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The Biharis (About this sound listen ) is a demonym given to the inhabitants of the Indian state of Bihar. Bihari people can be separated into three main ethnic groups, Bhojpuris, Maithils and Magahis.[1]

Also, Biharis can be found throughout North India, West Bengal, Assam, Maharashtra, and in the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. During the Partition of India in 1947, many Bihari Muslims migrated to East Bengal (later East Pakistan and subsequently Bangladesh).[2][3] Bihari people are also well represented in the Muhajir people of Pakistan (formerly West Pakistan) because of Partition,[4] as well as the recent relocation of some Bihari refugees from Bangladesh to Pakistan.[5]


The traditional dress of Bihari people includes the dhoti-mirjai (a modified form of the flowing jama)[6] or the kurta (replacing the older outfit of the dhoti and chapkan which is a robe fastened on the right)[7] for men and Ghagra-Choli for women but ghagra choli is limited to folk dances or celebrations and is considered the ancient or historical dress of women of Bihar. In everyday life women wear saree or Kameez-Salwar. The saree is worn in "Seedha Aanchal" style traditionally.[8] Nevertheless, Western shirts and trousers are becoming popular among the both rural and urban male population.[8] And Salwar-Kameez for women in urban Bihar. Jewelery such as rings for men and bangles for women are popular. However, there are some traditional Bihari jewelries like "Chhara", "Hansuli", "Kamarbandh", etc.[8]

Language and literature[edit]

Maithili language in Tirhuta and Devanagari scripts

Hindi is the official languages of the State.[9] Maithili (61 million speakers including Bajjika dialect which has 11 million speakers in India),[10] and Urdu[11] are other recognised languages of the state. Unrecognised languages of the state are Bhojpuri (60 million), Angika (30 million) and Magahi (20 million).[10][12] Bhojpuri and Magahi are sociolinguistically a part of the Hindi Belt languages fold, thus they were not granted official status in the state.The number of speakers of the Bihari languages is difficult to count 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 regards Hindi as the generic name for their language.[13]

Despite of the large number of speakers of Bihari languages, they have not been constitutionally recognized in India, except Maithili which is recognised under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters in Bihar.[14] 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 endangerment.[15] 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 – Bhojpuri, Maithili and Magahi were ignored. After independence Hindi was again given the sole official status through the Bihar Official Language Act, 1950.[16] Urdu became the second official language in the undivided State of Bihar on 16 August 1989. Bihar also produced several eminent Urdu writers including Sulaiman Nadvi, Manazir Ahsan Gilani, Abdul Qavi Desnavi, Paigham Afaqui, Jabir Husain, Sohail Azimabadi, Hussain Ul Haque, Dr. Shamim Hashimi,[17] Wahab Ashrafi[18] etc.

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 and Neeraj Singh (from Ara) are the prominent writer of the new generation. They are 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 Bengali, resided for some time in Bihar. 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). Satyapal Chandra[19] has written many English bestseller novels and he is one of India's emerging young writer.

Castes and ethnic groups[edit]

Bihar's major ethnic group is Indo-Aryan including Bhojpuris, Maithils and Magahis.[20] Bihari society follows a very rigid caste system, which influences daily life and politics.[21]

The 2011 Census of India indicated that Scheduled Castes constituted 16% of Bihar's 10.4 crores population.[22][23] The census identified 21 of 23 Dalit sub-castes as Mahadalits.[24] The Mahadalit community consists of the following sub-castes: Bantar, Bauri, Bhogta, Bhuiya, Chaupal, Dabgar, Dom (Dhangad), Ghasi, Halalkhor, Hari (Mehtar, Bhangi), Kanjar, Kurariar, Lalbegi, Musahar, Nat, Pan (Swasi), Rajwar, Turi, Dhobi, Chamar and Dusadh[25] The Paswan caste was initially left out of the Mahadalit category, to the consternation of Ram Vilas Paswan.[26][27]Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) constituted around 1.3% of the Bihari population.[28][29][30] They include the Gond, Santhal and Tharu communities.[31][32] There are about 130 Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) in Bihar.[33][34]

