UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bihar, India

Bihar is the home to 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and quite a few sites on the tentative list. Read on the know more about the TOP 5 PLACES TO VISIT IN BIHAR. Unfortunately, I'm yet to visit Bihar and all of these sites are on my wishlist too! 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bihar India Nalanda University
Pic Courtesy: Hiroki Ogawa, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Nalanda University is one of the 2 UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bihar and was listed in 2002. It is listed as the Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India list. It was a functional university ever since 3rd C BCE (infact it still is after its resurrection)! The remains of the historical and archaeological complex of the university from 3rd C BCE to 13th C CE when it was abandoned, are protected by UNESCO. That includes stupas, shrines, viharas as well as many artworks incl. frescoes & sculptures etc. It was a monastery cum university set up during the reign of Magadhas to teach Buddhism in the local language of Pali. It became a full-fledged university under the Guptas. Buddha himself attained his enlightenment very close to this site (at Bodh Gaya mentioned below). It was a functional university for more than a millennia but was then destroyed when Khalji waged a war. Much much much later in 2014, it was resurrected and today Nalanda University is functioning again in a modern campus just beside the ancient Nalanda University ruins.
While the Nalanda University itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also a part of the Grand Trunk Road / Sadak e-Azam, another tentative UNESCO listing.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bihar India Bodh Gaya
Pic Courtesy: Neil Satyam, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned above, historically, Buddhism flourished in this region. Buddha's life was entirely in this region. He was born in Lumbini (in Nepal), attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, gave his first sermon in Saranath (in UP, India - a tentative UNESCO site) and died in Kushinagara (also in UP). These 4 places are the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. This spot where he attained enlightenment was celebrated by all the kings who followed Buddhism then on, beginning with the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, who built the first temple here in 3rd C CE. The current structure belongs to 6th-7th C CE. This is one of the earliest brick architecture in India that is still surviving. 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bihar India Champaran Satyagraha
Pic Courtesy: Khanazmat, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Satyagraha is a large scale, civil disobedience movement, a political strategy, a brainchild of Gandhiji whose success paved the way for similar solutions for political situations all over the world. Anyone who would have read a bit about Satyagrah would have heard of Champaran. This was the spot where farmers were forced to cultivate Indigo plantation which they had to sell to the British at a very low price or had to pay high taxes otherwise. This aggravated Gandhiji and Champaran was the starting point of non-cooperation movement / Satyagraha to fight against the British rule in India. The important sites in Bihar include Sadaqat/Bapuji Ashram in Patna, Champaran Ashram and Courtroom in Motihari

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bihar India Vikramashila University
Pic Courtesy: Amaan Imam, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Silk Route was a major trading pathway through the first millennium BCE that connected the major civilizations from the Shang dynasty (ancient China) through Indus Valley through Mesapotomia through Greek to Rome. Though called the Silk Route, this great trade route was also used to transport gold, silver, beaded jewelry, pottery, spices, other textiles, and even exotic animals. The branch of the Silk Road, that entered into India connecting the major cities of ancient India have been listed together as the 'Silk Road Sites of India' in the tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites list and some of those sites are in Bihar.
As mentioned earlier, Buddhism flourished in Bihar and the surrounding region. Vaishali was where Gauthama Buddha gave his last sermon. It was here that the 2nd Buddhist Council was held in 3rd C CE. Being an important city, Vaishali also was a major stop in the historic Silk Route of India. Vikramashila University is another site on this road. This university functioned from 8th C CE to 13th C CE. Like Nalanda, Vikramashila was also a Buddhist Monastic University. It was a huge structure complete with monastic buildings, a library, votive stupas decorated with terracotta etc. Today its ruins exist here for us to visit. 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bihar India Nalanda University Silk Route Grand Trunk Road Sadak-e-Azam
Pic Courtesy: Kaidor, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Like how the Ancient Silk Route connected China to Rome, the Grand Trunk Road connected the east of the Indian subcontinent to the west, along the Ganges plains. The roads still exist! It was called different names through history from Uttarapath to Sadak-e-Azam to Badshahi Sadak to the British English version, Grand Trunk Road. It connects Bangladesh to Afganistan through West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi and Punjab. The road is now on the Tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. In Bihar, various sites including Ashokan edicts of Laurya, Mahasthan, Sasaram etc, Champa, Rajgir, Pataliputra (present-day Patna), Barabar caves etc fall on this road.

Bihar is located in the northeastern part of India. There are 2 major, international airports in Bihar - Jayprakash Narayan Airport in Patna and Gaya Airport. Apart from domestic flights, both airports serve international passengers from Eastern countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, etc who visit this region on a Buddhist Pilgrimage tour. For other international tourists, the best way is to reach New Delhi and take a domestic flight to Patna. Patna to Delhi flight fare begins at just about Rs.2000 and the time taken is less than 2 hours making it a much easier option than taking a train. It is also possible to take a flight from Kolkota which also takes the same time and costs about the same.


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

1 comment:

Thanks for visiting...! Why not leave a comment.? And tell your friends..!!!
By commenting you accept to our GDPR Policy.