Magahi language

The Magahi language, also known as Magadhi, is a language spoken in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal states of eastern India.[5][6] Magadhi Prakrit was the ancestor of Magadhi, from which the latter's name derives.[7]

मगही magahī 𑂧𑂏𑂯𑂲
Native toIndia
RegionBihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal
EthnicityMagahi people
Native speakers
20.7 million (2011 census)[1][2]
(additional speakers counted under Hindi)
Early form
  • Southern Magahi
  • Northern Magahi
  • Central Magahi
  • Khortha
Devanagari, Kaithi,
Official status
Official language in
 India (Jharkhand[3])
Language codes
ISO 639-2mag
ISO 639-3mag

It has a very rich and old tradition of folk songs and stories. It is spoken in seven districts of Bihar (Gaya, Patna, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Nalanda, Sheikhpura, Nawada, Lakhisarai, Arwal), seven districts of Jharkhand ( Hazaribag, Chatra, Koderma, Jamtara, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Giridih) and in West Bengal's Malda district.[8] There are around 20,700,000 speakers of Magahi language including Khortha which is considered dialect of Magahi.[1]

Magahi or Magadhi language 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. It is believed to be the language spoken by Gautama Buddha. It was the official language of the Mauryan court, in which the edicts of Ashoka were composed.

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

Though the number of speakers in Magahi is large, it has not been constitutionally recognised in India. In Bihar Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters.[9] Magadhi was legally absorbed under Hindi in the 1961 Census.[10]


The ancestor of Magadhi, 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 educated speakers of Magahi prefer to call it Magadhi rather than Magahi.[11]

Grammarian Kachchayano wrote of the importance of Magadhi, "There is a language which is the root (of all languages); men and Brahmans spoke it at the commencement of the kalpa, who never before uttered a human accent, and even the supreme Buddhas spoke it: it is Magadhi."[12]

The development of the Magadhi language into its current form is unknown. However, language scholars have come to a conclusion that Magahi along with Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Maithili and Oriya originated from the Mithila Prakrit or might be Bengali Prakrit during the 8th to 11th centuries. 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 the 12th century, the development of Apabhramsa reached its climax. Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, 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. Magahi had a setback due to the transition period of Magadha administration.[13] Traditionally, strolling bards recite long epic poems in this dialect, and it was because of this that the word "Magahi" 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.[14] 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. Introduction of Urdu meant a setback to local languages as its Persian script was alien to local people.

The first success for 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.[15]

Speakers of Magahi

There are several dialects of Magadhi. 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 and Munger. 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 Maithili and 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 Magadhi language.[16] Magahi is also spoken in Malda district of West Bengal.[5][6] According to 2011 Census, there were approximately 14.7 million Magadhi speakers.[2] For most of the magahi-speakers, Hindi is the generic name for their language. The number of Magadhi speakers is difficult to indicate because of unreliable sources.

Scripts and literary tradition

Magadhi is generally written using Devanagari script. A later-developed script of Magadhi is Kaithi.[14] There have been effort 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. Later Akhil Bhartiya Magahi Sahitya Sammelan was established by Dr Ram Prasad Singh in 1977 and published a well known magazine " Magahi Lok". Another very famous monthly journal was started by Magahi Academy, Gaya edited by Dr. Ram Prasad Singh. Another magazine "Magadhi" is published by Akhil Bhartiya Magahi Bhasa Sammelan. It is headed by Kavi Yogesh. Nalanda Open University offers various courses on Magahi.[17] Maghi language has a lot of poets who with their writings has influenced the common mass a lot. Among those poets the name of Maghi Kokil Jairam Singh is indelible. He is one of the scintillating gems of Maghi Sahitya. His song "बदरिया गाव है कजरिया" created an unforgettable imprint on the minds of Maghi lovers. His recently published book "चिजोर" contains a variety of poems. Another magahi poet known locally as Lal Baba (लाल बाबा) for his red coloured dress, Ramashish Prasad Singh of Warisaliganj has written several poem and one of his famous collection is printed as book "Magahi Ke Phoool" (मगही के फूल). He has recorded peom and songs for All India Radio Patna station.


