Friday, September 10, 2010

Story of two very dissimilar states


The change is quick and abrupt. Mountains and ubiquitous valleys covered in lush green trees and cool breeze gives way to nearly denuded hills and scattered bushes as one crosses Koderma — the border town in Jharkhand — to enter Rajauli in Bihar. A few minutes more and one's suddenly surrounded by water and mud-filled paddy fields, cows and bullocks — you know you are in Bihar.

One misses the breeze, the forests and the enchanting hills housing elephants, deer, cats and other wild denizens lurking all along the 200 km Ranchi–Koderma stretch. The woods and rocks sharply pave way to flat paddy and hay fields and tubs on mounted platforms to feed cattle and cows, ox and buffalos before houses, from Nawada, to Nalanda to Bakhtiarpur.

It's not only the landscape that changes when one leaves Koderma to enter the dusty and sultry Nawada district in Bihar. One does feel the vast difference in the culture of the two states, too.

For instance, the women selling hadia in earthen pots, beneath trees and behind bushes, are unique sights from Ranchi to Hazaribagh to Jhumari Tilaiya. There are a few scattered patches for harvest between the hills. There one does find peasants ploughing the fields with their buffalos or preparing the field. But, farming activity is very rare from Ranchi to Koderma. Men and women carrying bundle of logs on their heads are the usual sights in the hills.

From Nawada onwards there is the presence of intensive farming activity on both sides of the highway. One finds only oxen ploughing the fields, while cows and buffalos graze all along. I could smell the smoke of cowdung-fire coming from almost every household as the sun went down warranting Bihar villagers to prepare dinner.

Cow dung is still the main source of fuel to keep the home-fire burning in the planes of Bihar unlike coal and wood in the Jharkhand villages. And, one doesn't find even a trace of hadia as one crosses Koderma to enter the Bihar.

It does not mean that Bihar does not have its share of drinkers. But hadia, which is part and parcel of tribal life is simply nowhere to be seen. The size and shape of the people and the cattle, too, appear to have changed as one enters Bihar from Jharkhand. Cows, buffalos, oxen and even men look relatively taller and robust in Nalanda and Bakhtiyapur unlike the dwarf cattle and relatively shorter humans in the tribal villages along Ranchi-Ramgarh-Hazaribagh Road.

The culture of town and citylife in the two states is also dissimilar. Bokaro, Hazaribagh, Ranchi and Dhanbad feel more cosmopolitan, in the sense, that these Jharkhand cities have people from Bengal, Bihar, Oriya and other parts of India. If you speak Bangla in Dhanbad, Jamshedpur and even in Ranchi, you will not be looked upon with surprise.

But in no way can you speak any language other than Hindi, Bhojpuri and Magahi in Nalanda, Bakhtiyarpur, Chapra, Siwan and even in Patna. Chapra, Siwan and Muzaffarur in north Bihar and Barh, Bakhtiyarpur and Nalanda in central Bihar are primarily inhabited by the Hindi-speaking locals. There is hardly any cultural mix.

Again, one hardly experiences any change when one enters Deoria district in Uttar Pradesh from Siwan and Gopalganj districts in Bihar. One comes across the same landscape, the same type of people and even the same language in the districts and villages on both the sides of the UP-Bihar border.

It's a "cow-belt" culture in the Hindi heartland that spreads all around. In fact, the difference in culture has also thrown different political set up in the two states.

Though it is a small 81-member House, the Jharkhand Assembly has the presence of representatives from Bengal, Bihar and even a Sikh in the form of Inder Singh Namdhari. But it is hard to find a single non-Bihar representative in the huge 243-member Bihar Assembly. You have to be a blue-blooded Bihar born, with a solid caste "background", if you ever wish to enter the House.

Some people debate the relevance of creation of Jharkhand even after 10 years of the state's bifurcation. But I personally feel that Jharkhand and Bihar, representing two distinct social and cultural life, should have been separated long ago


  1. Nice study in contrast, Nalin ji. It's so good to read first-hand accounts like this. Brings me closer to the other, real India.

  2. Dear Bhaswati,

    Thanks a lot for your encouraging comments. The Telegraph has an edition from Patna now and Bihar is going to have assembly elections in October/ November. The developments are keeping me busy these days...I find little time to concentrate on the blogs. But I will fan out in the hinterlands to cover polls and will surely come out with the first hands accounts which I will share here with you and other friends. Best wishes and warm regards, Nalin


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