CULTURE OF BIHAR (Bihari People Culture & Clothing)


The Biharis are an ethnic group originating from the state of Bihar in India with a history going back three millennia. Biharis speak Bihari languages such as Magahi, Bhojpuri, Maithili, amongst other local dialects, as well as Hindi or Urdu. In addition, the ethnic group shows some admixture with the early Munda inhabitants[citation needed] of the region as well as Indo-Aryan.

Besides the state of Bihar, Biharis can be found throughout North India, West Bengal, Maharashtra and also in the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh. A large number of Biharis traveled to various parts of the world in the 19th century to serve as indentured labour on sugarcane and rubber plantations in Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Mauritius and Natal-South Africa. During partition of India in 1947, many Biharis of the Islamic faith migrated to East Bengal (later East Pakistan and subsequently Bangladesh).[5][6] Bihari people are also well represented in Pakistan's (formerly West Pakistan) Muhajir population as a result of the partition of India,[7] as well as the recent repatriation of some Bihari refugees from Bangladesh to Pakistan.[8]

Mythological stories claim that Bihar was the place where King Satyavrata (सत्यव्रत) of the Pandya Dynasty resided after the flood in his kingdom, with the help of Vishnu-Avatar Matsya.[9] A king of the Yadavas, nicknamed "Mahabali" ruled over this last in the very ancient times. He was impotent. His guru was Maharishi Dirghatamas. Mahabali had many wives and so Maharishi Dirghatamas with the permission of his king impregnated Mahabali's chief queen Sudeshna.[10] Queen Sudeshna bore five children or "Kshetrajas" (rulers of lands), one of them was King Anga, which is modern-day Bihar. From Anga sprang Anapana Anapana.[11]

According to the historian Asim Maitra, the history of Magadha from the earliest times to the dawn of the Buddhist age is not well known. The entire Vedic literature displays open hostility and disgust towards Magadha, because Magadha was a great stronghold of the pre-Aryans and refused to be absorbed in the stereotyped Brahmanical pattern.[12] Before the discovery of the ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harappa, the cyclopen walls on the hills of Rajagriha were an ancient archaeological remains in India.[12]


Bihar was called "Magadha" in ancient times. From Magadha arose two traditions, Jainism and Buddhism. The first Indian empire, the Maurya empire, originated from Magadha, with its capital at Patliputra (modern Patna) in 325 BC. The Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka, is believed to be one of the greatest rulers in the history of India and the world. After seeing all the carnage that war causes he was placed on the path of Lord Buddha by his spiritual guide Manjushri.[13]

According to indologist A.L. Basham, the author of the book The Wonder that was India,

The age in which true history appeared in India was one of great intellectual and spiritual ferment. Mystics and sophists of all kinds roamed through the Ganga Valley, all advocating some form of mental discipline and asceticism as a means to salvation; but the age of the Buddha, when many of the best minds were abandoning their homes and professions for a life of asceticism, was also a time of advance in commerce and politics. It produced not only philosophers and ascetics, but also merchant princes and men of action.
Bihar remained an important place of power, culture and education during the next one thousand years. The Gupta Empire, which again originated from Magadha in 240CE, is referred to as the Golden Age of India in science, mathematics, astronomy, religion and Indian philosophy. The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavors. Historians place the Gupta dynasty alongside with the Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Roman Empire as a model of a classical civilization. The capital of Gupta empire was Pataliputra, present day Patna. The Vikramshila and Nalanda Universities were among the oldest and best centres of education in ancient India. Some writers believe the period between the 400 CE and 1000 CE saw gains by Hinduism at the expense of Buddhism.[15][16][17][18] Although the Hindu kings gave much grants to the Buddhist monks for building Brahmaviharas. A National Geographic edition[19] reads, "The essential tenants of Buddhism and Hinduism arose from similar ideas best described in the Upanishads, a set of Hindu treatises set down in India largely between the eighth and fourth centuries B.C."

A depiction of Emperor Ashoka the GreatThe Buddhism of Magadha was finally swept away by the Islamic invasion under Muhammad Bin Bakhtiar Khilji, during which many of the viharas and the famed universities of Nalanda and Vikramshila were destroyed, and thousands of Buddhist monks were massacred in 12th century C.E.[20][21][22][23] The region saw a brief period of glory for six years (1540 -1546 CE) during the rule of Sher Shah Suri, who built the longest road of the Indian subcontinent, the Grand Trunk Road. The economic reforms carried out by Sher Shah, like the introduction of Rupee and Custom Duties, are still used in the Republic of India. He revived the city of Patna, where he built up his headquarter.[24][25] During 1557-1576, Akbar, the Mughal emperor, annexed Bihar and Bengal to his empire.[26] With the decline of the Mughals, Bihar passed under the control of the Nawabs of Bengal. Thus, the medieval period was mostly one of anonymous provincial existence.

