The word ‘Bhojpuri’ (भोजपुरी) signifies a language and the people who speak that language. People in several districts of western Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, a few pockets of Jharkhand and a little stretch of Nepal alongside the lower range of the Himalayas speak Bhojpuri in their unique local flavors.
Historically, the Bhojpuri area has been spread and divided under different political regimes. Hence one cannot find one comprehensive history of the Bhojpuri-speaking region. For example, the history of Bhojpuri-speaking Shahabad district (now divided into Bhojpur and Rohtas) of Bihar is different from that of Banaras district in Uttar Pradesh. However, we can trace a common history of Bhojpuri as a language.
Scholars argue the name Bhojpuri (भोजपुरी) was derived from an ancient town of Bhojpur in the old Shahabad district in Bihar (Grierson 1903; Tiwari 2011). This town housed the migrant Rajput rulers of the Malwa region (now in Madhya Pradesh) after they defeated the local rulers, the ‘Cheros’ (Tiwari 2011).
The second point of commonality is cultural practices. Traditional practices, rites, and rituals are similar. They have marital ties along caste lines. For example, a Bhojpuri-speaking Brahman from Bihar will marry off his daughter in a Bhojpuri-speaking Brahman family of Uttar Pradesh, but will not prefer to do so with Maithil Brahmans of his ‘own’ state.
The third common feature is the culture and practice of oral literature spread throughout the region. The region has a rich culture of folksongs. Marital migration of women in this patrilocal society has aided the exchange of songs within the Bhojpuri geography.
Women have been movers of songs. The cultural exchange has contributed to the unification of the cultural region. And the fourth common feature is the culture of migration from the region. Bhojpuri men have been migrating too far off places for ages. As early as the beginning of the twentieth century, Sir Grierson had written that every man of Bhojpuri-speaking region is ready to ‘carve his fortune out of any opportunity present’ to them and hence every year they migrate from this region seek employment (1903: 5). People in this region have been vividly discussing this culture of migration in the folksongs.
Having said that, the objective of this chapter is to situate my study in the Bhojpurispeaking region which is the ‘lived in’ and analytical context of Bhojpuri folksongs. My purpose is to develop a socio-historical backdrop to understand the epithet ‘Bhojpuri’. I am not keen on recording the exhaustive history of this region’s geography, but I would like to understand the epithet in socio-linguistic and socio-cultural contexts. This chapter is about the Bhojpuri language and its relations to people and places.1 Specifically, I will explore how the Bhojpuri language, society, and women have been imagined and perceived.
As there is a scarcity of social histories on this region, I will begin with the sociohistorical knowledge generated by colonial administrative officers namely, Grierson (a linguistic scholar) and O’Malley. Then I will draw from the pioneering work on Bhojpuri by scholars who are/were situated in the Bhojpuri social context: folklorist Krishna Deva Upadhyaya and linguist Udai Narain Tiwari. I will also look at some recent scholarship generated by situated academicians in regional colleges and universities located in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
This chapter is divided into four sections. The first section gives an account of the Bhojpuri language’s home, which is followed by a section discussing the literary status of the language. The third section is about the images of Bhojpuri people and society in the socio-linguistic and cultural work of scholars situated in the Bhojpuri cultural region. The last section discusses how Bhojpuri women (who are the focal analytical category of this thesis) have been perceived in socio-linguistic and folkloristic writings.
Where does Bhojpuri physically reside? Roughly speaking, western Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh is the homeland of the Bhojpuri language (See Map 3.1). However, Bhojpuri covers much more, even across the Nepal frontier up to the lower ranges of the Himalayas
in the north and up to Chhota Nagpur plateau in the South (Grierson 1903). As Bihar was divided into two states,2 a small Bhojpuri-speaking region has gone to the Jharkhand state. In present times, the Bhojpuri region is spread across three political boundaries: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand.
