well as Hindu gods and goddesses – the paintings were eventually transferred onto handmade paper, often using bright primary colours to fill the strong black line drawings. Fabrics printed with Madhubani designs have become very chic; these days they tend to be professionally made elsewhere, and are sold in the expensive boutiques of India’s major cities, although you can still pick them up cheaply in Madhubani itself.
Buses connect Patna to Madhubani (5hr 30min), where there are some basic hotels; rickshaws can take you on to Jitwarpur.
Carved out of Bihar in 2000 after years of agitation by its largely adivasi population, JHARKHAND yields almost forty percent of India’s minerals, but suffers from extreme poverty, lawlessness and Naxalite (Maoist guerrilla) activity, and is rarely visited by tourists. Its main attraction is the beautiful sal forests of Palamau National Park, but sadly these have been damaged by years of drought and although it is part of Project Tiger, tiger sightings are now rare; you are more likely to see elephants, antelope, bison and wild boar. The park is open all year, but October to April is the best time to visit. Other forest reserves and parks pepper the state, including Hazaribagh National Park in the north, but bandits and Naxalites are active in these areas, and around Parasnath temple, so it’s vital to check the security situation before venturing out, and you should avoid travelling at night anywhere in the state. If the situation is safe and you want to visit Palamau National Park, consider going on an excursion from Ranchi, the state capital.