Patna is a good base for exploring Nalanda, Rajgir and Vaishali, but there are also places of interest closer at hand, notably the fabulous hilltop dargah at Muner, 27km west. If you’re in Bihar between early November and early December, don’t miss the Sonepur Mela, staged 25km north of Patna across the huge Gandhi Bridge – Asia’s longest river bridge – at the confluence of the Gandak and the Ganges. Cattle, elephants, camels, parakeets and other animals are brought for sale, pilgrims combine business with a dip in the Ganges, sadhus congregate, and festivities abound. The event is memorably described by Mark Shand in his quixotic Travels on My Elephant. The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation in Patna organizes tours and maintains a tourist village at Sonepur during the mela.

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