(accessed on 20 June 2015)
The linguistic boundary of Bhojpuri is, however, not fixed, and therefore it is difficult to give an exhaustive list of districts where Bhojpuri is spoken. In the following lullaby by Manoranjan Prasad Sinha, a literary figure from the area, are enlisted some of the Bhojpuri-speaking districts spread across Bihar and Uttar Pradesh:
आरे आवा छपरा आवा बलिया मोलिहारी आवा
राांची आउर पिामू आवा, गोरखपुर, देवररया आवा,
मिर्जापुर, आजमगढ़ आवा, ज ती ओ जवनपुर आवा
मिर्जापुर बनारस आवा, सोने की कटोरिया में
दूध-भात ले-ले आवा, बबुआ के मुँहवा में घुटुक
Come to Ara, come to Chhapra, come to Ballia and Motihari
Come to Ranchi and Palamu, come to Gorakhpur and Deoria
Come to Mirzapur, Azamgarh, Come to Basti and Jaunpur
Come to Mirzapur, Banaras; in a bowl of gold
Bring some rice and milk and into Babua’s mouth – Ghutuk!!] (Sinha 2010: 4)
I have heard a similar lullaby from my mother which goes like this:
आरे आवा, बारे आवा,
नदिया किनारे आवा
सोने की कटोरिया में दूध-भात ले ले आवा
बबुआ के मुँहवा में घुटुक
[Come to aarey, come to barey,
come to the river bank.
Bring some milk and rice in a bowl of gold
to feed my baby boy).
[Come to Ara, come to Chhapra, come to Ballia and Motihari
Come to Ranchi and Palamu, come to Gorakhpur and Deoria
Come to Mirzapur, Azamgarh, Come to Basti and Jaunpur
Come to Mirzapur, Banaras; in a bowl of gold
Bring some rice and milk and into Babua’s3 mouth – Ghutuk!!]
I assume that Sinha’s lullaby was inspired by this folk lullaby. He has included names of many Bhojpuri districts giving us a political map of Bhojpuri.
Broadly, in Bihar, Bhojpuri is spoken in Bhojpur, Rohtas, Buxar, Bhabhua, Chhapra, Siwan, Gopalganj, Motihari, Bettiah, Hajipur districts. In Uttar Pradesh, it is spoken in Ballia, Banaras, Gorakhpur, Ghazipur, Mirzapur, Azamgrah, Mau, Deoaria districts and
some central-eastern districts like Faizabad, Jaunpur, Basti, Bahraich and Gonda.
In Jharkhand, Bhojpuri is spoken in Palamu region. Besides, Bhojpuri has a vast diasporic existence. It is found in urban centres of India like Kolkata, Delhi, and Mumbai where Bhojpuri migrant workers go and reside in large numbers. It is found in varying extent overseas in countries like Trinidad, Fiji, Surinam, and Mauritius because of the indenture labour migration from Bhojpuri speaking region in the 19th century (Jayaram 2000).
However, I will be focusing on the homeland of Bhojpuri, as the folksongs I have analysed have been collected from the homeland region. Grierson has termed Bhojpurispeaking area as ‘Bhojpur country’ (1903: 40). In his Linguistic Survey of India,
conducted in the late 19th century, he has given a vast and interesting picture of the language boundaries of Bhojpuri:
North of Ganges, it lies to the west of Maithili of Muzaffarpur, and, south of that river, it lies to the west of the Magahi of Gaya and Hazaribagh. It then takes south-easterly course, to the south of the Magahi of Hazaribagh, till it has covered the entire Ranchi Plateau, including the greater part of district of Palamu and of Ranchi. Here, it is bounded on the east by the
Magahi has spoken in the sub-plateau parganas of Ranchi and by Bengali of Manubhum.
On the south it is here bounded by Oriya of Singhbhum and the native state of Gangpur. The boundary then turns to the north, through the heart of Jashpur state, to the western border of Palamu, the boundary reaches to southern border of Mirzapur. It follows the southern and western border of that district up to the river Ganges.
Here it turns to the east, along the course of that stream, which it crosses near Benares, so as to take in only a small portion of the north Gangetic portion of Mirzapur. South of Mirzapur, it has still had Chhattisgarhi for its neighbor, but not on turning to the north, along the western confines of that district, it has been bounded on the west first by the Bagheli of Baghelkhand, and then by Awadhi.
