Magahi language

Magahi language
मगही magahī
Spoken in India
Region Bihar in India
Native speakers 13,000,000 (As per SIL)
Language family
Writing system Devanagari, Kaithi
Official status
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-2 mag
ISO 639-3 mag

The Magahi language (Devanagari: मगही; also known as Magadhi, मगधी) is a language spoken in India. Magadhi Prakrit was the ancestor of Magadhi, from which the latter's name derives. The ancestral language, Magadhi Prakrit, is believed to be the language spoken by the Buddha, and the language of the ancient kingdom of Magadha. Magadhi is closely related to Bhojpuri and Maithili, and these languages are sometimes referred to as a single language, Bihari. These languages, together with several other related languages, are known as the Bihari languages, which form a sub-group of the Eastern Zone of Indo-Aryan languages. Magadhi has approximately 18 million speakers.

It was once mistakenly thought to be a dialect of Hindi, but has been more recently shown to be descendant of and very similar to the Eastern Group of Indic languages, along with Bengali, Assamese, and Oriya. It has a very rich and old tradition of folk songs and stories. It is spoken in eight districts in Bihar, three in Jharkhand, and has some speakers in Malda, West Bengal.

Though the number of speakers in Magadhi is large, it has not been constitutionally recognized in India. Even in Bihar, Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters[1] (although Maithili, a related language also spoken widely in Bihar, is an official language under the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India). Magahi was legally absorbed under the subordinate label of Hindi in the 1961 Census. Such state and national politics are creating conditions for language endangerments.[2]



The ancestor of Magadhi, from which its name derives, Magadhi Prakrit, was spoken in the eastern Indian subcontinent, in a region spanning what is now eastern India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. These regions were part of the ancient kingdom of Magadha, the core of which was the area of Bihar south of the Ganges. It is believed to be the language spoken by Gautama Buddha. It was the official language of the Mauryan court, and the edicts of Ashoka were composed in it.[3]

The name Magahi is directly derived from the name Magadhi Prakrit, and the educated speakers of Magahi prefer to call it Magadhi rather than Magahi.[4]

The development of the Magadhi language into its current form is unknown. However, language scholars have come to a definite conclusion that Magadhi, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Assamese and Oriya originated from Magadhi-Prakrit/Ardh-Magadhi during the 8th to 11th centuries AD. These different dialects differentiated themselves and took their own course of growth and development. But it is not certain when exactly it took place. It was probably such an unidentified period during which modern Indian languages begin to take modern shape. By the end of 12th century, the development of Apabhramsa reached its climax. Gujrathi, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Maithili, etc. tool a definite shape in their literary writings in the beginning of the 14th century. The distinct shape of Magadhi can be seen in the Dohakosha written by Sidh-Sarahapa and Sidh-Kauhapa. Magadhi had a setback due to the transition period of Magadha administration.[5] Traditionally, strolling bards recite long epic poems in this dialect, and it was because of this that the word 'Magadhi' came to mean 'a bard'. Kaithi is the script generally used for it. The pronunciation in Magahi is not as broad as in Maithili and there are a number of verbal forms for each person.[6] Historically, Magahi had no famous written literature. There are many popular songs throughout the area in which the language is spoken, and strolling bards recite various long epic poems which are known more or less over the whole of Northern India. In Magahi spoken area folk singers sing a good number of ballads.

Even though the number of speakers of Magadhi is quite large, it has not been constitutionally recognized in India. Even in Bihar, Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters.[1] Magahi was legally absorbed under the subordinate label of "HINDI" in the 1961 Census. Such state and national politics are creating conditions for language endangerments.[2]

The first success for spreading Hindi occurred in Bihar in 1881, when Hindi displaced Urdu as the sole official language of the province. In this struggle between competing Hindi and Urdu, the potential claims of the three large mother tongues in the region - Magahi, Bhojpuri and Maithili were ignored. After independence, Hindi was again given the sole official status through the Bihar Official Language Act, 1950.[7]

