Bihar Sharif is the seventh largest city in the northern Indian state of Bihar and the district headquarters of Nalanda district. The city is a hub of education and trade in south Bihar and the economy centers around agriculture, while also including tourism and household manufacturing. The city is one of the hundred Indian cities to be developed under Narendra Modi's flagship Smart Cities Mission, though it was not included in the first twenty cities to receive funding. Bihar Sharif has over two millennia of history. Under the Pala Empire, a major Buddhist monastic university was built at the site and it became the capital of Magadha. It was pillaged by Turkic invaders in the late 12th century, though local Rajputs soon re-established effective control. In the early 14th century it was permanently captured by the Delhi Sultanate. It was later ruled by other Muslim dynasties and then the British until Indian independence in 1947. The city has important Jain, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim heritage and landmarks. Pre-Islamic period: The name Bihar is derived from "Vihar" or "Vihara," meaning Buddhist monastery, a reference to the ancient Odantapuri University established near the city in the 7th century CE by Pala king Gopala I. Bihar Sharif does, however, predate the Buddha. It became the capital of the Magadha kingdom during the rule of the Pala Empire and then until the 14th-century CE[ambiguous]. Odantapuri is considered to have been the second oldest of India's Mahaviharas, and it was located at the foot of Bari Pahari (Big Hill). According to Tibetan records, there were about 12,000 students there, and it was an important center of Buddhist learning. Acharya Sri Ganga of Vikramashila was a student there. Delhi Sultanate era: In 1193, during Ikhtiyar ad-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji's conquest of Bihar, he came to destroy Nalanda University. En route to Nalanda, he destroyed the Buddhist monasteries of a place now called Bakhtiyarpur. After Bakhtiarpur he came to Vihar, where he completely destroyed Odantapuri University and the Buddhist viharas before leaving for Nalanda. A few years after Khilji's departure, local Bundela Rajputs regained control of the city from its Muslim rulers. Bundela Rajputs then ruled the area until the time of their leader Raja Biththal, remaining autonomous for all practical purposes despite nominal control from Delhi. However, Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq (r. 1324-1351 CE) then sent Syed Ibrahim Mallick with an army of Afghans to conquer the Magadha region. After a fierce battle, the outnumbered Raja army was defeated and the Raja was killed. The conquest of Bihar was a major achievement for Delhi, and on this occasion, the Sultan conferred upon Syed Ibrahim Mallick the title of “Madarul Mulk,” which means Mallick. After that time, he was called “Mallick Baya”. He was then appointed as governor of Bihar by the Sultan, and he ruled over the region until his assassination in 1353 CE. Descendants of the Bundela Rajputs are now settled in Tungi village and Garhpar in Bihar Sharif. Later history: After the Delhi Sultanate, the first Sur emperor Sher Shah Suri (r. 1540-1545 CE) moved the regional capital to Patliputra (modern-day Patna), and the whole Magadha region came to be called Bihar. In 1867, the city was officially declared a municipality. Tensions between the city's two main religious communities, Hindus and Muslims, simmered from the time of the partition of India and Pakistan upon independence from Britain in 1947. On April 30 and May 1, 1981, these boiled over into major violence in which an estimated 150 to 200 Muslims were killed by mobs drawing mainly on the Hindu Yadava caste, a few in the city but mainly in the surrounding villages. The immediate cause was an impending ruling on a land rights dispute, but a journal article argues the deeper causes were groups in tension for property and caste mobility, and attempts by the RSS to create communal rather than class identity for political purposes. In the aftermath, 550 people were arrested including five high-ranking RSS members. The town is rich in artifacts and relics from old Buddhist and Jain heritage. (Mahavira, often regarded as the founder of Jainism, is said to have attained Nirvana at the nearby town of Pawapuri.) Broken idols of Buddha and Mahavira can be found in the Nalanda Museum and in many temples. Nalanda College in Bihar Sharif and the locality of Garhpar are the areas where Buddhist monasteries were located. The ruins at Nalanda are 13 km from Bihar Sharif.[citation needed] There is also a notable pillar in Bihar Sharif dating to the 5th century CE at the time of the Gupta empire. Another famous site in the city is the Langot Fair at Baba Maniram Akhara; the Akhara of Sant Maniram was founded by Raja Biththal to train youth in fighting, and patronized by him and local Rajputs. The mausoleum of Syed Ibrahim Mallick is at Bari Pahari and is visible from a distance of up to ten kilometers. Badi Dargah, the shrine of the Sufi saint Sheikh Sharfuddin Yahya Maneri, is located near the ruins of Odantapuri. He is credited with converting many Hindus in the districts of Patna, Bihar Sharif, Gaya, Jehanabad, Arwal, Nawada, Jamui and Sheikhpura, and many Muslims celebrate Urs at the shrine each year. In 2012, plans were announced for the construction of a local Bahá'í House of Worship in Bihar Sharif. This would be only the second House of Worship for India's nearly 2 million Bahá'ís (the first being the well-known Lotus Temple in Delhi),[8] and one of the first two local Bahá'í Houses of Worship in Asia (the other being in Battambang, Cambodia). The town is well connected by road to major cities like Patna, Rajgir, Nalanda, Harnaut, Jamshedpur, Ranchi, Dhanbad, Koderma, Kolkata, Gaya, Hazaribag, Jahanabad, Bakhtiyarpur, Barh, and Ramgarh. Being the district headquarters, it has a regular bus service to all major hubs in the region. Bihar sharif junction is located on a broad gauge railway branch line connecting Bakhtiyarpur and Tilaiya via Rajgir. The town is served by the Shramjeevi Express, a direct daily superfast train to New Delhi. There are also numerous passenger connections to the state capital Patna and Rajgir, from where the rest of India is well connected. Very recently, the Fatuha-Islampur branch line has been connected to this route. The extension of passenger services to inter-link Bihar Sharif with Hilsa, Sheikhpura and Gaya is partially started as of 2013. The nearest airport is Patna Airport, from which domestic flights to major Indian cities are available.

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