India and Nepal
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
ISO 639-1bh (deprecated)
ISO 639-2 / 5bih

Bihari languages are a group of the Indo-Aryan languages.[1][2] The Bihari languages are mainly spoken in the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, and also in Nepal.[3][4] The most widely spoken languages of the Bihari group are Bhojpuri, Magahi and Maithili.

Despite the large number of speakers of these languages, only Maithili has been constitutionally recognised in India, which gained constitutional status via the 92nd amendment to the Constitution of India, of 2003 (gaining assent in 2004).[5] Both Maithili and Bhojpuri have constitutional recognition in Nepal.[6] Bhojpuri is also official in Fiji as Fiji Baat. There are demands for including Bhojpuri in the 8th schedule of Indian constitution.

In Bihar, Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters.[7] These languages were legally absorbed under the overarching label Hindi in the 1961 Census. Such state and national politics are creating conditions for language endangerments.[8] After independence Hindi was given the sole official status through the Bihar Official Language Act, 1950.[9] Hindi was displaced as the sole official language of Bihar in 1981, when Urdu was accorded the status of the second official language.[10]


See also: Languages in Bihar, Maithili language, Bhojpuri language, Angika, Bajjika, Magahi, Magadhi Prakrit, and Hindi in Bihar

The number of speakers of Bihari languages is difficult to indicate because of unreliable sources. In the urban 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.[clarification needed] The educated and the urban population of the region return Hindi as the generic name for their language.[11]

British linguist Grierson also mentioned that Bajjika, Angika and Surjapuri are also spoken in particular districts of Bihar. These languages are mostly spoken in rural areas.[12]


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The Bihari languages fall into four language subgroups:

Languages and dialects

Language[13] ISO 639-3 Scripts No. of speakers[11] Geographical distribution
Angika anp Devanagari; previously Kaithi; Anga Lipi 743,600[14] Eastern Bihar, North-eastern Jharkhand and Eastern Madhesh of Nepal
Bajjika Devanagari; previously Tirhuta; Kaithi 8,738,000[citation needed] North-Central Bihar and Eastern Madhesh of Nepal
Bhojpuri bho Devanagari; previously Kaithi 52,245,300[15] Recognized language in Nepal, Official language in Fiji (as the Fiji Hindi) and Jharkhand (additional)

In India : Western Bihar, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Western Jharkhand, Northern Chhattisgarh, Northeastern Madhya Pradesh

Terai region of Central Nepal

Khortha Devanagari; previously Tirhuta 8,040,000[16] South Bihar, North-eastern and North central Jharkhand
Kudmali (Panchpargania) kyw, tdb Devanagari; sometimes Bengali, Kaithi 556,809[16] South-Eastern Jharkhand, Southern West Bengal,[17] northern Odisha, Assam
Magahi mah Devanagari; previously Tirhuta; Kaithi, Siddham script 14,035,600[18] South Bihar, North Jharkhand and Eastern Madhesh of Nepal
Maithili mai Devanagari; previously Tirhuta, Kaithi 33,890,000[18] Northern and eastern Bihar, Jharkhand[19] and Eastern Madhesh of Nepal
Nagpuri (Sadri) sck Devanagari; previously Kaithi 5,100,000[16] West-central Jharkhand, North-eastern Chhattisgarh, Northwestern Odisha
Tharu thl, tkt, thr, the, thq, tkb, soi Devanagari 1,900,000[16][20] Terai regions of Nepal and some parts of border side areas of Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Bihar
Danuwar dhw Devanagari 46,000 [16][20] Nepal
Bote-Darai bmj, dry Devanagari 30,000[16][20] Nepal
Kumhali kra Devanagari 12,000[16][20] Nepal
Majhi mjz Devanagari 24,000[16][20] Nepal

References and footnotes

  1. ^ Masica, Colin P. (1991). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Cambridge University Press. pp. 12, 26, 446–462.
  2. ^ Bihari at Ethnologue (23rd ed., 2020).
  3. ^ Yadava, Y. P. (2013). Linguistic context and language endangerment in Nepal. Nepalese Linguistics 28: 262–274.
  4. ^ Brass, Paul R. (1974). Language, Religion and Politics in North India. Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ "The Constitution (Ninety-Second Amendment) Act, 2003". National Portal of India. 7 January 2004. Archived from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  6. ^ Kumayaa, Harshitha (6 September 2018). "Nepal". The Hindu.
  7. ^ Damani, Guarang (2015). "History of Indian Languages". Die-hard Indian. Archived from the original on 13 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  8. ^ Verma, Mahandra K. (2001). "Language Endangerment and Indian languages : An exploration and a critique". Linguistic Structure and Language Dynamics in South Asia. ISBN 9788120817654.
  9. ^ Brass, Paul R. (8 September 1994). The Politics of India Since Independence (Second ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 183. ISBN 9780521459709. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  10. ^ Benedikter, Thomas (2009). Language Policy and Linguistic Minorities in India: An Appraisal of the Linguistic Rights of Minorities in India. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 89. ISBN 978-3-643-10231-7.
  11. ^ a b Cardona, George; Jain, Dhanesh, eds. (11 September 2003). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. Routledge. p. 500. ISBN 978-0415772945.
  12. ^ "बिहार में कितनी भाषाएं बोली जाती है? जानिए किन इलाकों में कौन सी भाषा बोली जाती है". Main Media (in Hindi). 2 October 2020.
  13. ^ "Browse by Language Family". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on 4 January 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  14. ^ "Angika". Archived from the original on 24 March 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Bhojpuri". Ethnologue. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h "Statement 1: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2011". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Kudmali". Ethnologue. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  18. ^ a b "India". Ethnologue. 2016. Archived from the original on 2 October 2017.
  19. ^ Praveen (6 March 2018). "मैथिली को भी मिलेगा दूसरी राजभाषा का दर्जा". Hindustan (in Hindi). Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  20. ^ a b c d e "National Population and Housing census 2021 of Nepal" (PDF).