Castes of Bihar[35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43]
Caste Population (%) Notes
OBC/EBC 51% Yadavs - 14%
Kurmis - 4%
Kushwaha(Koeri)- 8%
(EBCs - 26%[33][44][45][46][47] -includes,[48][49][50] Teli-3.2%))
Mahadalits*+ Dalits(SCs) 16%[51][52] includes Dusadh- 5%, Musahar- 2.8%[53]
Muslims 16.9%[54] includes (Ashrafi) Sayyid, Sheikh Mughal Pathan castes[55][56]
Forward caste 15%[57] Bhumihar-6%
Brahmin -5%[58]
Rajputs - 3%
Kayastha -1%
Adivasis(STs) 1.3%[59][60]
Others 0.4% includes Christians, Sikhs, Jains


According to the 2011 census, 82.7% of Bihar's population practiced Hinduism, while 16.9% followed Islam.[61]

Religion Population
Hindu 82.7
Muslim 16.9
Others 0.4

Bihari diaspora[edit]


A few Bihari people moved towards Madhesh of Nepal for job opportunity. The first Bihari settlement in Nepal started since the 18th century due to similar language and lifestyle to that of Madhesi people of Nepal and many Bihari people got assembled in existing indigenous Madheshi social groups.

Pakistan and Bangladesh[edit]

In 1947, at the time of Partition, many Muslim Biharis moved to what was then East Bengal adjacent to their Bihar province in eastern India.

However, when East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh in December 1971, the Biharis were left behind as the Pakistani army and civilians evacuated and the Bihari population in Bangladesh found themselves unwelcomed in both countries. Pakistan feared a mass influx of Biharis could destabilise a fragile and culturally mixed population, and Bangladeshis scorned the Biharis for having supported and sided with the West Pakistan during the war.

With little or no legal negotiation about offering the Biharis Pakistani citizenship or safe conduit back home to their native Bihar in India, the Biharis (called "stranded Pakistanis" by some Bangladeshi politicians) have remained stateless for 33 years. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not addressed the plight of the Biharis. An estimated 600,000 Biharis live in 66 camps in 13 regions across Bangladesh, and an equal number have acquired Bangladeshi citizenship. In 1990, a small number of Biharis were allowed to immigrate to Pakistan.

Pakistan has reiterated that as the successor state of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), as well as having greater cultural and linguistic similarities with Bengalis, Bangladesh should accept the Biharis as full citizens. Pakistani politicians and government officials have refused to accept these nearly 300,000 stranded Pakistanis of Bihari origin due to inability to absorb such a large number of immigrants at the moment.

In May 2008, a Bangladeshi court ruled that Biharis who were either minors in 1971 or born after 1971 are Bangladeshi citizens and have the right to vote.[62][63] As a result of the ruling, an estimated 150,000 of the 300,000 Biharis living in Bangladesh are eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship.[63] Although the court ruling explicitly said that the Biharis are eligible to register to vote in the December 2008 elections, the Election Commission closed its rolls in August 2008 without enrolling them.[64]

Caribbean, Fiji, Mauritius and South Africa[edit]

A large number of people from present-day Bihar travelled to various parts of the world in the 19th century to serve as indentured labours on sugarcane, cocoa, rice, and rubber plantations in the Caribbean, Fiji. Mauritius, and Natal, South Africa.

A majority of Indo-Mauritians are Bihari Mauritians.[65] Most of the Mauritian Prime Ministers were Indo-Mauritians of Bihari descent.[66]A majority of Indo-Caribbeans are of Bihari descent, while Indo-Fijians are mostly descendants of the Awadh region in Uttar Pradesh as well as Bihar.

Bihari sub-nationalism[edit]

Bihari sub-nationalism is a sentiment which unites people speaking Bihari languages.

According to social scientist Dr. Shaibal Gupta, the beating of students from Bihar in Mumbai in October 2008, has consolidated Bihari sub-nationalism.[67]


During recent times, the people from Bihar have been the major victims of discrimination, often resulting in violence directed against them and even their social outcasting at times.[citation needed]