English Magahi/Magadhi मगही/मागधि
Sunday Eitwaar एतवार
Monday Somaar सोमIर
Tuesday Mangal मंगल
Wednesday Budhh बुध
Thursday Barashpat/Bife बृहस्पत
Friday Sookkar/Sookra शुक्कर
Saturday Sanichchar शनिच्चर

Fruits and vegetables

English Magahi/Magadhi मगही/मगधी English Magahi/Magadhi मगही/मगधी
Mango Aam आम Apple Seo सेव
Orange Narangi/Santola /Kewla नारंगी/संतोला/केवला Lemon Lemu लेमू
Grapefruit, Pomelo Mausmi/ मौसमी Papaya Papita पपीता
Guava Amrud अमरुद Melon Jaamun/phnela जामुन/फ्नेला
Sweet Potato Shataalu अल्हुआ Pomegranate Anāra/Bidānā अनार/बिदाना
Grape Angoor अंगूर Custard apple Shareefā शरीफा
Banana Kairaa/Kēlā कैरा/केला Lychee Litchi लीच्ची
Tomato Tamaatar टमाटर Jackfruit Katahar/kathal कटहर/कटहल
Jack Fruit Bhuikatahar भुईकटहर Watermelon Tarabūjā तरबूजा
Muskmelon kharabūjā/Lālmi खरबूजा/लालमी

Family relations

English Magahi/Magadhi मगही/मगधी
Father Baabuji / PitaJee बाबूजी / पिताजी
Mother Maiya / Maay मईया / माई
Sister Bahin / Didi दीदी / बहिन
Brother Dada / Bhaiya दादा / भईया
Grandfather Baaba बाबा
Grandmother Mama / Daay मामा / दाय
Sister-in-law Bhaudai / Bhaudi भौदाई / भौदी

Sample phrases

PhrasesTransliterationEnglish Translation
हमर नाम महेश हई/हको।Hamar naam Mahesh hayi/hakoMy name is Mahesh.
अपने कैसन हउ/हथिन?Apne kaisan hau/hathin?How are you ?
होम ठीक हिओ।Hom thik hiyoI am fine.
एजा/हीयां आओEja/Hian aaoCome here
होम घरे जैत हिओ।Hom ghare jait hiyoI am going to home.
होम खा लेलियो।Hom kha leliyoI have eaten.
होम जैबो।Hom jaeboI will go.
हमनी जैबो।Hamni jaeboWe go.
अपने जाहीं।Apne jaahinYou go.
अपने लिखैत हखी।Apne likhait akhiYou are writing.
अपने ऐबो।Apne aeboYou will come.
हमनी लीखैत हियो।Hamni likhait hiyoWe are writing.
हमनी लीख लेलियो।Hamni likh leliyoWe have written.
उ आवित हऊ।Oo aavit hauHe/She come.
उ जैत हऊ।Oo jait hauHe/She is going.
उ आवित हलै।Oo aawit halayiHe/She was coming.
उ खेलीत हऊ।Oo khelit hauHe/She will play.
ओखनी रोटी खा लेलकौ/लेलथिन।Okhni roti kha lelko/lelthinThey have eaten bread.
ओखनी गेलैं/गेलथिन।Okhni gelai/gelthinThey went.
ओखनी घरै जैतै।Okhni ghar jaitayiThey will go home.

Addition of “Waa” or “eeya” to nouns and sometimes verbs: these suffixes or postpositions are added to indicate familiarity or closeness.

For male nouns:
In Hindi with Magadhi style – “रोहितवा के पास एगो मोटरसाइकिल है”
In true Magadhi language - “रोहित वा भिजुन एगो मोटरसाइकिल हई”
English translation – Rohit has a motorcycle.

