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  • मगही
The word "Magahi" written in Devanagari script
Native toIndia and Nepal
RegionMagadh (southern Bihar, northern Jharkhand, and northwestern West Bengal),[1][2][3]Terai region of Eastern Nepal
Native speakers
12.6 million (2011 census)[4][5]
(additional speakers counted under Hindi)
Early forms
  • Southern Magahi
  • Northern Magahi
  • Central Magahi
  • Khortha
  • Kurmali or Panchpargania
Devanagari (official)
Kaithi (formerly)
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2mag
ISO 639-3mag
Magahi speaking regions

Magahi (𑂧𑂏𑂯𑂲), also known as Magadhi (𑂧𑂏𑂡𑂲), is a Indo-Aryan language spoken in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal states of eastern India,[7][8] and in the Terai of Nepal.[9] Magadhi Prakrit was the ancestor of Magahi, from which the latter's name derives.[10]

It has a very rich and old tradition of folk songs and stories. It is spoken in approx eleven districts of Bihar (Gaya, Bhagalpur, Patna, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Nalanda, Sheikhpura, Nawada, Lakhisarai, Arwal,Jamui), eight districts of Jharkhand (Hazaribag, Palamu, Chatra, Koderma, Jamtara, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Giridih) and in West Bengal's Malda district.[11] There are around 20,700,000 speakers of Magahi, including 12 million Magahi speakers and 8 million Khortha speakers, which is considered a dialect of Magahi.[4]

Magahi derived from the ancient Magadhi Prakrit, which was created in the ancient kingdom of Magadha, the core of which was the area south of the Ganges and east of Son River.

Though the number of speakers in Magahi is about 12.6 million, it has not been constitutionally recognised in India. In Bihar, Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters.[12] Magahi was legally absorbed under Hindi in the 1961 Census.[13]


See also: Magadhi Prakrit, Pali, and Sadri language

The ancestor of Magahi, Magadhi Prakrit, formed in the Indian subcontinent. These regions were part of the ancient kingdom of Magadha, the core of which was the area of Bihar south of the river Ganga.

The name Magahi is directly derived from the word Magadhi, and many educated speakers of Magahi prefer the name "Magadhi" over Magahi for the modern language.[14]

The development of the Magahi language into its current form is unknown. However, linguists have concluded that Magahi along with Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Maithili and Oriya originated from the Magadhi Prakrit during the 8th to 11th centuries. These different but sister 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 the 12th century, the development of Apabhramsa reached its climax. Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Oriya, Maithili and other modern languages took 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 Sarahapa and Kauhapa.

Magadhi had a setback due to the transition period of the Magadha administration.[15] 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". Devanagari is the most widely used script in present times, while Bengali and Odia scripts are also used in some regions and Magahi's old script was Kaithi script. The pronunciation in Magahi is not as broad as in Maithili and there are a number of verbal forms for each person.[16] 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 speaking area, folk singers sing a good number of ballads. The introduction of Urdu meant a setback to local languages as its Persian script was alien to local people.

The first success in spreading Hindi occurred in Bihar in 1881, when Hindi displaced Urdu as the official language of the province. After independence, Hindi was given the sole official status through the Bihar Official Language Act, 1950[17] ignoring the state's own languages.



Labial Dental/
Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Glottal
Nasal voiced m n ŋ
voiceless p t ʈ k
aspirated ʈʰ tʃʰ
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
breathy ɖʱ dʒʱ ɡʱ
Fricative s h
Approximant voiced w l j
Tap voiced ɾ ɽ
breathy ɾʱ ɽʱ


Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e ə o
Diphthongs əi əu

Speakers of Magahi

There are several dialects of Magahi. It 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, Lakhisarai, Sheikhpura and Nawada. Magahi is bounded on the north by the various forms of Maithili spoken in Mithila across the Ganga. On the west it is bounded by the Bhojpuri, On the northeast it is bounded by Angika. A blend of Magahi known as 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. People of Southern Bihar and Northern Jharkhand are mostly speakers of Magahi.[20] Magahi is also spoken in Malda district of West Bengal.[7][8] According to 2011 Census, there were approximately 20.7 million Magahi speakers.[5] Apart from India it is spoken in various districts of south eastern Nepal.[21]

