Magahi - A Historical language

The name  "Magahi" has been derived from the word "Magadhi", which was the language of ancient Magadh.The Sanskrit name  is hence Magadhi, and this name is sometimes used by the educated ; but the correct modern name is Magahi . Magadhi is, properly speaking, the language of the country of Magadha. 

Old Magahi

Magahi literature starts from siddha saints those belong to Vrajyana School, that is corrupt form of Buddhism. It cannot be ignored that Nalanda, Udantapuri and Vikramsila were the main centres of Siddhas and their entire literature was written in the Siddha literature,which is probably the  oldest form of Magahi. From the points of phonetics, grammar, vocabulary the language,siddha literature is quite similar to present Magahi. 

During 1200 AD to 1400 AD, there are many saint poets who have written a rash religious literature,  of themes some are; Dharma Das, Badri Das (Salimpur, Patna), Chandan Das ,Amrit Das(Jahanabad), Baba Kadam Das and Hemanth Das. In the oldest Buddist literature Pali was referred again and again as Magadhi, the language of Buddha. Kaccayana, the earliest grammarian  of Pali called it as Magadhi. The present form of Magahi shows much more similarity to Pali rather than other middle Indo-Aryan languages. Not only on the basis of vocabulary and phonetics but even on the basis of grammar ,Magahi shows its deep relation with Pali

Magahi is very much influenced by the Khariboll, as a result of its close contact with standard Hindi. Inspite of the various influences Magahi has not accepted many changes on its phonological and grammatical struct

Magahi is, however, not confined to the old country of Magadha. It is also spoken over the District of Hazaribagh, in a portion of the District of Palamu and in the eastern districts of Bihar. Over the whole of this area, it is practically one and the same dialect, with hardly any local variations. Only near the city of Patna is it infected with idioms belonging to the North. On its eastern border, Magahi meets Bengali. The two languages do not combine, but the meeting ground is a bilingual one, where they live side by side, each spoken by its own nationality. A sub-dialect, which Grierson called Eastern Magahi is also spoken in Hazaribagh, Singhbhum,  Sarai Kala and Kharsawan, Ranchi and even in adjoining States of Orissa and Chhattisgarh. It is also spoken as an isolated island of speech in the the District of Malda.                                                                                                                                                                                                
Magahi is bounded on the North by the various forms of Maithili spoken in Tlrhut across the Ganges. On the West it is bounded by the Bhojpuri On the North-East it is bounded by Maithili and Angika. Standard Magahi is bounded on the South by the Sadan form of Bhojpuri spoken in Jharkhand.
The image of the page above shows the first few verses from John's Gospel in  Magahi This page is taken from a New Testament first published in 1818 by Mission Press, Serampore.
Magahi is sometimes referred as a less sober dialect . One of its most objectionable features is the word “ re “. In other parts of India this word is only used in addressing an inferior, or when speaking contemporaneously,but in Magahi,this word is very significant and it is the beauty of the diversity of Indian dialects that the same word   posses no negative sense in Magahi. An old famous proverb in this context is-    
मगह  देश कंचन पूरी, देश भला पर भाषा बुरी 
रहलू मगह कहलू "रे", तेकरा ला की मरबे रे!                                                
 Magah is a land of gold. The country is good, but the language is not so. I lived there and have got into the habit of saying “re” do yon beat me for doing so ?

Historically, Magahi had no famous written literature. There are many popular songs throughout the area in which the language is spoken, and strolling bards recite various long epic poems which are known more or less over the 
whole of Northern India. In Magahi spoken area folk singers sing a good number of ballads.Some Magahi ballads are associated with 
dance. Among the large number of ballads sung throughout the lenghth and breadth is the Song of Gopi Chanda,which has been published in 1885 with an English translation, in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. Ut, Part 1, 1886, pp. 36 .The another very popular poem, is the Song of Lorik.                                                                                          

 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.

 At present also, there are some renowned poets and writers of Magahi, who have been contributing nice literary pieces.The real pioneer of Magahi poetry was Krishnadeva Prasad, noted lawyer of Patna. He wrote poems in Magahi and also translated .Krishnadeva Babu began to write in Magahi spurred by his sister to do service to his mother tongue.Dr.Yogeshwar prasad singh has contributed a lot to the Magahi literature.

The Rastra-Bhasa Parishad of Patna, has published a number of books dealing with sacramental songs (Sanskar geets) of Magahi.
  • Linguistic survey of India, Author G.A. Grierson Publisher Low Publications, 1990 Orignal from the university of virginia
  • Magahi phonology: a descriptive study Author- Saryoo Prasad Publisher- Concept Publishing Company, 2008