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Language Information

Bihari is a somewhat imprecise designation for three related languages spoken principally in the state of Bihar, in northeastern India. The three languages are (1) Bhojpuri, with about 20 million speakers in western Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh and another 1½ million in Nepal; (2) Maithili, with about 15 million speakers in northern Bihar and another 2 million in Nepal; (3) Magahi, with about 10 million speakers in central Bihar, including the capital city of Patna. Bhojpuri is also spoken on the island of Mauritius.

Because of this fragmentation, Bihari, despite its large number of speakers, is not one of the constitutional languages of India. Although a rich body of poetry exists from the 15th century onward, Bihari ceased to be cultivated as a written language in the 19th century. In this century a movement was begun to revive written Maithili and have it declared a separate language. (The writing sample below is in Maithili.) While some success has been achieved in this direction, Hindi, rather than Bihari, is still used in Bihar for official correspondence and instruction in the schools.

Bihari is spoken/used in the following countries:
India, Mauritius, Nepal.

Language Family
Family: Indo-European
Subgroup: Indo-Iranian
Branch: Indic

Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.

Writing Sample

Writing Sample


O bright girl, please cover your face with a piece of cloth: they report the theft of the moon in the kingdom.

The watchman has carried out a house-to-house search and then he has gone away: now you will be accused of the offense.

Hear, 0 beautiful girl, this wholesome advice in order that you may not, even in dream, have any misfortune or trouble.

You should not let the nectar of vour smile shine forth outside, or a wealthy trader will claim your face as his property.

On the skirts of your lips, the teeth are shining; they look like pearls set in vermilion.

A Song of Vidyapati

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