Magahi Culture

The present districts of Patna, Nalanda, Nawada, Gaya, Arwal, Aurangabad, and Jehanabad, in the Central Bihar region, are the nourishing ground of the ancient Magahi (Magadhi) culture in the eastern part of India.


Magahi is the mother-tongue of people of this area, though, Hindi is also well spoken, written and understood by common people. English is also used as a medium of conversation by officials and the educated class. Hindi has the status of official language.

Custom of Salutation

The custom of salutation is an integral part of the daily duty in this area. The manner of salutations, of course, differs according to the degree of seniority or superiority of the man to whom salutations are offered.

Salutation with touching the feet or knee is supposed to be the most intimate and affectionate salutation. This, however, not offered to everyone.

Raising of both hands and touching one's forehead and, using the word "Pranam" or "Namaste"is the usual mode of salutation.


Among the cereals used rice ranks easily the first and then comes Wheat, Marua, and Maize. Fish and meat are the principal items of non-vegetarian food. Game birds, fowls, ducks or eggs hardly come in the ordinary menu. Fruit also is not a common item of the dietary excepting probably plantains or mangoes during the season provided they are cheap. Sweet-potatoes, Sattu and Litti occupy the first position in the menu of the average common man of the lower income group. Milk is a common item for those who could afford. Milk is consumed purely as milk and also in the form of curd, ghee, butter and Chhena. The milk of both cows and buffaloes is used.

Potato, parwal, ladies' finger, lauka, konhara, brinjal and cauli-flowers are common vegetables. Onion is largely consumed. Garlic are not very much used.Vegetarian food has also some varieties. There are various kinds of sweets and kheer prepared by the milk, raita, karhi-bari, various kinds of papads,tilauri, adauri, kumhrauri and a special kind of sweet pudding is prepared with the help of milk, ghee and dried fruits such as pista, kismis. This is known as Sakarauri.Kachauri or Puri, Pulao with or without some vegetables could be made very savoury. Puri stuffed with powdered gram or Sattu or with pulse and ghee is very much liked. They are also offered t the family deities in temples. The culinary condiments which are generally used in the preparation of savoury dishes are turmeric, cumin-seeds, red pepper, black pepper, ginger, cardamoms both big and small, cloves, coriander seeds etc. The cooking medium is usually some kind of oil like mustard, hydrogenated oil and ghee.


In the past decades Dhoti and Kurta were common dress of the men, but owing to the high prices of dhoties men-folk started using trousers and lungis and this has stuck. Use of half pant and shirts is also more in vogue now for school-going children. For ceremonial occasions men wear kurta and pajama or shirwani and churidar pajama or a buttoned-up short coat (prince-coat) and a pair of trousers. Use of turban or cloth cap for the head is distinctly on the decline. Sari is the chief dress of ladies. The old suthna (ladies pajama) for Muslim ladies is becoming obsolete. Burka is still in use among the higher and the middle class Muslim ladies who want to observe purdah. However, it is being slowly discarded by educated Muslim ladies.

The under-wear known as the petticoat is used by the ladies in the urban areas who wear sari. Blouse or a loose upper-wear known as jhula and some sort of brassieres are also used. A chadar is usually used by orthodox middle class ladies when going out. There are special dresses for the occasion of marriage. A Hindu bridegroom goes either in dhoti, kurta and chadar or in jama & jora, (achkan and churidar pajama). However, these are also slowly being replaced with Coat & Pant. Muslim bride-groom invariably use jama and jora. A Hindu bride has to wear from the day of lagan ( few days before marriage) to the date of marriage only one piece of un-bordered cloth ( of the size of sari) coloured in turmeric. On the marriage day the garments brought the bridegroom are given to her to wear.

A Muslim bride during the period of manja ( a few days before marriage) puts on an un-bordered sari coloured in pink or yellow. On the marriage day she changes the sari and puts on a shahana ( a combination of pajama, kurta and orhni) brought by the bridegroom.

