Bihar Sharif, also spelled as Biharsharif and even called Bihar by few, is the district headquarters of Nalanda district in the eastern state of Bihar. Located at 25° 07' N latitude and 85° 31' E longitude, the town lies in the Hiranya Prabhat Parvat (recently known as Badi Pahari), on the bank of River Panchanan.
With several rivers flowing through the town, such as Dhoba, Panchanan and Goithva, the alluvial soil deposited in the area has made the land very fertile. Thus, the town is mainly dependant on agriculture, which remains to be the main source of income for people here.
The town is named so as it houses a number of Muslim tombs that depict the former importance of this place as a Muslim pilgrimage. In the 10th century, Bihar Sharif served as the capital of the Pala dynasty. The town thus contains many structures dating back to that period, including a 5th century Gupta pillar and several mosques and Muslim tombs.
Nearby the town lie the remains of Odantapuri University, which was once an important centre for Buddhist learning. This university was set on fire by Bakhtiyar Khilji, the local army chief of Mughal Emperor, in the 13th century.
From 13th to 16th century, Bihar Sharif served as the capital of the Muslim Governors of Bihar and emerged as an active centre of Muslim learning and art. For military cantonments, Turkish and Pashtun invaders employed various abandoned viharas in the region. The region was thus named as Bihar, after the viharas. The name originally belonged to the town that served as the headquarters of the Muslim invaders in the Magadha region during the medieval period. After Sher Shah Suri shifted the headquarters to Patana, the entire Magadha region was renamed as Bihar.
During the modern era, the town was constituted a municipality in 1869. With a rich cultural past, this small town is now considered to be a major Muslim pilgrimage centre. Tourists visiting the town can explore some of the best medieval Islamic architectural structures, most famous of which is the tomb of Makhdum Shah Sharif-ud-din, a 14th century Muslim saint.
The other tomb of Malik Ibrahim Baya atop Pir Pahadi Hill is the venue of the annual event of Urs festival. Influenced from the past, 80% population of Bihar Sharif constitutes Muslims, with a good degree of Turkish and Afghanis.
Situated 80 km away from the state capital, Bihar Sharif is easily accessible via Patna Airport from major Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Lucknow, Kolkata and Ranchi. The town also has a railway station of its own that connects it to major cities on the Bakhtiyarpur-Rajgir-Tilaiya line, such as Patna, Delhi, Kolkata and Varanasi. Being the district headquarters, Bihar Sharif is also accessible via road from the major hubs of the region and other parts of the country, on NH 31. The ideal time to visit this religious town is during the months of October through May.