BHOJPURI LANGUAGE PRECEDES HINDI

[The author, whose ancestors hailed from Ballia, visits it quite regularly. In this Indian district, lying in the easternmost part of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and bordering western Bihar, he likes breathing Bhojpuri, the culture he imbibed at his native Long Mountain in Mauritius. Ballia is the cradle of Bhojpuri, from whose railway station the majority of Indians travelled to Calcutta (now Kolkata) to migrate worldwide.]
Preceding Hindi, Bhojpuri Widespread in and Outside India
Bhojpuri was successively preceded as a language by Abbhransh, Maghdi, Pali and Sanskrit. However, it is being used before Hindi. The vocabulary of Hindi has been much influenced by it. Still popular, Bhojpuri even constitutes a distinct culture. It prevails in North India, especially in chunks of undivided UP and Bihar from where most of the Indian migrants, Hindu and Muslim, went out across the world, including Mauritius.
The Bhojpuri belt stretches from the Himalaya Basin up to the Sarguja District in Chatsgarh, the newly created state split from Madhya Pradesh. Covering some 129,500 km2 , it differs slightly every ten kilometres. In Bihar, Bhojpuri is used in the districts of Arrah, Buxar, Chapra, Shahabad, Sharan, Champaran and Mazafarpur as well as in the villages around Patna, its capital. In Jarkhand, the new state extracted from Bihar, the belt stretches up to Ranchi and Siwans. Bhojpuri is even more spoken in UP than in Bihar. In eastern UP, it covers such districts as Ajamgar, Ballia, Ghazipur, Maw, Devaria, Padrauna, Gorakpur, Jaunpur, Mirzapur, Shanbhadra and Faizabad as well as the large holy city of Varanasi. Avadhi and Magadhi are sister dialects of Bhojpuri. In Varanasi, Ayodhya, Gaya, Champaran and Mythila it is Bhojpuri influenced by Awadhi that is commonly spoken. A mixture of Bhojpuri and Magadhi prevails not only in Lucknow, UP’s capital, also famous for its culture and Urdu, but also Faizabad and Jaunpur. The zone ABCD (Arrah, Ballia, Chapra and Devaria) is the most renowned Bhojpuri region.
Bhojpuri-influenced sayings of UP born Kabir (1440-1518) are contained in numerous books, especially the Bijak (principal scripture of Kabir Panthis). They are relevant to the contemporary society. Kabir’s main mantra is Satyanam (Truth is God). It was into Awadhi that Tulsidas (1532-1623) translated the original Ramayana, calling it Ramcharitmanas.
Today, with the migration of inhabitants of the huge Bhojpuri belt, Bhojpuri is widely spoken not only in such large neighbouring cities as Allahabad and Patna, in addition to Varanasi, but also in the megalopis of Delhi, the national capital, and of Mumbai, the commercial capital. Its culture has been preserved the world over.
Chandra Shekhar (1927-2007), of humble origin, having won local and regional fame, became Ballia’s MP, elected continuously and with a wide majority since 1962 until his death. He was the only Bhojpuri Indian Prime Minister (1990-1991). This capable Prime Minister preferred to resign, since his ruling ally then (Indian National Congress) had accused him of spying on Rajiv Gandhi’s activities, thus refusing to yield to political lordliness. For his effective and disciplined long career in the Lok Sabha, Chandra Shekhar was conferred India’s first Outstanding Parliamentary Award in 1995.
Ballia: Home to Philosophy and Astrology
Ancient Ballia has produced geniuses in religious, astrological, literary and other fields. Maharishi Parasara Muni is famous for his immortal works, Bhrihad Parasara-Horasastra (Astrology) and Parasara Smriti (Principles of Hindu Religion). These two references, appearing thousands of years before Christ and after the Mahabharata, are extant in Sanskrit. Parasara Muni’s ashrama, known as Parasia named after the place, is still found near the Ganges in East Ballia. Of 400 pages, now also in Hindi, Brihad Parasara-Horasastra is increasingly prized the world over.