Having crossed the Ganges, its boundary line lies nearly due north to Tanda [a city in Uttar Pradesh] and Gogra [now Ghaghara river], in the district of Fyzabad [now Faizabad]. It has run along the western boundary of Benares District, across Jaunpur, along the west of Azamgarh, and across Fyzabad. At Tanda, it course turns west along the Gogra and then north up to lower range of Himalayas, so as to include the district of Basti. (ibid. 1903: 41)
This description depicts Bhojpuri as a river that flows from the lower ranges of the Himalayas and covers the entire area, converging with other languages on the way. As mentioned earlier, scholars have traced the name ‘Bhojpuri’ to an old town,
Bhojpur, in Shahabad. Bhojpur, it is believed, was the capital of Dumraon Raj, a princely state. The battle of Buxar was also fought nearby (Tiwari 2011).
The language which people of Bhojpur spoke was termed as Bhojpuri and, because it was a dominant dynasty, the language of most of the nearby regions was also referred to as Bhojpuri (Grierson 1903). Obviously, we should bear in mind the fact that the texture and character of Bhojpuri changes with its location. For example, the Bhojpuri of Bhojpur is different from the Bhojpuri of Banaras. Scholars give a linguistic explanation to this diversity.
Languages spoken in the region are descendants of a single old form of speech called Magadhi (Grierson 1903; Tiwari 2011). According to the linguist Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, Bhojpuri, Magahi, Maithili, Bengali, Assamese, and Oriya, are all descendants
of Magadhi. Bhojpuri belongs to the western Magadhi group, Magahi and Maithili belong to the central group, and Bengali, Assamese and Oriya are in eastern Magadhi group (Tiwari 2011). Hence, spatially Bhojpuri is situated to the extreme west of this group. To
differentiate the three Bihari languages, namely, Maithili, Magahi and Bhojpuri, the following couplet serves as a good example:
कस कस कसमर, दकना मगलहया
का भोजपुररया की लिरहुलिया
(Tiwari 2011: 234).
The interrogative pronoun ‘what’ is pronounced differently in these languages. It is दकना (kina) in Magahi, की (kee) in Maithili and का (kaa) in Bhojpuri. Among the three languages, Bhojpuri is the most populous (Grierson 1903; Upadhyaya 1990; Tiwari 2011). Presently, 33 million people in India speak Bhojpuri (Census 2001).
Grierson (1903) has further classified Bhojpuri into three groups, namely, ‘standard’, ‘western’ and ‘nagpuria’.4 This classification has general acceptance among other linguists as well. The ‘standard’ Bhojpuri is further divided into Southern and Northern.
The Southern ‘standard’5 is spoken in Shahabad region in Bihar (where the old Bhojpur town is located), Ballia of Uttar Pradesh and eastern side of Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh.
On the other hand the Saran region of Bihar comes under the northern ‘standard’ Bhojpuri. ‘Western’ Bhojpuri is spoken in Faizabad, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Banaras, Mirzapur and western side of Ghazipur districts of Uttar Pradesh. ‘Nagpuria’ is spoken in
Chhota Nagpur region, which presenty lies in Jharkhand. Apart from these categories, there are two other types, namely, Madeshi and Tharu. Madeshi is spoken in Champaran region of Bihar and Tharu is spoken in Nepal frontier.
Bhojpuri has local names as well. Western Bhojpuri is loosely termed as purbi. Purab means east and hence purbi means ‘of east’. People of northern India refer to the language of their east as purbi. People from the Hindi-speaking western Uttar Pradesh call everyone to their east (Awadh, Banaras, Bihar, etc.) as purbi or purabiya. The term is used very loosely, so it includes non-Bhojpuri languages like Awadhi as well. In Bengal’s colonial army, sepoys from this region were called purabiya (Tiwari 2011). Tiwari points out that the Bhojpuri migrants in Bengal refer to their language as deswali. Eminent literary figure from this region Rahul Sankrityayan terms the Bhojpuri of Banaras as Kashika (of Kashi, another name for Banaras); Bhojpuri of Chhapra is also referred to Chhaprahiya and Bhojpuri in the east of Ballia and west of Azamgarh is referred to as Bangahi (a land without floods).
