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Culture of Bihar

Hindi and Urdu are the official languages of the state (recently Maithili is also included as one of the official languages of the state, although the usage of the language for official purposes is negligible), while the majority of the people speak one of the Bihari languages – Maithili, Angika, Magadhi or Bhojpuri . Presently Bihari languages are considered one of the five subgroups of Hindi; however, Maithili was declared a separate language.

However, these are considered to be derived from the language of the erstwhile Magadha state – Magadhi Prakrit, along with Bengali, Assamese, and Oriya. Bihari Hindi, a slang form of Standard Hindi, is used as a lingua franca and many speak it as their first language throughout the state. A small minority also speak Bengali, mainly in big districts or along the border area with West Bengal.

Many Bengali speakers are people from West Bengal or Hindu people from erstwhile East Pakistan who immigrated during the Partition of India in 1947. Though Urdu and Bihari languages may relate to each other, however they are different in many ways. Few words in Bihari language sounds same as they are spoken in Urdu; e.g. Sulf-nazuk in Bihari is Sinf-e-Nazuk in Urdu. Also, masculine and feminine words are often not clear in Bihari language as these are in Urdu.

In spite of the large number of speakers of Bihari languages, they have not been constitutionally recognised in India. Hindi is the language used for educational and official matters in Bihar. These languages were legally absorbed under the subordinate label of 'HINDI' in the 1961 Census. Such state and national politics have created conditions for language endangerment.

The first success for spreading Hindi occurred in Bihar in 1881, when Hindi displaced Urdu as the sole official language of the province and became the first state of India to adopt Hindi.

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. Urdu became the second official language in the undivided State of Bihar on 16 August 1989.

The relationship of Maithili community with Bhojpuri and Magahi communities – the immediate neighbours have been neither very pleasant nor very hostile. Maithili has been the only one among them which has been trying to constantly deny superimposition of Hindi over her identity.

As of now Maithili is a separate language that uses Devanagari as the writing script rather than its own script Mithilakshar due to lack of the development of the printing press and also due to ignorance. The other two have given up their claims and have resigned to accept the status of dialects of Hindi.

Bihar has produced a number of writers and scholars, including Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Ram Avatar Sharma, Dr. Bhagwati Sharan Mishra, R. K. Sinha, Raja Radhika Raman Singh, Shiva Pujan Sahay, Divakar Prasad Vidyarthy, Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Ram Briksh Benipuri, Phanishwar Nath 'Renu', Pandit Nalin Vilochan Sharma, Gopal Singh "Nepali", Baba Nagarjun, Mridula Sinha, and Pankaj Rag. 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 the short story writer, playwright and theatre critic and novelist Anurag Anand are some of the prominent authors of the current age to have emerged from Bihar. One of Anurag's better known works, The Legend of Amrapali is based around the life of the yesteryear courtesan from the kingdom of Vaishali which had its nerve center in areas that now fall within the boundaries of Bihar state. 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. 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).

Interestingly, the first Indian author in English was a Bihari, Deen Mohammad. Among the contemporary writers in English Amitava Kumar, Tabish Khair, Birbal Jha and Siddharth Choudhary are important names. Siddharth Choudhary has been shortlisted for 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize for his book Day Scholar. Bihar has also made important contributions to Urdu literature.

Famous Urdu writers Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Manazir Ahsan Gilani, Jabir Husain, Hussain Ul Haque; Eminent Writer, Critic, Bibliographist, Linguist & Scholar of Urdu language Abdul Qavi Desnavi; Eminent Poets Shad Azimabadai, Nasikh, Jamil Mazhari, Mazhar Imam, Suhail Azimabadi; Short story writers Akhtar Orenivi, Shaukat Hayat, Shamoel Ahmed; and Paigham Afaqui (novel Makaan), Abdus Samad (novel Do Gaz Zameen), Husainul Haque (novel Farat), Ilyas Ahmed Gaddi (novel Fire Area) enjoy special place in global literature.

The literary and cultural movement Bhookhi Peedhi, or 'Hungry generation', was launched from Bihar's capital in November 1961 by two brothers, Samir Roychoudhury and Malay Roy Choudhury. The movement impacted most of the Indian languages of the time.

Urdu is second government language in Bihar which is the mother tongue of Muslims who form about 17% of state's population. Near 25% people in Bihar read and write Urdu.

Bihar has produced many Urdu scholars, such as Shaad Azimabadi, Jamil Maz'hari, Khuda Baksh Khan, Maulana Shabnam Kamali, Bismil Azimabadi (poet known for the patriotic ghazal "Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai"), Kaif Azimabadi, Rasikh Azimabadi, and in these days, Kalim Aajiz.

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