The uneven economic development in India has resulted in mass migration of Bihari workers and middle-class professionals to seek work in more developed states of India like Maharashtra, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab.[citation needed] The free movement of Indians to settle and work anywhere inside the Indian Union has been guaranteed by the constitution of India.[68] Bihari settler communities living in other states have been subjected to a growing degree of xenophobia,[69][70] racial discrimination,[71][72] prejudice[73][74][75] and violence.[76] Biharis are often looked down upon in Delhi[77] and their accent is ridiculed.[78] In 2000 and 2003, anti-Bihari violence led to the deaths of up to 200 people[76] and created 10,000 internal refugees.[citation needed] Again in 2008, anti-Bihari violence in Maharashtra, notably in Nashik, Mumbai, and Pune, created a record 40,000 to 60,000 internal refugees.[79][80][81]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Language, Religion and Politics in North India". p. 69. Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "Bangladesh: Stateless Biharis Grasp for a Resolution and Their Rights". Refugees International. Archived from the original on 21 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  3. ^ "Stateless in Bangladesh and Pakistan". Stateless People in Bangladesh Inc. Archived from the original on 21 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  4. ^ "Pakistan under attack!". The Tribune (Editorial). Chandigarh. 2000-09-20. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  5. ^ "Assessment for Biharis in Bangladesh". Center for International Development and Conflict Management. Archived from the original on 2009-10-02. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  6. ^ Winer, Lise (2009) Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago: On Historical Principles [1]
  7. ^ O`malley, L.S.S. Bihar And Orissa Gazetteers Shahabad. Logos Press. p. 51. ISBN 9788172681227. Retrieved 2017-02-17. 
  8. ^ a b c "Bihari Clothing". Web India 123. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  9. ^ "The Bihar Official Language Act, 1950" (PDF). Cabinet Secretariat Department, Government of Bihar. 1950. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Chitransh, Anugya (1 September 2012). "Bhojpuri is not the only language in Bihar". Hill Post. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  11. ^ Benedikter, Thomas (2009). Language Policy and Linguistic Minorities in India: An Appraisal of the Linguistic Rights of Minorities in India. Münster: LIT Verlag. p. 89. ISBN 978-3-643-10231-7. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Cardona, George; Jain, Dhanesh, eds. (11 September 2003). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge Language Family Series. Routledge. p. 500. ISBN 978-0-415-77294-5. ...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 lack of awareness. The uneducated and the urban population of the region return Hindi as the generic name for their language. 
  13. ^ Jain, Dhanesh; Cardona, George (2003). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. p. 500. 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 either Hindi or Urdu 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 regards Hindi or Urdu as the generic name for their language. 
  14. ^ History of Indian languages Archived 26 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine., "Bihari is actually the name of a group of three related languages—Bhojpuri, Maithili, and Magahi—spoken mainly in northeastern India in Bihar.
  15. ^ Verma, Mahandra K. "Language Endangerment and Indian languages: An exploration and a critique". Linguistic Structure and Language Dynamics in South Asia. 
  16. ^ Brass Paul R., The Politics of India Since Independence, Cambridge University Press, pp. 183
  17. ^ DR.Shamim Hashimi. Urdu Literature (1947-08-14). Retrieved on 2013-07-18.
  18. ^ Professor Dr. Syed Abdul Wahab Ashrafi, Sahitya Academy Award winner, brought to you by Bihar Anjuman, the largest online group from Bihar or Jharkhand. (1936-06-02). Retrieved on 2013-07-18.
  19. ^ "After 11 novels, Bihar lad set for Bollywood debut - Times of India". Retrieved 2017-02-17. 
  20. ^ [2] Archived 5 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Barik, R. (2006). Land and caste politics in Bihar. Shipra Publications. ISBN 9788175413054. Retrieved 2017-02-17. 
  22. ^ Utpal Bhaskar. "Foreign diplomats line up for Bihar elections". 