The 10th and the last Guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna.

Coin of SamudraguptaAfter the Battle of Buxar (1764), the British East India Company obtained the diwani rights (rights to administer, and collect revenue or tax) for Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. From this point, Bihar remained a part the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj until 1912, when the province of Bihar and Orissa was carved out as a separate province. In 1935, certain portions of Bihar were reorganised into the separate province of Orissa.

Babu Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur and his army, as well as countless other persons from Bihar, contributed to the India's First War of Independence (1857), also called the Sepoy Mutiny by some historians. Resurgence in the history of Bihar came during the struggle for India's independence. It was from Bihar that Mahatma Gandhi launched his pioneering civil-disobedience movement, Champaran Satyagraha. Raj Kumar Shukla drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi to the exploitation of the peasants by European indigo planters. Champaran Satyagraha received the spontaneous support from many Biharis, including Sri Krishna Sinha, the first Chief Minister of Bihar, Rajendra Prasad, who became the first President of India and Anugrah Narayan Sinha who ultimately became the[27] first Deputy Chief Minister Finance Minister of Bihar.

In North and Central Bihar, a peasant movement was an important side effect of the freedom movement. This movement aimed at overthrowing the feudal (zamindari) system instituted by Britishers. It was being led by Swami Sahajanand Saraswati and his followers Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Rahul Sankrityayan, Pandit Karyanand Sharma, Baba Nagarjun and others. Pandit Yamuna Karjee along with Rahul Sankritayan and a few others started publishing a Hindi weekly Hunkar from Bihar, in 1940. Hunkar later became the mouthpiece of the peasant movement and the agrarian movement in Bihar and was instrumental in spreading the movement.

Bihar's contribution in the Indian freedom struggle has been immense with outstanding leaders like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sri Krishna Sinha, Dr.Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Brajkishore Prasad, Mulana Mazharul Haque, Jayaprakash Narayan,Thakur Jugal Kishore Sinha, Ram Dulari Sinha, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Basawon Singh, Rameshwar Prasad Sinha, Yogendra Shukla, Baikuntha Shukla, Sheel Bhadra Yajee, Pandit Yamuna Karjee and many others who worked for India's freedom relentlessly and helped in the upliftment of the underprivileged masses.[28]

The state of Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in the year 2000.[29] 2005 Bihar assembly elections ended the 15 years of continuous RJD rule in the state, giving way to NDA led by Nitish Kumar. Bihari migrant workers have faced violence and prejudice in many parts of India, like Maharashtra, Punjab and Assam.[30][31][32] verma has been converted in to khursheed


The cuisine of Bihar for the Hindu upper and middle classes is predominantly vegetarian, although some of the Hindu classes do eat meat. The Muslims in Bihar however do generally eat meat as well as vegetables. The staple food is bhat (boiled rice), dal, roti, tarkari and achar. It is prepared from rice, lentils, wheat flour, vegetables, and pickle. The traditional cooking medium is mustard oil. Khichdi, a broth of rice and lentils seasoned with spices and served with several accompanying items, constitutes the mid-day meal for most Hindu Biharis on Saturdays. The favourite dish among Biharis is litti-chokha. Litti is made up of sattu and chokha is made of smashed potatoes, tomatoes, and brinjals.

Chitba and Pitthow, which are prepared basically from rice, are special foods of the Anga region. Tilba and Chewda of Katarni rice are also special preparations of Anga. Kadhi bari is a popular favorite and consists of fried soft dumplings made of besan (gram flour) that are cooked in a spicy gravy of yoghurt and besan. This dish goes very well with plain rice.

Bihar offers a large variety of sweet delicacies which, unlike those from Bengal, are mostly dry. These include Anarasa, Belgrami, Chena Murki, Motichoor ke Ladoo, Kala Jamun, Kesaria Peda, Khaja, Khurma, Khubi ki Lai, Laktho, Parwal ki Mithai, Pua & Mal Pua, Thekua, Murabba and Tilkut. Many of these originate in towns in the vicinity of Patna. Several other traditional salted snacks and savouries popular in Bihar are Chiwra, Dhuska, Litti, Makhana and Sattu.

There is a distinctive Bihari flavor to the non-vegetarian cuisine as well, although some of the names of the dishes may be the same as those found in other parts of North India. Roll is a typical Bihari non-vegetarian dish. These are popular and go by the generic name Roll Bihari in and around Lexington Avenue (South) in New York City.

