Folk tales of Bihar

The folklore of Bihar is rich and variegated. Bihar had a class of professional story-tellers, particularly in Mithila and Bhojpur areas. They used to wander from village to village and narrate stories in verse and prose. The Mithila Raja and most of the large feudal lords in Bihar appointed Bhats or singers whose duty was to entertain the people with flok tales. That class has disappeared now.

Scientific and systematic study is a need

In Bihar, in addition to the tribal folklore, folklore is also found in Magahi, Maithili and Bhojpuri languages.. The above studies in folklore of Magahi, Maithili and Bhojpuri languages, have illustrated that the folklores of Bihar are having different background and orientation and thus vary in quality and approach. It also reflects a timely effort to make a stock-taking of folkloric material in the State of Bihar which need to be followed vigorously to fill in the gaps and to encourage a scientific and systematic study of the folkloric material by a band of devoted scholars who should work in all the four distinct cultural linguistic zones of Bihar.
According to GEORGE A. GRIERSON, there are four main

 cultural linguistic zones in Bihar. (i) Maithili, (ii) Magadhi, (iii) Bhojpuri and (iv) Tribal languages. From the point of view of folktales very few studies have been undertaken in the first three region while there are relatively better collections of the tribal folktales. 

Santals are great story tellers .The  old folk of the village gather the young people round them in the evening and tell them stories, and the men when watching the crops on the threshing floor will often sit up all night telling stories.Dr. Campbell of Gobindpur published a collection of Santal Folk Tales in 1891.He gathered his material in the District of Manbhum.The Folk-tales of Santals had been collected and published by  P.O. Bodding, in Santali. The language in which these stories have been written is beautifully pure. CECIL HENRY BOMPAS  translated and published these folklores in 1909. 

There is however, no doubt that at the present time the knowledge of these legends and  stories tends to die out.The edited volume on the folklore of Bihar has been published by  L.P. Vidyarthi and G. Choubey . A Bibliography of Folklore of Bihar compiled by H.C. Prasad and Gita Sengupta reflect the need of studying the folklore in the different States of India. Most of the States in India are multi-lingual and have more than one folkloric tradition


Baijnath Singh Vinod in a book in Hindi, collected 18 folktales of different types in Maithili. These 18 floktales have been classified into 14 different heads. The collection is devoid of any analysis of the motifs and the themes of the legends. Any full-fledged paper or books on the collection of Bhojpuri and Magadhi folktales have not yet been completed. Sib Sahay Chaturvedi, however, in his collection in Hindi, includes tales of Magadhi, Bhojpuri and Maithili. Both the original text in the regional dialect and the Hindi version have been included in this book.  

Among the Magahi folklorists mention may be made of Bishwanath Prasad, who has given impetus to folklore research in Bihar under the auspices of Bihar Rashtra Bhasha Parishad. In addition to inspiring a number of scholar in this field he adited a volume ‘Magahi Sanskar geet’ a collection of ritualistic songs. Which was published by Rashtra Bhasha Parishad in 1962.Among the Magahi folklore researches special mention may be made of Sampati Aryan, who submitted her doctoral dissertation on Magadhi folklore. In her publication Aryani devotes the first chapter to Magadhi folktales. In her introduction she devotes a critical analysis of the status of Magahi literature and presents a typology of folktales and songs. She also devotes a chapter on Magadhi riddles and proverbs. From time to time the Magahi folktales were published in the Magahi monthly Mazagine “Vihan” published from Patna. 

Among the dialects of Western Bihar, Bhojpuri is very rich and prolific is folk-songs, folktales and ballads. The Rashtra Bhasha Parishad, under the supervision of Nalini Vilochan Sharma took interest in collection and publication of folk-songs and tales in folk languages. Sharma edited the Dictionary of Folktales in 1959 which includes collection of tales of Bhojpuri and other regional dialects of Bihar. In another publication he collects 22 Cathas of the various dialect of Bihar. 

The publication of Baijnath Singh Vinod is also devoted to the general study of Bhojpur folklore. In his book, Vinod devotes a couple of Chapters on Bhojpuri ballads and folktales, B.S.Vinod brings to light the ballads of ‘Bihula’ and Vijaya Singh. The remaining portion of the book is devoted to critical study of Bhojpuri folk-songs.

The Legend of  Lorik  

The legend of lorik is very popular among a particular community of Bihar. The story is related at wearisome length, but the main features of it, according to the Shahabad version, are as follows: 

Siudhar marries Chandani, and is cursed by Parvati which the loss of all passion. Chandani forms an attachment for her neighbour Lorik and elopes with him. The husband pursues, fails to induce her to return, fights Lorik and is beaten. The pair go and meet Mahapatuya, the chief of the gamblers. He and Lorik play until the latter loses everything, including the girl. She urges that her jewels did not form part of the stake, and induces them to gamble again. She stands opposite Mahapatiya and distracts his attention by giving him a glance of her pretty ankles. Finally Lorik wins every thing back. The girl then tells Lorik how she has been insulted, and Lorik with his mighty sward cuts off the gambler’s head, when it and the body are turned into stone.

Lorik had been betrothed to a girl named Satmanain, who was not of age and had not joined her husband. Lorik had an adopted brother named Semru. Lorik and Chandani to the eye of faith, suggests a rude resemblance to a head less elephant. On this foundation has been localised the legend of Lorik, which takes us back to the time when the Aryan and the aboriginal Dasyu contended for mastery in the wild borderland. There was one, so the tale runs, a barbarian kind who reigned at the fort of Agori, the frontier fortress on the Son. Among his dependents was a cowherd maiden, named Manjani, who was loved by her clansman Lorik. He, with his brother Sanwar, came to claim her as his bride. The Raja insisted on enforcing the Jus primac noctis. The heroic brethren, in order to escape this infamy, carried off the maiden. The Raja pursued of his famous wild elephant, which Lorik decapitated with a single blow.

When they reached in their flight the Markundi Pass, the wise Manjani advised Lorik to use her father’s sword, which, with admirable forethought, she had brought with her. He preierred his own weapon, but she warned him to test both. His own sword broke to pieces against the huge boulder of the Pass, out Manjani’s weapon clave it in twain. So Lorik and his brother, with the aid of the magic brand, defeated the infidel hosts with enormous slaughter, and carried off the maiden in triumph.

If you doubt the story, there are the cloven boulder and the petrified elephant to witness to its truth, and both are worshipped to this day in the name of Lorik and his bride with offerings of milk and grain.

This tale embodies a number of incidents which constantly appear in the flok-tales. We have the gambling match in the Mahabharata and in the tale of Nala and Damayanti, as well as in the Celtic legend of the young kind of Easaidh Ruadh. The Magic sword and the various fidelity tests appear both in the flok-tales of the East and West. 

    • Bihar in folklore study: an anthology Authors Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi, Ganesh Chaubey Publisher Indian Publications, 1971

  •              Best loved folk tales of India Author Pranab Chandra Roy Choudhury Publisher Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd, 1994
  •               The Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern India,Author W. CrookePublisher Kessinger Publishing, 2004