Magadhi speech area

Magahi folk singers

Magadhi is spoken in the area which formed the core of the ancient kingdom of Magadha - the modern districts of Patna, Nalanda, Gaya, Jehanabad, Arwal, Aurangabad, Sheikhpura and Nawada. Magahi is bounded on the north by the various forms of Maithili spoken in Tirhut across the Ganga. On the west it is bounded by the Bhojpuri , On the northeast it is bounded by Maithili and Angika. The total geographical area covered by Magahi is much larger today.[4] . A blend of Magahi and Bengali known as Kharostha (Khortha) is spoken by non-tribal populace in North Chotanagpur division of Jharkhand which comprises districts of Bokaro, Chatra, Dhanbad, Giridih, Hazaribagh, Koderma and Ramgarh. Khortha language is often regarded as the rough dialectal variant of Bengali and it serves as the medium of communication between the tribals and non-tribals in North Chotanagpur division of Jharkhand.

Speakers of Magadhi

The number of Magadhi speakers is difficult to indicate because of unreliable sources. In the urban Magahi region, most educated speakers of the language name Hindi as their language because this is what they use in formal contexts and believe it to be the appropriate response because of unawareness. The uneducated and the rural population of the region return Hindi as the generic name for their language.[4] Current estimates indicate approximately 18 million Magadhi speakers.

Scripts and literary tradition

Magadhi is generally written using Devanagari script. A later-developed script of Magadhi is Kaithi.[6] There have been efforts by scholars in the Magahi area to explore and identify a literary tradition for Magadhi. Magadhi has a rich tradition of folk literature, and in modern times there have been various activities in the publication of literary writing. Magahi Parishad was established in Patna in 1952, which was renamed Bihar Magahi Mandal. Magadhi, a journal, was started at the same time, which was renamed Bihan, meaning "tomorrow" or the coming dawn. This time magadhi is published by akhil bhartiya magahi bhasa sammelan. it is headed by Kavi Yogesh [8]., who lead Magahi movement. Another very famous monthly journal was started by Magahi Academy, Gaya edited by Dr. Ram Prasad Singh, a well-known writer.He also got Sahitya Academy Award for his contribution. He is famous writer of thirty-five books, commonly known as 'Magahi Ke Bhartendu'. Dr. Ram Prasad Singh Sahitya Puraskar has been awarded every year on his birthday (10 July) to renowned writers of Hindi & Folk literature. Nalanda Open University offers various courses on Magahi.[9]


English Magahi/Magadhi मगही/मगधि Hindi Urdu
Sunday Eitwaar एतवार Ravivwaar Eitwaar
Monday Somaar सोमार Somwaar Peer
Tuesday Mangal मंगर Mangalwaar Mangal
Wednesday Budhh बुध Buddhwaar Budhh
Thursday Barashpat/Bife बिफे Guruwaar Jumeraat
Friday Sookar/Sook/Juma सूक / जुमा Shukrawaar Jumma
Saturday Sunicher सनिचर Shaniwaar Sunicher

Fruits and vegetables

English Magahi/Magadhi मगहि/मगधि English Magahi/Magadhi मगहि/मगधि
Mango Aam आम Apple Seo सेव
Orange Narangi/Santola /Kewla नारंगी/संतोला/केवला Lemon Lemu लेमू
Grapefruit; pomelo Mausmi/ मौसमी Papaya Papita पपीता
Guava Amdur अमदुर Melon Jaamun जामुन
Sweet Potato Shataalu शतालु Pomegranate Anaar अनार
Grape Angoor अंगूर Custard apple Shareefa शरीफा
Banana Keraa केरा Lytchee Litchi लीची
Tomato Tamaatar टमाटर Jackfruit Katahar कटहर
Jack Fruit Bhuikatahar भुईकटहर

Family relations

English Magahi/Magadhi मगहि/मगधि
Papa / Dad Baabuji / Baba/ Bava बाबूजी/ बाबा/ बावा
Mummy / Mom Maiya/Maay मईया/माय
Sister Bahin / Didi दीदी/बहिन
Brother Bhaai / Bhaiya भाई भईया
Grand Dad Daada दादा
Grand Mom Daadi दादी

Spoken trends

Addition of “Waa” or “eeya” to nouns and sometimes verbs

For male nouns:
In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – “सलमनवा के पास एगो मोटरसाइकिल है”
In true Magahi/Magadhi language - “सलमनवा के एगो मोटरसाइकिल हई”
English translation – Salman has a motorcycle.
English in Magahi/Magadhi style – Salmanwa has a motorcycle.