Islamic culture and food, with Bihari flavor are also part of Bihar's unique confluence of cultures. Famous food items include Biharee Kabab, Shami Kabab, Nargisi Kufte, Shabdeg, Yakhnee Biryanee, Motton Biryani, Shaljum Gosht, Baqer Khani, Kuleecha, Naan Rootee, Sawee ka Zarda, Qemamee Sawee, Gajar ka Halwa, Ande ka ZfraniHalwa etc.

The traditional dress of Bihari people includes the dhoti, kurta-pyjama, and sari.[33] Nevertheless, Western shirts and trousers are becoming popular among the urban population.[33] Muslim, Christian, and Sikh Biharis use attar, a perfume. Jewelry such as rings for men and bangles for women are popular.[33]

Language & literature

Hindi and Urdu are the official languages of the state, whilst the majority of the people speak one of the Bihari languages - Bhojpuri, Magadhi, Maithili or Angika. It has to be mentioned that out of these languages, Maithili has the richest literary, grammatical and cultural heritage. More than 12.7 million people speak Maithili. By the Constitution Ninety-second Amendment Act,2003 Maithili has been included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Bihari languages were once mistakenly thought to be dialects of Hindi. However that does not hold true as they have been more recently shown to be descendant of the language of the erstwhile Magadha kingdom - Magadhi Prakrit, along with Bengali, Assamese, and Oriya.

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. The uneducated and the rural population of the region return Hindi as the generic name for their language.[34]

Despite of the large number of speakers of Bihari languages, they have not been constitutionally recognized in India. Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters in Bihar.[35] These languages was legally absorbed under the subordinate label of HINDI in the 1961 Census. Such state and national politics are creating conditions for language endangerments.[36] 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.[37] Urdu became the second official language in the undivided State of Bihar on 16 August 1989.

Bihar has produced a number of writers of Hindi, including Raja Radhika Raman Singh, Shiva Pujan Sahay, Divakar Prasad Vidyarthy, Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Ram Briksh Benipuri, Phanishwar Nath 'Renu', Gopal Singh "Nepali" and Baba Nagarjun. Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan, the great writer and Buddhist scholar, was born in U.P. but spent his life in the land of Lord Buddha, i.e., Bihar.Hrishikesh Sulabh is the prominent writer of the new generation. He is short story writer, playwright and theatre critic. Arun Kamal and Aalok Dhanwa are the well-known poets. Different regional languages also have produced some prominent poets and authors. Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, who is among the greatest writers in Bangla, resided for some time in Bihar. Of late, the latest Indian writer in English, Upamanyu Chatterjee also hails from Patna in Bihar. Devaki Nandan Khatri, who rose to fame at the beginning of the 20th century on account of his novels such as Chandrakanta and Chandrakanta Santati, was born in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. Vidyapati Thakur is the most renowned poet of Maithili (c. 14-15th century).


Hinduism is the majority religion of the Bihari people although a large Muslim and a smaller Christian minority exists among the ethnic group.[38]

Among the Hindus:Brahmin, Rajput, Kurmi, Bhumihar, Yadav, Banias, and Kayastha castes are well represented.[39] In India, Bihari Muslims are found in the Kishanganj, Katihar, Araria, Sivan, Purnia, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur and Champaran districts of Bihar.[40] The Bihari population living in Pakistan and Bangladesh is also predominantly Muslim as well.[6] Christian Biharis are significant in the Ranchi, Singhbhum, and Santhal districts of the Indian state of Bihar.[41]