For female nouns:
In Hindi with Magadhi style – “रिमिया रिया सेनवा के बहन है”
In true Magadhi language - “रिमिया रिया सेनवा कs बहीन हई”
English translation – Rimi is the sister of Riya Sen

In Hindi with Magadhi style – “लठीया चला के तोर कपरवे फोर देंगे”
In true Magadhi language - “लठीया चलाक तोहर कपरवे/कपरवा फोर देबो ”
English translation – (I'll) throw the baton and crack your skull

In Hindi with Magadhi style – “जानते हो, मोहना का बाप मर गया है”
In true Magadhi language - “जानअ ह, मोहना कs बाप / बाबूजी / बाबा /बावा मर् गेलथिन”
English translation – You know, Mohan'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 Magadhi style – हम बहुत नजदिके से आ रहें है
In true Magadhi language – हम/हमनी बहुत नजदिके (बहुते नज़दीक)/भीरी सs आवईत हिवअ/ आ रहली हे
English translation – We are coming from a very near place

Within Magadhi, 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. For example, there are two counterparts of Hindi "aap" in existence described in following sentences -

In Hindi — आप आज बाजार गये थे क्या?

In Magadhi (To an elder) -- तूँ आज बजार गेलहु हल काs ?

In Magadhi (To highly respected persons or teachers) -- अपने आज बजार गेलथिन हल काs ?

In Magadhi (To an younger) -- तूँ आज बजार गेलहीं हल काs ?

Magadhi 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” or Baul recite long epic poems in the dialect, and sing verses in honour of the heroic achievements of legendary princes and brave men of ancient time like "Alha aur udal". But no manuscriptic text has been seen after its prakrit form synthesised except that nowadays people have given it a book form.

Magadhi is often considered a dialect of Hindi which has been deemed incorrect by linguists. Its true form Magadhi Prakrit later developed into languages like Maithili, Bengali, Assamese and Odia. It has more similarity to the eastern languages than far west Braj, Bagheli or Hindustani languages.


Research work done in this field:

  • Dr Munishwar Jha - "Magadhi And Its Formation," Calcutta Sanskrit College Research Series, 1967, 256 pp
  • 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 a Magahi Dialect", Ph.D. 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.
  • Dr Sweta Sinha (2014) - "The Prosody of Stress and Rhythm in Magahi", Ph.D. thesis submitted to Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
  • Dr. Sweta Sinha (2018)- "Magahi Prosody", Bahri Publications: New Delhi. ISBN 978-93-83469-14-7.


Research work done in this field: Dr A.C. Sinha (1966) - "Phonology and Morphology of a Magahi Dialect", Ph.D. awarded by the University of Poona.(now Pune)

See also


  1. "Magahi". ethnologue.
  2. "Scheduled Languages in descending order of speaker's strength - 2011" (PDF). Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India. 29 June 2018.
  3. "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.
  4. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Magahi". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. Prasad, Saryoo (2008). Magahī Phonology: A Descriptive Study. p. 6. ISBN 9788180695254. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  6. Brass, Paul R. (2005). Language, Religion and Politics in North India. p. 93. ISBN 9780595343942. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  7. "How a Bihari lost his mother tongue to Hindi". 22 September 2017.
  8. Frawley, William (May 2003). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: 4-Volume Set. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 9780195139778. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  9. "History of Indian Languages". Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  10. Verma, Mahandra K. "Language Endangerment and Indian languages : An exploration and a critique". Linguistic Structure and Language Dynamics in South Asia.
  11. Jain Dhanesh, Cardona George, The Indo-Aryan Languages, pp449
  12. P. 23 The legends and theories of the Buddhists compared with history and science ... By Robert Spence Hardy
  13. Maitra Asim, Magahi Culture, Cosmo Publications, New Delhi (1983), pp. 64
  14. "Maithili and Magahi".
  15. Brass Paul R., The Politics of India Since Independence, Cambridge University Press, pp. 183
  16. Jain Dhanesh, Cardona George, The Indo-Aryan Languages, pp500
  17. "Nalanda Open University - Courses". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
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