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About Bhojpuri Language

Bhojpuri is a regional language spoken in parts of north-central and eastern India. It is spoken in the western part of state of Bihar, the northwestern part of Jharkhand, and the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh(UP), as well as adjoining parts of the Nepal Terai. Bhojpuri is also spoken in Guyana, Suriname, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago and Mauritius. The variant of Bhojpuri of the Surinamese Hindustanis, is also referred to Sarnami Hindi or just Sarnami when it is mixed with (Creole) English or Dutch words. In Guyana and Trinidad a smaller percentage of the Indians know Bhojpuri compared to Suriname.

The Bhojpuri language is part of the Eastern-Hindi or Bengali continuum of languages which once extended from Assam and Bengal to Benaras. While the rest of Bihar and UP slowly adopted the new Hindi standard, the language remained strong in the areas between Patna and Benaras. The government of India while taking census, disagree, and consider Bhojpuri to be a dialect of Hindi. But now the government of India is preparing to grant it statutory status as a national scheduled language.

Bhojpuri shares vocabulary with Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu and other Indo-Aryan languages of northern India. Bhojpuri and several closely related languages, including Maithili and Magadhi, are together known as the Bihari languages. They are part of the Eastern Zone group of Indo-Aryan languages which includes Bengali and Oriya.

There are numerous dialects of Bhojpuri, including three or four in eastern Uttar Pradesh alone.

The scholar, polymath and polyglot Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan wrote some works in Bhojpuri. Other eminent writers include Viveki Rai. There have been other writers who have written in Bhojpuri but the number is small compared to the number of speakers. Some other notable Bhojpuri personalities are legendary freedom fighter Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, first president of India Rajendra Prasad, Manoj Bajpai, and former Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Chandra Shekhar. Bihar Kokila Padma Shri Sharda Sinha is a famous Bhojpuri folk singer.

Number of speakers

According to an article published in Times of India, an estimated 70 million people of Uttar Pradesh and a further 80 million people in Bihar speak Bhojpuri as their first or second language. There are 6 million Bhojpuri speakers living outside the Bhojpuri heartlands of Bihar and Purvanchal. These areas include Nepal, especially Birgunj, Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Uganda, Singapore, Trinidad & Tobago, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Great Britain, Canada and the United States. This makes the total Bhojpuri speaking population in the world close to 150 million. It means if government of India grants Bhojpuri the status of language which is in process it will become third most spoken language in India after Hindi and Bengali which will surprising to many of the Indians.

However, the official figures as per the Census of India 2001 are much lower. The census counts 33 million people in India to be speakers of the Bhojpuri dialect under the Hindi language sub-family.

Bhojpuri dialects, varieties, and creoles are also spoken in various parts of the world, including Brazil, Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, South Africa, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many colonizers had faced labor shortages and were unable to obtain slaves from Africa due to the abolition of slavery; thus, they imported many Indians as indentured servants to labor on plantations. Today, many Indians in the West Indies, Oceania, and South America still speak Bhojpuri as a native or second language.

The Bhojpuri language has been heavily influenced by other languages in many parts of the world. Mauritian Bhojpuri includes many Creole and English words, while the one spoken in Trinidad and Tobago has picked up some Caribbean words along with English.

Writing scripts

Bhojpuri over the course of time has been written in various scripts by various people. Bhojpuri until late 19th century was commonly written in Kaithi script as well as Nasta'liq (Persian) script.

Mention of Bhojpuri literature cannot be complete without Bhikhari Thakur and his immemorial Bidesia. However, it is unforunate that no conscious attempt is being made to preserve his literature which is mainly in various folklores.

A recent publication 'Bhojpuri-Lok Sahitya: Lok Geeton Ki Samajik Sanskritik Sandarbh Evam Prishthbhumi" (Bhojpuri Folk Literature: Social and Cultural Landscape of Folk Songs) by Dr. Dharmveer Singh (Publisher: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Bhavan, P.O. Box 1160, Chowk, Varanasi-221001, India) contains an exhaustive research on the historical and social background of the origin and temporal development of this language in greatest detail. This book is exhaustive in its approach and is a gem for anyone who is interested in Bhojpuri as a language. The most impressive aspect of the book is the collection of folk-songs that the author has gleaned from various sources. With the advent of modern technology and effect of cinema, these folk-songs are becoming extinct. This book preserves not only the songs in a written form but also provides the context in which they should be viewed and appreciated.