1.^ Destination Bihar the land of Buddha
2.^ "The Muhajirs of Pakistan". One World South Asia. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
3.^ Joshua Project - Bihari Muslim of Bangladesh Ethnic People Profile
4.^ a b
5.^ "Bangladesh: Stateless Biharis Grasp for a Resolution and Their Rights". Refugees International. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
6.^ a b "Stateless in Bangladesh and Pakistan". Stateless People in Bangladesh Inc.. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
7.^ "Pakistan under attack!". The Tribune. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
8.^ "Assessment for Biharis in Bangladesh". Center for International Development and Conflict Management. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
9.^ P. 1543 Encyclopaedia of Hinduism By Nagendra Kumar Singh
10.^ Chakravarti, P. 99 The Concept of Rudra-Śiva Through the Ages
11.^ Political History of Pre-Buddhist India By Asim Kumar Chatterjee
12.^ a b Maitra Asim, Magahi culture, Cosmo Publication, 1983, pp. 45
13.^ A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, by Fa-hsien (chapter27)
14.^ Bashan A.L., The Wonder that was India, Picador, 2004, pp. 46
15.^ Online BBC News Article: Religion & Ethics - Hinduism, BBC News, 2 January 2007
16.^ Pathak Prabhu Nath,Society and Culture in Early Bihar, Commonwealth Publishers, 1988, pp. 134-140
17.^ Thakur U., Studies in Jainism and Buddhism in Mithila, pp. 150
18.^ Chaudhary R. K., Bihar the Home-land of Buddhism, Patna, 1956, pp. 87
19.^ January 2008, VOL. 213, #1
20.^ Gopal Ram, Rule Hindu Culture During and After Muslim, pp. 20, "Some invaders, like Bakhtiar Khilji, who did not know the value of books and art objects, destroyed them in large numbers and also the famous Nalanda ..."
21.^ The Maha-Bodhi By Maha Bodhi Society, Calcutta (page 8)
22.^ Omalley L.S.S., History of Magadha, Veena Publication, Delhi, 2005, pp. 35, "The Buddhism of Magadha was finally swept away by the Muhammadan invasion under Bakhtiyar Khilji, In 1197 the capital, Bihar, was seized by a small party of two hundred horsemen, who rushed the postern gate, and sacked the town. The slaughter of the "shaven-headed Brahmans," as the Muslim chronicler calls the Buddhist monks, was so complete that when the victor searched for some one capable of explaining the contents of the monastic libraries, not a living man could be found who was able to do so. "It was discovered," it was said, "that the whole fort and city was a place of study." A similar fate befell the other Buddhist institutions, against which the combined intolerance and rapacity of the invaders was directed. The monasteries were sacked and the monks slain, many of the temples were ruthlessly destroyed or desecrated, and countless idols were broken and trodden under foot. Those monks who escaped the sword flied to Tibet, Nepal and southern India; and Buddhism as a popular religion in Bihar, its last abode in Northern India, was finally destroyed. Then forward Patna passed under Muhammadan rule."
23.^ Smith V. A., Early history of India
24.^ Omalley L.S.S., History of Magadha, Veena Publication, Delhi, 2005, pp. 36, "Sher Shah on his return from Bengal, in 1541, came to patna, then a small town dependent on Bihar, which was the seat of the local government. He was standing on the ban of the Ganges, when, after much reflection, he said to those who were standing by - 'If a fort were to be built in this place, the waters of the Ganges could never flow far from it, and Patna would become one of the great towns of this country. The fort was completed. Bihar for that time was deserted, and fell to ruin; while Patna became one of the largest cities of the province. In 1620 we find Portuguese merchants at Patna; and Tavernier's account shows that a little more than a century after its foundation it was the great entrepot of Northern India "the largest town in Bengal and the most famous for trade..."
25.^ Elliot, History of India, Vol 4
26.^ Omalley L.S.S., History of Magadha, Veena Publication, Delhi, 2005, pp. 37
27.^ Indian Post. "First Bihar Deputy CM Finance Minister; Dr. A N Sinha". official Website. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
28.^ Kamat. "Great freedom Fighters". Kamat's archive. Retrieved 2006-02-25.
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30.^ Kumod Verma. "Scared Biharis arrive from Mumbai". The Times of India.,prtpage-1.cms. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
31.^ WASBIR HUSSAIN. "30 Killed in Northeast Violence in India". Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-02-25.
32.^ Patnadaily. "40 Bihari Workers Killed by ULFA Activists in Assam". Retrieved 2006-01-06.
33.^ a b c "Bihari Clothing". Web India 123. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
34.^ Jain Dhanesh, Cardona George, The Indo-Aryan Languages, pp500, "..the number of speakers of Bihari languages are 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. The uneducated and the rural population of the region return Hindi as the generic name for their language."
35.^ History of Indian languages, "Bihari is actually the name of a group of three related languages—Bhojpuri, Maithili, and Magahi—spoken mainly in northeastern India in Bihar. Despite its large number of speakers, Bihari is not a constitutionally recognized language of India. Even in Bihar, Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters."
36.^ Verma, Mahandra K. "Language Endangerment and Indian languages: An exploration and a critique". Linguistic Structure and Language Dynamics in South Asia.,M1.
37.^ Brass Paul R., The Politics of India Since Independence, Cambridge University Press, pp. 183
38.^ "Religion of Biharis". Web India 123. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
39.^ "The People". Web India 123. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
40.^ "Muslim Biharis". Web India 123. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
41.^ "Christian Biharis". Web India 123. Retrieved 2007-02-16.