Bihar is justly proud of its past; some of India’s most formative events took place in its once-thick forests. The Ganga Valley’s eastern region get its name from the word vihara (monastery), referring to the secluded centers of Buddhist learning that flourished here during the first millennium. The Buddha gained enlightenment under a tree in Bodh Gaya, and the Mauryan and Gupta empires both grew from the city of Pataliputra (modern day Patna). It is impossible to take two steps in Bihar without tripping over the Buddha’s footprints. No fewer than eight townships are associated with the Buddha’s life, and the so-called Lotus Circuit (Bodh Gaya – Rajgir – Nalanda – Vaishali – Patna) is frequented by Buddhist pilgrims from all over Asia.