The Curious Case of Bihari Language and People: Part 3

A few months ago I had written a couple of posts on this theme. I am now continuing that thread with this post. Here are the links to the prior ones. Not mandatory to read these first, just clarifying.


“ऊ देखिये, ऊ मऊग के, पीयर बुस्सर्ट पहिन के कईसे कुदक रहा है, बेंग की तरह भोरे-भोर! लगता है भोरा गया है की ऊ दिन कैसे उसको लंगटे कर ओकर कपार फार दिए थे हम.”

The sentence above is written in Devnagari and at first sight would seem to be Hindi both in the script and the meanings. However, I can bet that those non-Biharis reading this piece would hardly be able to figure out the meaning. So let me translate this in simple English.
“Just see that effeminate character, early in the morning he is jumping around like a toad in his yellow shirt. I think he has forgotten how I had stripped him that day and broken his skull.”
Let us  examine some simple words first. बुस-सर्ट  is the adaptation of bush-shirt. पीयर is the Biharification of peela, yellow. Like उज्जर is for white (=ujala), करिया is black (=kaala). Roll the words पीयर, उज्जर and करिया over your tongue and see how easy these are to pronounce and how “colourful” they  sound as compared with peela, ujalaa and kaala! Did I not tell you in my earlier posts that Bihari was indeed a very colourful language?
कपार फारना (break someone’s head) is a popular expression which is used even for the smallest of injuries caused the the vanquished. (Refer an earlier post of mine). कपार is an adaptation of the Sanskrit kapaal, however please do not break your heads trying to link कपार फारना with kapaal-bhaati made popular in the last decade by Swami Ramdev.
Bihari has its share of puns too. See the usage of भोर in the sentence. The former भोर (भोरे -भोरे , very early morning) is the Bihari adoption of the Sanskrit “bhor” as in pratahkaal. However the other भोर (भोरा) is the localization and simplification of bhula (dena). To forget. This is one explanation. The other plausible one is that once fresh morning dawns a Bihari forgets the unpleasant happenings of the previous day. So morning is the time to for forgetting.
बेंग is another interesting word. Of course it means a toad. I do not know what the Bihari word for frog is. (in fact I have difficulty myself in telling the difference between a toad and a frog in English even. बेंग to me not only brings to life the jumping of this creature but also in some ways imitates the sounds it makes while it is jumping around! The word for dog, कुक्कुर, is another interesting one. I wonder what the etymology of this word is. Enlightened readers, please throw some light!
“लंगटे करना” is a major pastime for the Bihari male. No, no, I am not saying that an average Bihari is any more lecherous than an average Indian. However this means to a Bihari is stripping someone’s of his dignity, and dignity is something a Bihari strongly cherishes.
And now for the most interesting word.
मऊग is an interesting word essentially used to deride anyone who has even a trace of feminine characteristics. The Bihari male is supposed to be macho, a MAN. The Bihari word for this is मरद. मऊग he cannot be. Of course मरद is the Biharification of Persian word “mard” which means a male. However, the opposite of मरद is not मऊग, but मउगी. Between मरद and मउगी lies the मऊग. As if in a no-man’s land. Or a no-woman’s land for that matter. For a male to be a man is of utmost importance. There is even a gentle reproach for a man who is not displaying courage. “मरदे ते नाहीं !”. (You are not man enough!). This phrase, by the way, is not pan-Bihari I think used only in Bhojpuri. It was just to give you an idea of the concept called मरद!
The other gender pairings are मरद-मेहरारू (husband-wife), छौंरा -छौंरी   (boy- girl). लौंडा and लौंडी (boy and girl) is popular across the Hindi speaking belt, however not so much in Bihar I think. Correct me if I am wrong. However, this bring me back to the मऊग. लौंडा’s dance is what the मरद of a baraat-party watch through the night in the villages. And invariably the लौंडा  was a मौग who was a clean-shaven young male wearing a false bosom wriggling his hips (and the false bosom of course) to the raunchiest of lyrics to keep the baraatis awake while the marriage was solemnized through the night. This certainly was the high point for any baraati till the 1970’s. Subsequently I have not been to a village wedding though I heard that real female dancers imported from Banaras had replaced the laundas.  I do not know what is the status now.