For female nouns:
In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – “रिमवा रिया सेनवा के बहन है”
In true Magahi/Magadhi language - “रिमवा रिया सेनवा के बहिन हई”
English translation – Rimi is the sister of Riya sen
English in Magahi/Magadhi style – Rimwa is the sister of Riya senwa.

In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – “लठीया चला के तोर कपरवे फोर देंगे”
In true Magahi/Magadhi language - “लठीया चला के तोहर/तोर कपरवे फोर देम ”
English translation – (I'll) throw the baton and crack your skull
English in Magahi/Magadhi style – (I'll) throw the batowa and crack your skullwa.

In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – “जानते हो, मोहना का बाप मर गया है”
In true Magahi/Magadhi language - “जानअ ह, मोहना के बाप / बाबूजी / बाबा /बावा मर् गेलथिन/गेलवा”
English translation – You know, Mohan's dad has died
English in Magahi/Magadhi style – You know, Mohanwa's dad has died

Apart from these all other females names and other nouns get "waa" in their ends.

Addition of "eeye" or "ey" in adverbs, adjectives and pronouns

In Hindi with Magahi/Magadhi style – हम बहुत नजदिके से आ रहें है
In true Magahi/Magadhi language – हम/हमनी बहुत नजदिके (बहुते नज़दीक) से आवईत हिवअ/ आ रहली हे
English translation – We are coming from a very near place
English in Magahi/Magadhi style – We are coming from a very nearey place.

Within Magahi, one can find lot of variation while moving from one area to other, mainly end of the sentence is with a typical tone like Hiva, thau, hein etc. It is a rich language with lot of difference one can see while saying something with respect to elder or one with peer or younger.

Magahi is a language of the common people in area in and around Patna. It has few indigenous written literature, though a number of folk-tales and popular songs have been handed down for centuries from mouth to mouth and this remain main form of knowledge transfer in literature. Strolling bards also known by name “Bhad” recite long epic poems in this dialect, and sing verses in honor of the heroic achievements of legendary princes and brave men of ancient time like "Alha aur udal". But no manuscriptic text has been seen except that nowadays people have given it a book form.

One sample of folk song is given below.

Goar Gaura parvati
Sankar jee kariya
Maiya ge sankar jee ke ajbi rahaniya
Ho, Maiya ge Sankar jee ke ajbi rahaniya

गोर गौरा पारवती
शंकर जी करिया
मैया गे, शंकर जी के अज्बी रहनिया
हो, मैया गे शंकर जी के अज्बी रहनिया


Research work done in this field:

  • Dr Saryu Prasad - "A Descriptive Study of Magahi Phonology", Ph.D. thesis submitted to Patna University.
  • Dr A.C. Sinha (1966) - "Phonology and Morphology of Magahi Dialect", Ph.D. thesis submitted to University of Poona.


Research work done in this field: Dr A.C. Sinha (1966) - "Phonology and Morphology of Magahi Dialect", Ph.D. thesis submitted to University of Poona.


References and footnotes

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b Verma, Mahandra K.. "Language Endangerment and Indian languages : An exploration and a critique". Linguistic Structure and Language Dynamics in South Asia.,M1. 
  3. ^ Bashan A.L., The Wonder that was India, Picador, 2004, pp.394
  4. ^ a b c Jain Dhanesh, Cardona George, The Indo-Aryan Languages, pp449
  5. ^ Maitra Asim, Magahi Culture, Cosmo Publications, New Delhi (1983), pp. 64
  6. ^ a b "Maithili and Magahi". Retrieved 2011. 
  7. ^ Brass Paul R., The Politics of India Since Independence, Cambridge University Press, pp. 183
  8. ^
  9. ^

See also

External links

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