Elephants for sale, with a mahout at the Haathi Bazaar, Sonepur Mela, near Patna, Bihar, India

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Bihar and Jharkhand

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BIHAR occupies the flat eastern Ganges basin, south of Nepal, between Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. To its south, JHARKHAND, occupying the hilly Chotanagpur plateau north of Orissa, was hewn out of Bihar in 2000, following agitation by its tribal majority. Both states are beset by poverty, lack of infrastructure, inter-caste violence, corruption and general lawlessness.

Although the ordinary visitor is usually unaffected by the banditry and guerrilla war, Buddhist pilgrims and tourists have on occasion been robbed and few travellers spend much time here, which is a shame, because the region is a fascinating mix of religious history. Check the safety situation with your foreign office and the local press (http://www.patnadaily.com and http://www.bihartimes.com are good sources of information) before travel; state and tourist authorities tend to downplay safety concerns. Avoid the region during local elections, when tensions run high, and riots and violent crime are not uncommon.

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