16 Responses to The Curious Case of Bihari Language and People: Part 3

  1. Sanjeev says:

    Aaap is me do tin tho shabd bhula gaye hain jaise ki janana or janani, bhatar. Ab launda naach khatme ke kagar par hai.

  2. Raghav says:

    Dear Sir,
    I believe the Bhojpuri dialect is more lyrical than any other Bihari dialect and that might be a reason why it has given many songs and has one of the biggest musical industries after Hindi and Punjabi.
    The interpretation of word MAUGA for my smallest brother from my youngest uncle (As young as my elder brother yet my uncle!) is MAUGA is the one who works in the kitchen with his wife. Let me share an incident after my marriage. As you know there is a ritual in which the new bride cooks for the full family. I was helping my wife who hails from a nuclear family, in preparing more than a hundred ALOOL PARATHAS. My Brother yelled to me “RAGHAV BHAIYA TU MAUGA BARA KA AAPNA MEHRARU KE SATH KHANA BANAWA TARA”.
    The words which you mentioned above are used very frequently in our day-to-day conversations at home. So, once when my MAI asked me is do in your college CHHORA CHHORI SATHE PATH LAU? It was laugh right for my sister in law (needless to mention, a non BHOJPURIA).

    I still remember the wedding of the 80s when most of my PHUAS got married. The dance of LAWANDA or MAUGA was very famous on those days. The most common places to organize those dances use to be village school grounds. Double-meaning Bhojpuri songs, the big pedestal fans, GULAB JAAL, serving of PAN, PAN MASALA, BIDIS, cigarettes in a tray (which I had done many a time) were the basic ingredient for the NACH. The most interesting point which as child l loved viewing in a NACH was the LAWANDA coming down the stage to collect money from the admirer and then going back on stage and citing, MAI BABU RAMDYAL JEE KA SHUKRIYA ADA KARTI, KARTI, KARTI HU. I am still puzzled why LAWANDA use to repeat the word KARTI KARTI KARTI HU and to do so why he/she used HINDI rather than Bhojpuri.
    So, post marriage the hottest discussion topic at the village gathering use to be about the NACH and the LAWANDAS of NACH.
    With the slowly falling numbers of BARATHIS, gradually in 90s NACH was replaced with VCD and color television and then in 2000’s to nothing at all.

  3. Subramanian says:

    Santosh, when I first read the devnagri script, I felt I understood the basic content… After para 2, I realised I understood not a word, in its perspective… Too good… Enjoyed thoroughly…

  4. arushtandon says:

    Indeed, being in Devanagari it gives an illusion of Hindi, but it’s so not that. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the description of ‘maug’, that’s definitely a part of my vocabulary now.

  5. Jitu says:

    Isn’t kukur a Sanskrit word for dog??

    Correct me if I am wrong.

  6. Santosh,
    About a year back, while surfing the net randomly I stumbled upon your blog, and was highly impressed with your writings. Thereafter, I completely lost track of it. Again serendipity brought me here. Now I have more time on hand, and going over your pieces leisurely. Thoroughly enjoyable.

    लेकिन ए महाराज. एगो बात हम नहीं बूझे. आप पैदा हुए जमशेदपुर में, पढ़े जमशेदपुर में, आ कहते हैं कि भोजपुरिया हैं. आपको बतायें कि भोजपुरिया का होता है?

    I was fortunate to have spent my most formative years, i.e. high school in a खांटी Bhojpuri belt. There, the Master Saheb spoke in Hindi, or Bihari if you will, but if a student spoke in Hindi (i.e. Khari Boli), all eyes would turn to him. बड़ा अंग्रेजी झाड़ तार हो, का बात बा? One soon realised that speaking ‘Hindi’ was अंग्रेजी झाड़ना. In this milieu, laundaa was a part of everyday life, and not something which happened in baraats. For example, it was an open secret that one of the Masterjis kept a laundaa. The most common gossip in the Bojpuri belt was who was phanso-ed with whom. Obviously, it was all-male scene. There were no girls in Bhojpur. Or there was an unwritten code of honouring women – all hell will break loose if there was any scurrilous comment about a woman. I was quite amused when urban India made a big deal of ‘coming out of the closet’ in recent years. Bhojpur has been open about its relationships for ages.