  23. ^ "How Bihar Elections Could Shape India's Future". The Huffington Post. 
  24. ^ "Bihar polls: Jitan Ram Manjhi announces alliance with BJP". 
  25. ^ "Ram Vilas Paswan-Jitan Ram Manjhi battle for Mahadalit leadership making it tough for BJP in Bihar". 
  26. ^ "Non-inclusion of Paswans in Mahadalit list angers Paswan". 
  27. ^ "Bihar CM includes Paswan caste in Mahadalit category". 
  28. ^ "Does Bihar know how many tribals live in the State?". 
  29. ^ "27 lakh SC & ST families to benefit from Food Law in Bihar". 
  30. ^ "Bihar assembly elections 2015: Experiments in the caste lab of Bihar". Tehelka - Investigations, Latest News, Politics, Analysis, Blogs, Culture, Photos, Videos, Podcasts. 
  31. ^ "Special package for Tharu tribals in Bihar". 
  32. ^ "Stage set for tribal all-woman battalion". 
  33. ^ a b "Nitish Kumar's gambit: temple fund, 2 EBCs added to SC/ST list". 
  34. ^ "Bihar state EBC list" (PDF). 
  35. ^ "Election Commission in a spot: Bihar has 6.01 crore adults, but more than 6.21 crore voters". 
  36. ^ "How Bihar was won". 
  37. ^ "Now Lalu wants to do a Maya in Bihar". 
  38. ^ "The caste factor while casting votes in Indian elections". 
  39. ^ AM Jigeesh. "Caste determines Bihar's electoral arithmetic". The Hindu Business Line. 
  40. ^ "Nitish gives 'Maha Dalit' benefits to Paswan community". 
  41. ^ "Why did Narendra Modi suddenly turn to caste?". 
  42. ^ "Bihar poised to return to politics of caste, religion". 
  43. ^ "Nitish in caste trouble". 
  44. ^ "Voice of unity for EBC voters". The Telegraph. 
  45. ^ "Bihar elections still remain about slicing and dicing caste, EBCs are the wild card". 
  46. ^ "Frenemies: BJP's tie-up with Jitan Ram Manjhi could give it edge in Bihar polls". 
  47. ^ "Bihar voters in dilemma". 
  48. ^ "BJP ties up with OBC leader Upendra Kushwaha in Bihar". 
  49. ^ "Jitan Ram Manjhi emerges critical player in poll-bound Bihar". The Times of India. 
  50. ^ "BJP may bring in Kushwaha as OBC face". 
  51. ^ "Can RJD-JD(U) stop BJP's rise in Bihar?". 
  52. ^ "Bihar's Mahadalits pick sides in Nitish-Manjhi tussle". 
  53. ^ "Bihar polls: Rallying behind Jitan Ram Manjhi, Musahars vow to unseat Nitish Kumar". 
  54. ^ "Bihar elections among factors in religious data of Census 2011 release". 
  55. ^ "Bihar polls: People made me cry a lot, says BJP's 'pucca Musalman' | The Indian Express". Retrieved 2017-02-17. 
  56. ^ "Will the Muslim militia polarise community on caste lines in Bihar's Imamganj?". 
  57. ^ "Is Nitish Kumar working on a new Bihar poll strategy that excludes Laloo and Mulayam?". 
  58. ^ "Brahmins In India". 
  59. ^ "Bihar brings all Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes' families under National Food Security Act". 
  60. ^ "Nitish banks on caste calculations, Muslims". 
  61. ^ "Population by religion community - 2011". Census of India, 2011. The Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 2015-08-25. 
  62. ^ "Court rules that young Biharis are Bangladesh citizens". Reuters. 19 May 2008.
  63. ^ a b "Citizenship for Bihari refugees". BBC News. 19 May 2008.
  64. ^ "Bangladesh fails to register its Urdu-speaking citizens as voters". Indo-Asian News Service. Yahoo! News. 16 August 2008.
  65. ^ "Mauritians will be able to track Bihar roots more easily". Thaindian News. IANS. 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2013-07-18. 
  66. ^ The Indian Diaspora. Retrieved on 2013-07-18.
  67. ^ Ahmad Faizan, "Bihar violence: Raj the gainer", The times of India, Pune, 27 October 2008, pp. 6
  68. ^ Constitution of India-Part III, Article 19, Fundamental Rights, Government of India, 1950
  69. ^ ‘Outsiders’ must be welcomed, but Manipur is not alone in such isolationist excesses. In neighbouring Assam, six migrant workers have been killed in two attacks this year, and as many as 88 were killed, and 33 injured in 12 such incidents in 2007. Indeed, waves of xenophobic violence have swept across Assam repeatedly since 1979, variously targeting Bangladeshis, Bengalis, Biharis and Marwaris."
  70. ^ A clash of cultures, "In the rest of India people tut-tuted this latest exhibition of the Sena's xenophobia ...the media led the charge holding opinion polls and debates.."