Tiwari (2011) further argues that ‘southern’ standard Bhojpuri is sweeter as it has French and Persian kind of melody because the last syllable is pronounced in elongated fashion. For example बच्चे, कहाँ जा रहे हो (in Hindi, which means: Kid, where are you
going?) will be pronounced as बबुआ हो… कहाँ जातारअ? ‘You’, the second-person personal pronoun has three words in Hindi, namely, tu, tum and aap. Tu and tum are informal forms used for younger or close kin/friends, whereas aap is used for elder and respectful ones. ‘You’ pronoun varies in different types of Bhojpuri.
For example, in ‘standard’ Bhojpuri, respectful ‘you’ is referred to as राउर (pronounced as raur) and, in ‘western’, it is referred to as तुहुँ (pronounced as tuhun). Verb which signifies ‘doing’ has a nasal sound in ‘standard’ Bhojpuri, whereas there is no nasal sound in ‘western’, for example, ‘I did’ will be कईली (pronounced as kainleen) in ‘standard’ and कईली(pronounced as kailee) in ‘western’ (Tiwari 2011).
The diasporic existence of Bhojpuri has a different story. In the 19th century, the Bhojpuri-speaking indentured laborers carried this language to plantation colonies like Mauritius, British Guiana and Trinidad. In Trinidad, for example, Bhojpuri with different local flavor went through a process of homogenization and a lingua franca evolved which is called as Plantation Hindustani or Trinidad Bhojpuri. Although this language has almost died now, it has survived in folksongs, kitchen lexicon and kinship terminology (Jayaram 2000). What has happened to the Bhojpuri in urban centers of India would require further inquiry.
Despite Bhojpuri having a large canvas in terms of geographical coverage and the number of speakers, there is hardly any written literature in Bhojpuri (Grierson 1903; Upadhyaya 1990; Sinha 2010; Tiwari 2011). The lack of written literature in Bhojpuri has
been lamented by many regional scholars. However, they highlight the existence of rich oral literary tradition in the region. In the next section, I will elaborate on how scholars have explained this lack of written literature in Bhojpuri and the consequences thereof.
The Orality of Bhojpuri
Bhojpuri is not written and read; but it is spoken, sung and heard. Literary traditions contribute to creating and circulating images, adjectives, and metaphors for society. Most of the regional scholars argue that Bhojpuri is backward in comparison to its sister language Maithili, because Maithili, in addition to the oral literature, has written literature. Eminent Hindi and Sanskrit scholar of Kashi, Baldev Upadhyaya has written that, in spite of its geographical spread, Bhojpuri is still oral because no ruler gave this language a shelter. He argues that, unlike Vidyapati in Maithili and Surdas in Braj, Bhojpuri never had literary figures or poets who created epics. Thus, Bhojpuri remained the language of uncouth illiterate villagers.8
Linguist Tiwari (2011) adds another reason for the backwardness of Bhojpuri.
He argues that Brahmins of Bhojpuri belt neglected Bhojpuri; Kashi (Banaras), which was a centre for knowledge, comes under Bhojpuri region, but Kashi pundits were just involved in learning and teaching Sanskrit.
While scholars are right in highlighting the absence of ‘great’ literary figures in Bhojpuri, it is important to recognize the material reality of Bhojpuri society. Bhojpuri society is largely a peasant society constituted of labouring castes. Writing activity requires time and leisure. During the process of labour, this society was creating a handy, pragmatic language with its own share of simple and emotive oral literary forms. Thus, Bhojpuri is not deprived of literature. Kali Kinkar Dutta and Jatashankar Jha (1976) highlight the names of Bhojpuri saints like Gharnidas to make a case for ancient Bhojpuri literature.
In modern literature (late-19th to mid-20th century), they underline the contribution of folk poets like Mahendra Misir and Bhikhari Thakur. They also attempt to reclaim Bhojpuri literary figures like Principal Manoranjan and Babu Raghubir Narayan, as ‘nationalist’, since they wrote poems with anti-colonial themes: the former wrote a poem titled Firangiya, while the latter wrote, the Batohiya. Thus, scholars assert that, even if there is a dearth of written literature in Bhojpuri, the oral literature is equally powerful with its literary charm and nationalist consciousness.
