Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
654
BEHAR

astronomer and with João Affonso d’Aveiro, in 1484-86. Martin’s later history, as traditionally recorded, was as follows. On his return from his West African exploration to Lisbon he was knighted by King John, who afterwards employed him in various capacities; but, from the time of his marriage in 1486, he usually resided at Fayal in the Azores, where his father-in-law, Jobst van Huerter, was governor of a Flemish colony. On a visit to his native city in 1492, he constructed his famous terrestrial globe, still preserved in Nuremberg, and often reproduced, in which the influence of Ptolemy is strongly apparent, but wherein some attempt is also made to incorporate the discoveries of the later middle ages (Marco Polo, &c.). The antiquity of this globe and the year of its execution, on the eve of the discovery of America, are noteworthy; but as a scientific work it is unimportant, ranking far below the portolani charts of the 14th century. Its West Africa is marvellously incorrect; the Cape Verde archipelago lies hundreds of miles out of its proper place; and the Atlantic is filled with fabulous islands. Blunders of 16° are found in the localization of places the author claims to have visited: contemporary maps, at least in regard to continental features, seldom went wrong beyond 1°. It is generally agreed that Behaim had no share in Transatlantic discovery; and though Columbus and he were apparently in Portugal at the same time, no connexion between the two has been established. He died at Lisbon in 1507.

See C. G. von Murr, Diplomatische Geschichte des berühmten Ritters Behaim (1778); A. von Humboldt, Kritische Untersuchungen (1836); F. W. Ghillany, Geschichte des Seefahrers Martin Behaim (1853); O. Peschel, Geschichte der Erdkunde, 214-215, 226, 251, and Zeitalter der Entdeckungen, esp. p. 90; Breusing, Zur Geschichte der Geographie (1869); Eugen Gelcich in the Mittheilungen of the Vienna Geographical Society, vol. xxxvi. pp. 100, &c.; E. G. Ravenstein, Martin de Bohemia, (Lisbon, 1900), Martin Behaim, His Life and His Globe (London, 1909), and Voyages of Diogo Cão and Bartholomeu Dias, 1482-1488, in Geographical Journal, Dec. 1900; see also Geog. Journal, Aug. 1893, p. 175, Nov. 1901, p. 509; Jules Mees in Bull. Soc. Geog., Antwerp, 1902, pp. 182-204; A. Ferreira de Serpa in Bull. Soc. Geog., Lisbon, 1904, pp. 297-307.

 (C. R. B.) 

BEHAR, or Bihar, a town of British India, in the Patna district of Bengal, which gives its name to an old province, situated on the right bank of the river Panchana. Pop. (1901) 45,063. There are still some manufactures of silk and muslin, but trade has deserted Behar in favour of Patna and other places more favourably situated on the river Ganges and the railway, while the indigo industry has been ruined by the synthetic products of the German chemist, and the English colony of indigo planters has been scattered abroad.

The old province, stretching widely across the valley of the Ganges from the frontier of Nepal to the hills of Chota Nagpur, corresponds to the two administrative divisions of Patna and Bhagalpur, with a total area of 44,197 sq. m. and a population of 24,241,305. It is the most densely populated tract in India, and therefore always liable to famine; but it is now well protected almost everywhere by railways. It is a country of large landholders and formerly of indigo planters. The vernacular language is not Bengali, but a dialect of Hindu; and the people likewise resemble those of Upper India. The general aspect of the country is flat, except in the district of Monghyr, where detached hills occur, and in the south-east of the province, where the Rajmahal and Santal ranges abut upon the plains.

Behar abounds in great rivers, such as the Ganges, with its tributaries, the Ghagra, Gandak, Kusi, Mahananda and Sone. The Ganges enters the province near the town of Buxar, flows eastward and, passing the towns of Dinajpur, Patna, Monghyr and Colgong, leaves the province at Rajmahal. It divides the province into two almost equal portions; north of the river lie the districts of Saran, Champaran, Tirhoot, Purnea, and part of Monghyr and Bhagalpur, and south of it are Shahabad, Patna, Gaya, the Santal parganas, and the rest of Monghyr and Bhagalpur. The Ganges and its northern tributaries are navigable by country boats of large burden all the year round. The cultivation of opium is a government monopoly, and no person is allowed to grow the poppy except on account of government. The Behar Opium Agency has its headquarters at the town of Patna. Annual engagements are entered into by the cultivators, under a system of pecuniary advances, to sow a certain quantity of land with poppy, and the whole produce in the form of opium is delivered to government at a fixed rate.