    लौंडा रखना or लौंडा पालना was something which a मरद did. After all, a मरद cannot be expected to remain tied to the अँचरा (from Aanchal, not Anchaar) of his मेहरारू. Remember the Bhojpuri film Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam? Guru Dutt just made a small change: He made the other interest of Rahman a woman, rather than a man. India was not ready for that yet.

    Someone who was born चिकना was cursed. There was a scene in Awara in which the child Raj Kapoor (played by a chikanaa Shashi Kapoor) is accosted by street children, “Are ye to launda nahi, laundiyaa hai”. If they made films like that, no wonder Bombay has been taken over by Bihar.

    Now some phrases in laundaa folklore. You can not have a ‘laundaa dance’ without screams of जीय हो जीय. Its literal meaning is ‘you may live long’, but it is impossible to explain its real meaning to a non-Bhojpuriya. It would become more colourful as जीय हो जीय ए अरवा चाउर. The metaphor ‘arwaa chaaur’, i.e. refined rice as opposed to parboiled rice (उसिना चाउर) is quite clear. But another one completely stumped me, and even now I can not figure out its connection. When the launda shook his ‘bosoms’ to अंखियाँ हो लाले लाल एक नींद सुते द बलमुआ, the crowd would go berserk and scream: ‘जीय हो जीय ए भाटा में के नेउर’. भाटा = भट्टा = brick kiln. नेउर = नेवला = mongoose. ‘May you live long, O mongoose of the brick-kiln’. Beats me. But in the Bhojpur I lived, everyone knew its meaning.

    अब बुझाया कि भोजपुरिया का होता है? बात बतियाते हैं.


    • santoshojha says:

      What an exquisitely written comment AK, just loved it! In my defense let me tell you that a person born of Indian parents, raised in Indian ethos, but born and raised outside India can still proudly call himself an Indian, is it not? Yes, I am a Bhojpuria!

      • Annapoorna says:

        Hello ,

        Has anyone called a coakroach , telchatta ? Wonder why we used to call it by this name. Also the use of budhbak and benk, these were common language for us only now I realize that it is not the case , only people from a certain beloved area use these terms.

        Has anyone done ghoora-taapna in winter around a seething embers of a goitha fire ?


  7. Ankit Ojha says:

    Bahut bariha lagal raur blog padh k santoshji. Kudos to your good work and lets keep the bhojpuria flag flying high.

  8. Santosh Bhaiya,
    as usual nice explanation. Actually बेंग is used for both toad and frog. I don’t think there is different word for them. There is another version of बेंग also that is बेंगुचा

  9. Aishwarya says:

    Enjoyed bihari lessons. Good explanations.
    Sab boojh gaya humko.

  10. Annapoorna says:

    Hello Mr.Ojha,

    Reading your blog contents made me travel back to my own childhood which is very very similar to yours . The exact litti , goitha ,lambretta, hawai chappals , ICSE schooling , being brought up in small town in a township etc . The way of talking in plural when referring to oneself ‘hum’ instead of ‘main . Callign an idiot ‘benk’ etc.’Thank you for wrting things which only people brought up there will understand .

    Though I am a southie I identify more with the little town I was brought up in then Bihar .

    the below song has been making its appearance in my head every since I read the blog . This was one of the numbers played to entertain baraatis, the songs which went on into the night :

    Ranchi heele , Patna heele, Mathura heele-la
    Tohri lachke jo kamariya, saara jeela heele -la


    • santoshojha says:

      Thank you for your comment! The song you refer to is from the movie Dangal, sung by the venerable Manna Dey! Immensely popular during those days!! I am sure it must be on YouTube.
      You will probably like some other stuff which I pave posted on my blog. Thank you once again!!

      • Atul says:

        I was very happy to find that the song mentioned Ranchi, my home town. But later on I was disappoined to realise that the lyrics are not “Ranchi Heele Patna Heele.. rather it is “Kashi HEEle Patna Heele…”.

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