It can be seen that most of the scholars expect and aspire for written Bhojpuri literature which can be read by an ‘educated’ class and hence achieve respectability. Obviously, the ‘orality’ of Bhojpuri cannot command the same respect. However, Grierson (1903) thinks differently. He points out that Maithili has a literary history and tradition hence it has retarded the ‘corruption of that language’. He adds that Bhojpuri has hardly any indigenous literature, thus making ‘it a handy article for current use and not too much encumbered by grammatical subtleties’. Nevertheless, most of the indigenous scholars have highlighted and lamented the lack of patronage for Bhojpuri from kings and landlords. There is now a movement to recognize and enlist Bhojpuri as a scheduled language. Such efforts are aimed at standardizing and institutionalizing Bhojpuri. Notwithstanding the fact that such
institutionalization may benefit people like me (as it may improve my employment and career prospects), I am sceptical of such a move. It should be noted that ’lower-caste’ Bhojpuri speakers have not entered the field of higher education in large numbers. They do not form our academic class and intelligentsia. Hence, there is a real threat that Bhojpuri will be codified by privileged and writing castes and the kind of thick and coarse Bhojpuri, which Lakhpati Devi speaks, will die an unsung death.
The Bhojpuri People
To produce a singular account of Bhojpuri people and society is a daunting task. As I have already stated, there has been no attempt to write a unified social history11 of Bhojpuri-speaking society. Therefore, I am creating this narrative by chronologically arranging the insights about Bhojpuri people and society from the work of colonial scholars, early regional scholars, and some present-day academics. George Grierson’s (1903) work on the Bhojpuri speaking region is considered seminal. It has produced a festive account of this region and its people. Through his writing, Grierson constructed the Bhojpuri nation. In the Linguistic Survey of India conducted by him in the late 19th century, he wrote that this region is inhabited by an ‘alert and active nationality’.
He termed Bhojpuri people, a ‘fighting nation’ who have been sepoys of Hindustani army. Grierson also highlighted the role of Bhojpuri people in the 1857 mutiny. He has presented Bhojpuri area in a better light than Mithila and Magadh region of Bihar. He
terms Maithil: as slug who still followed age-old traditions. Such an account came to me as a surprise, as I have heard Maithil pundits speaking highly of Mithila because of its rich literary and cultural traditions. On the other hand, Grierson characterizes Bhojpuri people as diligent who do not hesitate to migrate to British colonies to carve out their fortune. This image definitely has colonial overtones as Bhojpuri people migrated as indentured laborers to become the replacement of African slaves after the abolition of Slavery in British colonies (Tinker 1993).
Grierson adds that every year Bhojpuri people go to Bengal to work as either palki bearers or darwans to Bengal Zamindars to straighten the ‘less heroic’ tenets. Grierson writes: ‘as fond as an Irishman of a stick, the long boned, stalwart, Bhojpuri, with his staff in his hand, is a familiar object striding over fields far from his home’(1903: 05). He adds that there are two civilizing races of this country: Bengali and Bhojpuri, the previous with pen and the latter with cudgel. Grierson creates a historical Bhojpuria image of muscular aggression and adventure. This over-glorified image has been reproduced in present-day scholarship as well.
L.S.S. O’Malley (2005), who prepared the Bihar district gazetteers in the early 20th century, draws from Grierson’s word to describe the characteristics of the people of Bhojpuri-speaking region of Bihar, namely, Shahabad and Saran. O’ Malley has
documented about Afghan, Mughal and Rajpur rulers of this region. He has written about the mutiny and famous battles of Buxar. As far as the history of common masses is concerned, one can find an account of how many people died in wars or due to epidemics.
He has written that almost 75 percent of people were engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. I could find certain relevant facts on migration in his work. For example, a lot of people from this region migrated to tea gardens of Assam due to cholera epidemics in the early 20th century.12 O’ Malley highlights the poor economic condition of the agricultural class which was the cause for active emigration of people, especially males from this region toward the east. The money order economy sustained the families of the labor classes and castes.