Saltpetre is largely refined in Tirhoot, Saran and Champaran, and is exported both by rail and river to Calcutta. The manufactures of less importance are tussore-silk, paper, blankets, brass utensils, firearms, carpets, coarse cutlery and hardware, leather, ornaments of gold and silver, &c. Of minerals—lead, silver and copper exist in the Bhagalpur division, but the mines are not worked. One coal-mine is worked in the parganas. Before the construction of railways in India, the Ganges and the Grand Trunk road afforded the sole means of communication from Calcutta to the North-Western Provinces. But now the railroad is the great highway which connects Upper India with Lower Bengal. The East Indian railway runs throughout the length of the province. The climate of Behar is very hot from the middle of March to the end of June, when the rains set in, which continue till the end of September. The cold season, from October to the first half of March, is the pleasantest time of the year.

History.—The province of Behar corresponds to the ancient kingdom of Magadha, which comprised the country now included in the districts of Patna, Gaya and Shahabad, south of the Ganges. The origin of this kingdom, famous alike in the political and religious history of India, is lost in the mists of antiquity; and though the Brahmanical Puranas give lists of its rulers extending back to remote ages before the Christian era, the first authentic dynasty is that of the Saisunaga, founded by Sisunaga (c. 600 B.C.), whose capital was at Rajagaha (Rajgir) in the hills near Gaya; and the first king of this dynasty of whom anything is known was Bimbisara (c. 528 B.C.), who by conquests and matrimonial alliances laid the foundations of the greatness of the kingdom. It was in the reign of Bimbisara that Vardhamana Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, and Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, preached in Magadha, and Buddhist missionaries issued thence to the conversion of China, Ceylon, Tibet and Tatary. Even to this day Behar, where there are extensive remains of Buddhist buildings, remains a sacred spot in the eyes of the Chinese and other Buddhist nations.

Bimbisara was murdered by his son Ajatasatru, who succeeded him, and whose bloodthirsty policy reduced the whole country between the Himalayas and the Ganges under the suzerainty of Magadha. According to tradition, it was his grandson, Udaya, who founded the city of Pataliputra (Patna) on the Ganges, which under the Maurya dynasty became the capital not only of Magadha but of India. The remaining history of the dynasty is obscure; according to Mr Vincent Smith, its last representative was Mahanandin (417 B.C.), after whose death the throne was usurped, under obscure circumstances, by Mahapadma Nanda, a man of low caste (Early Hist. of India, p. 36). It was a son of this usurper who was reigning at the time of the invasion of Alexander the Great; and the conqueror, when his advance was arrested at the Hyphasis (326 B.C.), meditating an attack on Pataliputra (the Palimbothra of the Greeks), was informed that the king of Magadha could oppose him with a force of 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2000 chariots, and 3000 or 4000 elephants. The Nanda dynasty seems to have survived only for two generations, when (321 B.C.) Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the great Maurya dynasty, seized the throne. This dynasty, of which the history belongs to that of India (q.v.), occupied the throne for 137 years. After the death of the great Buddhist king, Asoka (c. 231), the Maurya empire began to break up, and it was finally destroyed about fifty years later when Pushyamitra Sunga murdered the Maurya king Brihadratha and founded the Sunga dynasty. Descendants of Asoka continued, however, to subsist in Magadha as subordinate rajas for many centuries; and as late as the 8th century A.D. petty Maurya dynasties are mentioned as ruling in Konkan. The reign of Pushyamitra, who held his own against Menander and succeeded in establishing his claim to be lord paramount of northern India, is mainly remarkable as marking the beginning