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. The imposing but sadly neglected red sandstone shrine of Sufi saint Yahia Muneri, 1km west of Muner, was built in 1605. Every year, around February, a three-day urs, or festival, in the saint’s honour attracts pilgrims from far and wide, with qawwals by Sufi musicians from Delhi and Ajmer. Muner is also known for its sweets, particularly lentil ladoos.

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 (Rs300–1200).

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