Patna is a good base for exploring Nalanda, Rajgir and Vaishali; set amid paddy fields 55km north of Patna, this quiet village was the site of the Buddha’s last sermon. Named after King Visala, who is mentioned in the Ramayana, Vaishali is also believed by some historians to have been the first city-state in the world to practise a democratic, republican form of government. A small but well-presented archeological museum provides a glimpse into the ancient Buddhist world.

North of Patna, Sonepur is worth visiting for its mela, usually held in November.

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