See also


  1. ^ additional official language of Jharkhand


  1. ^ Grierson, G.A. (1927). "Magahi or Magadhi". Internet Archive.
  2. ^ "Magahi". Omniglot.
  3. ^ Atreya, Lata. "Magahi and Magadh: Language and the People" (PDF). Global Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences.
  4. ^ a b "Magahi". ethnologue.
  5. ^ a b "Scheduled Languages in descending order of speaker's strength - 2011" (PDF). Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India. 29 June 2018.
  6. ^ "झारखंड : रघुवर कैबिनेट से मगही, भोजपुरी, मैथिली व अंगिका को द्वितीय भाषा का दर्जा". Prabhat Khabar (in Hindi). 21 March 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Prasad, Saryoo (2008). Magahī Phonology: A Descriptive Study. Concept Publishing Company. p. 6. ISBN 9788180695254. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  8. ^ a b Brass, Paul R. (2005). Language, Religion and Politics in North India. iUniverse. p. 93. ISBN 9780595343942. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  9. ^ Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2021). Magahi (Twenty-fourth ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Retrieved 29 April 2021. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  10. ^ "How a Bihari lost his mother tongue to Hindi". 22 September 2017. It is considered as a dialect of Hindi continuum.
  11. ^ Frawley, William (May 2003). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: 4-Volume Set. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 9780195139778. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  12. ^ "History of Indian Languages". Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  13. ^ Verma, Mahandra K. (2001). "Language Endangerment and Indian languages : An exploration and a critique". Linguistic Structure and Language Dynamics in South Asia. ISBN 9788120817654.
  14. ^ Jain Dhanesh, Cardona George, The Indo-Aryan Languages, pp449
  15. ^ Maitra Asim, Magahi Culture, Cosmo Publications, New Delhi (1983), pp. 64
  16. ^ "Maithili and Magahi". Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  17. ^ Brass Paul R., The Politics of India Since Independence, Cambridge University Press, pp. 183
  18. ^ Sinha, Anil Chandra (1966). Phonology and morphology of a Magahi dialect. Poona: Deccan College.
  19. ^ Verma, Sheela (2003). Magahi. In George Cardona and Dhanesh Jain (eds.), The Indo-Aryan Languages: London: London & New York: Routledge. pp. 498–514.
  20. ^ Verma, Sheela (2003). "Magahi". In Jain Dhanesh, Cardona George, The Indo-Aryan Languages. London: Routledge.
  21. ^ "2011 Nepal Census, Social Characteristics Tables" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 March 2023. Retrieved 15 September 2019.

Further reading

  • Munishwar Jha - "Magadhi And Its Formation," Calcutta Sanskrit College Research Series, 1967, 256 pp
  • Saryu Prasad - "A Descriptive Study of Magahi Phonology", PhD thesis submitted to Patna University.
  • A.C. Sinha (1966) - "Phonology and Morphology of a Magahi Dialect", PhD awarded by the University of Poona.(now Pune)
  • G.A. Grierson Essays on Bihari Declension and Conjugation, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. iii, pp. 119–159
  • Hoernle, A.F. Rudolf & Grierson, G.A. A Comparative Dictionary of the Bihari Language
  • Prasad, Swarnlata (1959) Juncture and Aitch in Magahi, Indian Linguistics, Turner Jubilee Volume, 1959 pp. 118–124.
  • Sweta Sinha (2014) - "The Prosody of Stress and Rhythm in Magahi", PhD thesis submitted to Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
  • Sweta Sinha (2018)- "Magahi Prosody", Bahri Publications: New Delhi. ISBN 978-93-83469-14-7.