In Shahabad district gazetteer, O’Malley has briefed about the caste composition: Brahmans, Rajputs, Babhan or Bhumihar Brahman and Ahirs constitute nearly half of the population. Brahmans served religious clients as priests. Rajputs, the descendants of earlier conquerors of Shahabad were mutineers and sepoys; in Bhojpuri region they are landowners and cultivators and as migrants in Bengal they served as peons, policemen and darwans. Babhan or Bhuinhaar [Bhumihar] Brahman are also called as Zamindar Brahmans who are landowners with agricultural pursuit. Koiris are skillful cultivators; this purely agricultural caste is market gardeners. Ahir’s hereditary occupation was cattle rearing, but they also took up cultivation as their primary occupation; they are infamous as ‘cattle-lifters’. As we can see, each caste mentioned above, besides their specific caste occupations took up the agricultural pursuit as well.
After these colonial scholars, two prominent scholars from this region took up the study of Bhojpuri simultaneously: Krishna Deva Upadhyaya, the folklorist, and Udai Narain Tiwari, the linguist. Both of them started their work in the 1930s and pursued it
for several decades. Udai Narain Tiwari’s in his comprehensive work Bhojpuri Bhasha aur Sahitya (2011)13 has highlighted that Bhojpur was a prominent town in Shahabad region of Bihar in the 18th century and it was ruled by Rajputs who came from Malwa
region of central India. This region was called Bhojpur and the language of this region and many other surrounding districts was called Bhojpuri. Tiwari highlights that Bhojpuri became an adjective for the region and its people.
Similar to other scholars mentioned above, Tiwari underlines the ‘masculine nature’ of Bhojpuri people as well. He states that they ‘fight for fighting sake’. A folk saying aptly describes this fighting nature of Bhojpuri people:
भागलपुर का भगेलुआ
कहलगाँव का ठग
सुनी पबै ‘भोजपुरिया’
त तुरे दुनों का रग्ग
[Bhagelua of Bhagalpur
Thug of Kahalgaon
If a ‘Bhojpuria’ catches them
He breaks their bones]
(Tiwari 2011: 234).
The folk saying means that if a Bhojpuria gets hold of a notorious person from Bhagalpur (a district in Bihar) and Kahalgaon (a block in Bhagalpur), he ‘straightens’ them. Tiwari further adds that, because of their fighting nature, they actively joined the army and participated in the mutiny. He writes that, in the 17th and 18th century Bhojpur and Buxar of Bihar were the main centres for recruitment of sepoys. They served the Mughal army and later the British army.
Tiwari has reflected upon the religious-cultural composition of people as well. He writes that there are very few Muslims in Bhojpuri region and hence one can hardly find Islamic culture. This observation is surely debatable. A contemporary of Tiwari and
famous Urdu poet Rahi Masoom Raza, from Bhojpuri-speaking region in his novel Aadha Gaon based on his village Gangauli in Gazipur, Uttar Pradesh has presented a more complex reality of the same period. He describes how in Muslim-dominated areas in
Bhojpuri region, people speak an interesting mix of Bhojpuri and Urdu language. His narrative depicts a colourful mixed culture of Bhojpuri region, which was described as Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb in Hindustani.
Before looking into the work of the most significant scholar of Bhojpuri culture, Krishna Deva Upadhyaya, I would briefly state what his elder brother, a renowned Sanskrit and Hindi scholar, Padma Bhushan Acharya Baldev Upadhyaya16 (1899–1999) has to say about Bhojpuri society. Born to Pandit Ram Suchit Upadhyaya, a Bhagvad Purana Scholar, in Bhojpuri-speaking Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh, the Upadhyaya brothers were/are established in Banaras. Baldev Upadhyaya in his detailed essay on Bhojpuri language, society and culture, which was published as a preface to Krishna Deva Upadhyaya’s anthology Bhojpuri Lok-Geet Bhag -117 has constructed a nationalist and masculine image of Bhojpuri people:
यह बोली उन लोगों की मातृ बोली है जिनकी नस-नस में वीर रस का संचार होता है. […] विदेशों में भी अपने प्रबल प्रताप की पताका फहराते हैं, जो कूपमण्डूकत्व का बहि कार करस् वत्रं ता की पबि वायु का सेवन करने वाले हैं. भोजपुर मंडल, शाहाबाद, बलिया और ग़ाज़ीपुर जिलों की भूमि वीरता के लिए उसी प्रकार विख्यात है, वत्रं ता के नाम पर मर मिटने वाले अपने सपूतों की वीर गाथाओं से उसी प्रकार पत्रि है, जिस प्रकार भारत के भाल को ऊँचा करने वाला वीर पुरु राज थान
The above account depicts Bhojpuri migration as an ‘act of adventure’ of a brave people. Migration can surely be adventurous. However, such depictions romanticize migration. People migrate in the hope of a better livelihood. The migration destination for the migrants has not always been a welcoming or comforting place, but a place for a struggle to survive. Thus, migration can be more aptly described as an ‘act of survival’. Krishna Deva Upadhyaya published several anthologies on Bhojpuri folksongs before his detailed analytical book on the Bhojpuri culture, Bhojpuri Lok-Sanskriti was published in 1991. He carries ahead the already established nationalist Bhojpuri image. In his book, he traces the important milestones in the ‘history’ of the Bhojpuri region. Beginning with Ramayana, he argues, lord Rama’s guru (teacher) Vishwamitra‘s spiritual seat was the Bhojpuri region. In addition to this claim, Upadhyaya highlights the myth that Rama killed Taadka, the woman ‘demon’ in Buxar (a Bhojpuri speaking district in Bihar).