At the time of mourning a Hindu uses an un-bordered dhoti, chadar and an uttari (a piece of cloth round the neck) from the date of agni-sanskar to the date of Shraddh, that is, from the date of cremation to the tenth day of cremation. The ornaments usually worn by ladies in rural and urban areas, are for the hair of the head, ears, neck, arms, wrists, waist and the feet. The usual ornaments used by poor villager are karas, bangles, lor, hansuli, necklace or munga, baghrakha, karanz, kathula, bajar and batoo. Rich women of urban are also use similar ornaments but of precious metals.

Religious beliefs of Hindus

The people of the area are mostly Hindus, but the Muslims form an important minority.The Hindus are divided into several sects. There are Shaktas, Shaivas and Vaishnavas. Shaktas worship Mother Goddess in her various forms, namely, Durga, Kali, etc. Shaivas worship Shiva, Mahadeva with His consort Parvati or Gouri. Vaishnavas are devotees of Vishnu or his manifestations in Ram and Krishna. Besides this triad, i.e., Shakti, Shiva and Vishnu, Ganesha and Surya (the Sun God) are daily worshipped. The five constitute the Panchadevata of the Hindu daily worship.

Religious beliefs of Muslims

The religion of a large number of the Mohammedans closely approximates to that of the Hindus. They freely indulge in superstitious observances and copy Hindu rites; some even join in the worship of the Sun and offer libations like Hindus; and one curious feature of the Shab-e-barat is the offering to deceased ancestors of puddings made of flour. The more ignorant have a pantheon of village gods; like Hindus they resort to exorcism in case of sickness; and it is perhaps not too much to say that with them Islam is not so much a question of religion as of caste.

There are certain forms of worship common among Mohammedans which are neither based on the Koran, nor, apparently adopted from the Hindus. The most common of these is the adoration of departed Pirs. When a holy Pir leaves this life he is supposed to be still present in spirit, and his tomb becomes a place of pilgrimage to ;which persons resort for the cure of disease or the exorcism of evil spirits, or to obtain the fulfillment of some cherished wish.


After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, classical music revived at Patna where the rulers and their satellites patronized the classical types. It was on this account that there was a regular inflow of artistes from the neighbouring provinces, Delhi, Lucknow and Benaras. Of the various classical forms of music the one in vogue since the time of Akbar was the Dhrupad. Wen Mohammad Shah succeeded Aurangzeb, in whose reign the Dhrupad had suffered a setback along with other forms, the form received an impetus and patronage, for Mohammad Shah was himself an exponent of the Dhrupad and patron of the Khayal style, which was popularized by such Banarasi exponents as Sadarang and Adarang who , it may be surmised, might have visited Patna and been instrumental in getting the Khayal style of singing introduced in Bihar. Since there was a close cultural contact between Banaras and Patna, it would not be wrong to assume that the Banaras School might have influenced the classical styles of music at Patna.
The craze of Patna, however, was the Thumri, which, it is said, received a distinct personality from the Gayikas ( singers) of Patna City about the middle of the nineteenth century. Besides the Thumri, the Gayikas and other local musicians specialized in Ghazal and Dadra. The Chaiti was a native of Patna and it has had its own folk appeal. Kajri has always been popular. The late Ustad Aman Khan of Rampur, who had made Patna his home, was a celebrated master of the Dhrupad and Dhamar styles of classical music. Badi ( Elder ) Zohra Bai sang Khayal, Thumri and Tappa. Among other artistes were Baurahi Kaneez, Gul Mohammad Khan, Roshan Ara Begum, Haider, Imam Bandi and Ramdasi, Ghafoor Khan, a disciple of Ganpat Rai alias Bhaiyaji of Gwalior, was a celebrated harmonium player. Originally a Veena player (veenakar), Bhaiyaji had taken to harmonium much later in life.

Together with the late Kesho Maharaj, who played on the Pakhawaj and, later on Tabla, he inspired Bihari amateurs to cultivate music.

