Indian Epics of the Terai Conquest: The Story of a Migration

Diogenes 46 (181):77-93 (1998)
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Abstract

The very name of Bihar, a district in the eastern part of India, evokes images of anarchy, banditry, and disarray. Already traversed by distinct cultural zones - Bhojpuri, Mithila, Magadha, and the tribal zone of Jharkhand - Bihari society is characterized by bloody clan conflict over territorial rights. The doggedness with which the region's protagonists form militias is a perpetual source of front-page news. Pitted against the Brahmans and Bhumihar Rajputs, the large landowners, are the herding and soldier castes such as the livestock-herding Yadavas, the farming Kurmis, and the former saltpeter miners, the Noniyas, whose economic, social, and political growth has given them real power. And although Magadha's rich Buddhist past attracts pilgrims and tourists, and Mithila's beautiful painted murals and villages draw art connoisseurs, Bihar ranks as one of the least safe regions of India. The rate of banditry and other crime reaches surprising levels.

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