Then he moves on to the Buddha period and states that, among the sixteen mahajanpads [kingdoms or republics] of that period, the most important ones were Kashi, Koshal, and Magadh, the first two were a part of Bhojpuri region. He argues, the great rulers,
Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka were born in Bhojpuri Janpad. Krishna Deva Upadhyaya then underlines the dynasty of Shershah Suri, a king of Sasaram, Bihar who defeated the Mughal king Humayun. He also makes a mention of Kunwar Singh, a much-celebrated figure in Bhojpuri-speaking regions as an ‘anti-colonial hero’; he was one of the leaders of the 1857 mutiny who belonged to the royal Ujjaini house of Jagdishpur (now Bhojpur district, Bihar). However, a very different story about Kunwar Singh circulates among the ‘lower’ castes. For example, my father who was born and brought up in the same district portrays Kunwar Singh as a selfish ruler. In his story, Kunwar Singh was in favor of British till his family requirements were fulfilled and his zamindari was unaffected, but he became rebellious after British sepoys asked for his daughter.
It is difficult to ascertain the veracity of these stories. However, we need to recognize the fact that there exist alternative (often subversive) versions of upper-caste narratives.
As mentioned already, Krishna Deva Upadhaya’s book builds a nationalist-patriotic image of the Bhojpuri region. This construction should be read along with the following generic description of Bhojpuri society:
भोजपुरी क्षेत्रों में सभी जातियों तथा धर्मों का निवास पाया जाता है. यहव्र ह्मणहतत्र य, बै य और ब्रू सभी समान भाव से सुखपूर्वक रहते हैं. हरिजनों के साथ समान रूप से व्यवहार किया जाता है तथा वे भी समान रूप से सिता न कर नौकरी करते हैं. […] प्राचीन रूढ़ियाँ और परंपराएं धीरे-धीरे नष्ट हो रही है. स पर्स पर्श की भावनाएं अब नष्ट-सी हो गई हैं. […] इस प्रकार भोजपुरी प्रदेश में सभी जातियों के लोग सद्भावपूर्वक रहते हैं और किसी से ई र्या और द्वेष की भावना नहीं रखते।
Bhojpuri Speaking Countries
Bhojpuri (भोजपुरी)is spoken in the northern-eastern part of India and the Terai region of Nepal. It is chiefly spoken in western Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Sociolinguistically, Bhojpuri is considered one of the several Hindi dialects. Fiji Hindi, an official language of Fiji, is a variant of Awadhi and Bhojpuri. Caribbean Hindustani is also a variant of Bhojpuri and Awadhi. Bhojpuri is one of the recognized official languages of Nepal. It is also a minority language in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, South Africa, and Mauritius.
Bhojpuri is also spoken by descendants of people who were brought as indentured laborers in the 19th century and early 20th century, for work in plantations during British colonial era, to Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Fiji, other parts of the Caribbean, Jamaica, and South Africa.
Countrywise Bhojpuri speakers in the world
Source: Bhojpuri language – Wikipedia