The Nawabs and Zamindars in the countryside were also great patrons of classical music. On festive occasions, such as Holi, Dussehra and Diwali and on the occasions of marriages Mehfils were arranged and musicians and dancers were invited to give demonstration of their art in gaily decorated pandals. Thus they built up a healthy art tradition which has kept classical music alive to this day in Bihar. Some of the most notable classical artistes of Bihar in the second quarter of the present century were : Pt. Rameshwar Pathak, a sitar player from Darbhanga Raj, Pt. Deepraj, a Dhrupad singer from Bettiah Raj and Magan Khwas, a singer Khayal and Thumri from the Panchgachhia Estate, Raghu Jha (d.1967) also from the Panchgachhia Estate, sand Khayal and Vidyapati sangeet. Ghana Ram of the Dumraon Estate had composed sargams or musical notations in ragas in a style that was unique. From time to time people of Bihar enjoyed a feast of classical music from the late Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Pt.Omkarnath Thakur, Pt. Vinayakrao Patwardhan, Pt. Narayanrao Vyas, Pt. Manhar Barve, D.V.Paluskar and others.

Wooden works

In ancient times Magadh was famous for the manufacture of furniture. Highly artistic models were carved on " Simhasan" (royal throne), doors and panels of temples. In Patna district, wooden toys are still manufactured. Carpenters manufacture wheels of bullock-carts and also sugarcane crushers ( kolhu). Danapur is a traditional seat for manufacture of furniture which still compete well with modern furniture on account of their durability and comparative low prices and form an important item in the Somvari mela and Sonepur fair held every year in the months of Shravan at Patna and Kartik at Sonepur. The artists are not slow to recognize the change of taste of customers and the ornate style has now been simple to conform to modern times. Many of the carpenters specialize in toy making of no mean order.


The wood carvings as a decorative art . In Mauryan times, houses in this city were made mostly of wood and had carvings on them as has been confirmed from the finds in the excavations of Kumhrar. Some of the old houses of Patna City have still carved pieces in their doors and windows.


Many members of a particular scheduled caste community live on bamboo bars. They manufacture baskets and other household wares. Basket making is carried on in many villages of the district as bamboos are generally available everywhere. Bamboo furniture pieces are also manufactured. Morhas is a common sight even in humble homes. Novel designs are constantly being evolved at the Institute of Industrial Designs, Patna where craftsmen keep themselves in touch with the change of tastes of customers.


This has been a very popular craft of Patna Saheb (city) and Harihans (Saran).Tikuli is manufactured from the broken glass which is either purchased or collected. The broken glass is melted in an oven called ' bhattha'. In this industry both males and females have equal share. The manual work in melting the glass is done by the male members of the family but it is the women who give the final finish and design. The chief markets of Tikuli are Banaras, Patna and Calcutta. The finished product, Tikuli, is used by the ladies on the forehead as an ornament.

Kasida (Embroidery)

Patna Saheb (City) used to be a very important center for production of artistic embroidery and works in Zari. Even now some homes earn their living through this art. Ladies in many houses do kasida as a hobby. The outstanding examples of kasida works are found in shamiyanas, kanath, chandwas, pillow-covers, batwas, covers for musical instruments, table-cloth, window curtains, blouse pieces, sari, borders, etc.


Patna City has been the home of this work since olden times and even now continues its tradition though in a very diminished form. It is a type of embroidery with gold and silver threads, beads, silk, sequins on satin or velvet. Each zari work is a piece of fine workmanship.


Sujani making is a traditionally very old handicraft-form which gives a new life and look to old and discarded domestic cloths- e.g. old sarees and bed sheets etc. It has been in practice almost in every house in Bihar for hundreds of years.

With the change of time and taste,the Sujani making has also been given a new look and identity with application of innovative ideas into it. Now, one can feel proud for buying decorative pieces of sujani- work in different styles, made with new clothes, from leading handicraft emporia and stalls for their home decor.

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