Introduction to usage and features

Many speakers of North Indian languages find the unique, distinct features of Bhojpuri humorous sounding. In Bollywood films, all the languages spoken in the villages of UP, Bihar, South Nepal, and North Jharkhand are often collectively referred to as Bhojpuri. Bhojpuri represents all the accents, tones, behaviours, village stories, idioms of the languages such as Awadhi, Braj bhasha, Kortha, Nagpuria, Magahi, and Maithili.

Bhojpuri literature

The Bhojpuri-speaking region, due to its rich tradition of creating leaders for building post-independence India such as first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad followed by many eminent politicians and humanitarians like Dr. Krishna Dev Upadhyaya, was never devoid of intellectual prominence which is evident in its literature. Bhojpuri cannot be simply regaded as dialect but it is simply a language .In terms of dialect, its a dialect of hindi language simillarly as hindi is a dialect of sanskrit . Bhojpuri became one of the basis of the development of the official language of independent India, Hindi, in the past century. Bhartendu Harishchandra, who is considered the father of literary Hindi, was greatly influenced by the tone and style of Bhojpuri in his native region. Further development of Hindi was taken by prominent laureates such as Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi and Munshi Premchand from the Bhojpuri-speaking region. Bhikhari Thakur, known as the Shakespeare of Bhojpuri, has also given theater plays including the classics of Bidesiya. Pioneer Dr. Krishna Dev Upadhyaya from Ballia district devoted 60 years to researching and cataloging Bhojpuri folklore. Dr. H. S. Upadhyaya wrote the book Relationships of Hindu family as depicted in Bhojpuri folksongs (1996). Together they have cataloged thousands of Bhojpuri folksongs, riddles and proverbs from the Purvanchal U.P, Bihar, Jharkand and Chotta Nagpuri districts near Bengal.

The Bhojpuri literature has always remained contemporary. It was more of a body of folklore with folk music and poems prevailing. Literature in the written form started in the early twentieth century. During the British era, then known as the "Northern Frontier Province language", Bhojpuri adopted a patriotic tone and after independence it turned to community. In later periods, following the low economic development of the Bhojpuri-speaking region, the literary work is more skewed towards the human sentiments and struggles of life.

A recent publication (2009) 'Bhojpuri-Lok Sahitya: Lok Geeton Ki Samajik Sanskritik Sandarbh Evam Prishthbhumi"

(Bhojpuri Folk Literature: Social and Cultural Landscape of Folk Songs) by Dr. Dharmveer Singh (Publisher: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Bhavan, P.O. Box 1160, Chowk, Varanasi-221001, India) contains an exhaustive research on the historical and social background of the origin and temporal development of this language in greatest detail. This book is exhaustive in its approach and is a gem for anyone who is interested in Bhojpuri as a language. The most impressive aspect of the book is the collection of folk-songs that the author has gleaned from various sources. With the advent of modern technology and effect of cinema, these folk-songs are becoming extinct. This book preserves not only the songs in a written form but also provides the context in which they should be viewed and appreciated.

Bhojpuri in Nepal

Bhojpuri is spoken by at least 2.5 million people in Nepal (9% of the total population of Nepal), the districts categorised as Bhojpuria districts lying between the Mithilanchal and Awadh regions of Nepal are: Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, Chitwan, Nawalparasi and Rupandehi. As people from hills have migrated in large numbers to these districts the native Bhojpuri language is suffering from adulteration and as Nepali has been imposed on people of these regions, most of the adulteration is due to Nepali language. However, the Nepali speakers in this region have somehow become modest speakers of Bhojpuri and can understand Bhojpuri quite well. And due to similarity, Maithili and Awadhi speakerscan also understand Bhojpuri quite well. Total Number of People who can understand the language in Nepal exceeds 12 million however who speak it as first or second tongue are around 4 million.

Some of the very popular local Radio stations in this region have been broadcasting news and entertainment materials in Bhojpuri, although due to Nepali speakers speaking bhojpuri in these radio stations, Bhojpuri sometimes appears awkward. Some of the popular radio stations for Bhojpuri are : Gadhimai FM, Indreni FM, Bijay FM, Rupandehi FM, Samyak FM, Radio Birgunj, Narayani FM and others are in the pipeline such as : Masti FM, Nobel FM, Kadambari FM, Rautahat FM, Gaur FM, Radio Namaste and Madhyabindu FM.

In Kathmandu, Music FM broadcasts Bhojpuri songs and some daily programmes in the language.

Radio Nepal, the state controlled radio broadcasts daily news in Bhojpuri at 6:05 PM local time daily. Above that, the state controlled Nepal Television 2 shows weekly Bhojpuri cultural programmes.

There are at least 5 Bhojpuri Newspapers being circulated on regular basis in this region.

 

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