  71. ^ Vir Sanghvi, The Bhaiyya Effect, Hindustan Times, 27 September 2008 "The roots of Raj Thackeray's attack on the Bhaiyyas lie in India's economic transformation. Through a combination of poor planning and worse politics, Bihar and UP have been left out of the economic revolution. When people from those states travel outside to find work, those who have benefited from the recent prosperity treat them with the kind of snobbery and disdain with which the British treated Indians when we went to England to find employment in the 1950s. Then, we were seen as losers from a place that would never manage to prosper. But, of course, Indians ignored the racism and rose to the top of the economic pyramid."
  72. ^ CNN-IBN, State of neglect: Deluged Bihar falls off Govt map, 28 Aug 2008, "Does it hurt when Goa minister Ravi Naik said that people of Bihar are coming across and bringing poverty, when Raj Thackeray said that the people of Bihar must get out of Maharashtra? When racism and prejudice is directed against the people of Bihar, does it hurt and one feel that there is something that one must do for the state?"
  73. ^ M., A. (2001-07-21). "Calcutta Diary". Economic and Political Weekly. 36 (29): 2730–2731. JSTOR 4410875. How come Bihar has such a negative image in the rest of the country? Fingers will be pointed at the obscurantism characterizing the state, but are things any better in Rajasthan? Bihar is supposed to be riven by caste dissensions; can it however hold a candle in this regard to Tamil Nadu? Feudalism and social oppression are hallmarks of Bihar's daily existence; what about Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh though? ... According to some snooty people Biharis are by and large crude. Some others would prefer to say that the people of Bihar are rooted to the soil and hate to hide their natural instincts behind pretensions; they cannot be any cruder than those populating the backwaters of Punjab. 
  74. ^ It's Bal Thakrey's turn now, says 'Ek Bihari Sau Beemari', Maharastra CM assures of action against him in reply | Archived 4 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Shiv Sena Supremo Balasahab Thakrey has come hard once again on Biharis. Bal Thakrey, in his latest article in Samna has written that Bihari's are like dieses. He said that Ek Bihari, Sau Bimari. Do Bihari Ladai ki taiyari, Teen Bihari train hamari and paanch Bihari to sarkar hamaari. Earlier it was Raj Thakrey and his party Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena who had launched an agitation against the North Indians. But this time it's Bal Thakrey who has asked Biharis and Bihari Politician to improve their behavior."
  75. ^ Biharis are an affliction, says Bal Thackeray" Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, in an attempt to overtake his estranged nephew Raj Thackeray's campaign against people from north India, termed Biharis as an affliction, and said they were unwanted in all other parts of the country. The ageing leader warned that the so-called Bihari leaders, by accusing people of Mumbai of harbouring "anti-national sentiments, were attempting to again breathe fire into the anti-north Indian feelings in Maharashtra." They must realize this would only put their brethren here at the receiving end, he added."
  76. ^ a b Patnadaily. "40 Bihari Workers Killed by ULFA Activists in Assam". Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2006-01-06. 
  77. ^ India struggles to tame its heart of darkness "Biharis are often looked down upon in Delhi, and blamed for rising crime – the city's chief minister Sheila Dikshit publicly wonders how to turn back the tide."
  78. ^ MAYANK RASU, Musings of a Bihari, The Hindu, "Biharis" have now usurped the place of "Sardarjis" as a favourite butt of jokes. It is not just the jokes; there are other ways of embarrassing them too. Making fun of the Bihari accent and projecting it as the most rustic one is one of them."
  79. ^ AMSU against influx of Biharis to Manipur "In the wake of the ongoing violence in Assam, the All Manipur Students' Union on Wednesday appealed to the state government to curb the influx of Biharis into the state."
  80. ^ "10,000 Hindi-speakers relocated in Assam amid separatist attacks. | Europe Intelligence Wire (November, 2003)". 2003-11-27. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  81. ^ Print Article: Hundreds flee ethnic violence "Hundreds of Hindi speakers in India's north-eastern state of Assam have started fleeing ethnic violence which has claimed 29 lives in the past week, they and officials said yesterday.... With police reporting another six people killed by mobs and separatist rebels overnight, a sense of panic began to spread through members of the Hindi-speaking community, many of whom hail from the eastern state of Bihar."