In contemporary history too, a number of natives of Ballia have shone in Astrology. Acharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi (1907-1979) was specialised in ganit shastra (numeric astrology), besides being a novelist, essayist, linguist and literary critic. His most famous novels are “Banabhat Ki Atma Katha” and “Ahoka Ke Phool.” Masterly of Sanskrit, religion, culture and tradition, he also had knowledge of ancient Greece and modern Europe. Dwivedi worked at Shantiniketan for several years with his Guru, Rabindranath Tagore. He headed BHU’s Hindi Department for ten years. In 1957, he was honoured as Padma Shri. Besides serving for some time as Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University, the Acharya also chaired the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan of UP for long. In 1976, he attended the Second World Hindi Conference held in Mauritius.
Acharya Parushram Chaturvedi (1884-1979), a postgraduate in Psychology and a lawyer, devoted himself to literary activities. A specialist in Hindi bhakti (devotional) literature, he abandoned his legal practice he had started in Ballia City, because of his uprightness. He refused to be entangled in judicial cases, as a number of litigants are real defaulters most of the time. It is mainly thanks to him, and to Acharya Dwivedi that the Great Kabir’s teachings have been disseminated.
Bhojpuri Indians Shining in Mauritius
A few natives of Ballia, during their stay in Mauritius, contributed considerably in socio-cultural and literary fields. Pandit Ramtohul Chowbey, brought to Mauritius by Persad Gujadhur in 1907 as his family priest, also performed pujas (religious ceremonies) and delivered sermons in some places in the country. He started the Bhagwat Katha (religious discourse based on the shastras) in Mauritius.
Pandit Lakshmi Narayan Chaturvedi (1879-1948), Ramtohul Chowbey’s eldest son, stayed for about 23 years in Mauritius. Like his father, he engaged in performing rites and rituals for Mauritian families. He contributed articles to the paper Sanatan Dharmark under the pen-name of Raspunj. In 1923, his first collection of poems entitled Raspunj Kundaliyan was published in India. He wrote in Urdu and Bhojpuri, besides Hindi and Sanskrit. His second work, Shatabdi Saroj, a collection of narrative poetry describing the Indo-Mauritian struggles, came out in Mauritius in 1935 for the Indians’ arrival centenary when he also gave an address. The poet published in the Jagriti of 5 May 1943 a poem on “The Greatness of Gandhi,” after his 21-day fast. According to Dr Moonishwurlall Chintamunnee, Mauritian writer, poet and previously Head of the Oriental Language Department at Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Mauritius, Chaturvedi was the first Hindi author whose works (poems and other writings) were published on Mauritius. Of his 15 works, only two came out in book form. A number of Mauritian Hindi poets, including Dr Brajendra Kumar Mungur Bhagat, of fame in Mauritius and India, were inspired by this learned personality of Ballia. In 1952, Dr Chintamunnee studied Sanskrit under the guidance of Pandit Lakshmi Narayan’s brother, Pandit Surya Narayan Chaturvedi, then living at Petite Rivière, Mauritius.
The late Acharya Ramjanam, born and bred in Ballia, where his ancestral family still lives, who had been Professor of Philosophy at the Banaras Hindu University, served Mauritius as an authoritative astrologist and guru for 20 years (1989-2008). Based at Hari Har Kchetra Mandir, Quatre Bornes, he was the head priest of the Sanatan Dharma Mandir Parishad before becoming the country’s most revered Sanatanist Acharya of the time, training priests and giving advice on religion to orthodox institutions.
After Kreol, Bhojpuri is the most popular language in use in Mauritius. Both are now recognised officially. Dr Sarita Boodhoo, a champion of Bhojpuri, on which she has published a book, has been chairing the newly created Bhojpuri Speaking Union.


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As a nomade on earth,Mauritian of Birth, Thank you for bringing light to my Identity and making my heritage richer.