Languages of Bihar

About Bihar

Bihar’s antiquity is evident from its name, which is derived from the ancient word “VIHARA” (monastery). It is indeed a land of monasteries. Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim and Sikh shrines abound in this ancient land where India’s first major empires rose and fell. Where the ruins of the worlds’ earliest university slumbers in the void of time. The passage of Ganga, flowing wide and deep enrich the plains of Bihar before distributing in Bengal’s deltoid zone.

Among all Indian states, Bihar is the one most intimately linked to the Buddha’s life, resulting in a trail of pilgrimages which have come to be known as the Buddhist circuit. The Buddhist trail begins at the capital city, Patna, where a noteworthy museum contains a collection of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures as well as a terracotta urn said to contain the ashes of Lord Buddha.

The Khuda Baksh Oriental Library has rare Muslim manuscripts including some from the University of Cordoba in Spain. 40 km away, Vaishali, was the site for the second Buddhist Council is the presence of ruins testify. 90 km south of Patna is Nalanda which translates as the place that confers the lotus’ (of spiritual knowledge). A monastic university   flourished here from the 5th to the 11th century. It is said to have contained nine million books, with 2,000 teachers to impart knowledge to 10,000 students who came from all over the Buddhist world. Lord Buddha himself taught here and Hieun Tsang, the 7th century Chinese traveler, was a student. Ongoing excavations have uncovered temples, monasteries and lecture halls. Rajgir, ‘the royal palace’, 12 km south, was the venue for the first Buddhist Council.

The Buddha spent five years at Rajgir after having attained enlightenment, and many of the remains at Rajgir commemorate various incidents related to life of Buddha, the hill of Gridhrakuta being perhaps the most important, as this is where the Buddha delivered most of his sermons. Bodhgaya is the spot where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, with the Mahabodhi Temple marking the precise location.

This landlocked state of Bihar is surrounded by Nepal, Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and comprises four cultural regions-Bhojpur, Mithila and Magadha and Chotanagpur. Rivers Kosi and Gandak from the north and Sone from the south join the Ganga. In the fertile plains, rice, sugarcane, oilseeds, gram, maize, jute, barley and wheat are cultivated.

About Bihari Languages

Among the Bihari languages, Bhojpuri covers much the largest territory consisting of an area of approximately 73,100 square kilometres of western Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh and also the southwest part of Nepal. Thus, unlike other ‘Bihari’ languages, Bhojpuri is spoken in two adjoining states in India, and two contiguous countries of South Asia, India and Nepal. Furthermore, it is also the chief lingua franca of sizeable communities of Bhojpuri speaking settlers in Mauritius, Trinidad Guyana and Surinam . Fiji Indians are fond of saying that their Hindi is derived from Bhojpuri. All this does in a way accord Bhojpuri the state of an International language.

Extends to the eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh with roughly the districts of Basti, Azamgarh, Varanasi and Mirzapur marking the western flank. In Nepal, Bhojpuri is spoken in the Tarai tract bordering India from Baharaich in Uttar Pradesh to Champaran in Bihar, and includes such places in Nepal as Kailali on the west and Mahottari on the east. On its western border, Bhojpuri meets Avadhi, with a transition area.

History of Bhojpuri 

Some scholar enthusiasts like to trace the literacy history of Bhojpuri from Siddha Sahitya itself, as early as 8th century A.D. The so called Bhojpuri forms that they may find that early may be nothing more than common developments shared by the whole northern complex of language-dialects stretching from the Midlands to the East. However, Kabir’s contribution of ‘nirgun’ poetry to Sant Sahitya certainly qualifies as recorded literature in Bhojpuri in the 15th century. Kabir’s language was Western Bhojpuri, more specifically, ‘Banarasi’(notwithstanding some edited conformity to the preferred literacy diction). The nineteenth century has such works asDeviksaracarita by Ramdatta Shukla (1884), Badmasdarpan by Teg Ali Teg (1895), and Jangal me Mangal and Nagari Vilap by Ram Garib Chaube in the later half of the nineteenth century. Publication activity in Bhojpuri has been significant, both in volume and quality. The script for them, of course, is Devanagari. Kaithi, the script originally used, is restricted to informal family communication. Bhojpuri is very actively used by its educated speakers in just about all situations except formal education and government.