|3.1 million (2001 census)
Estimates up to 20 million (no date)
Census results conflate many speakers with Hindi.
Official language in
|India (Madhya Pradesh and parts of Uttar Pradesh)|
A descendant of the Sauraseni Apabhramsha language, Bundeli was classified under Western Hindi by George Abraham Grierson in his Linguistic Survey of India. According to Ethnologue, the dialects of Bundeli are Lodhanti, Khatola, Banaphari, Kundi, Nibhatta, Bhadauri, and Nagpuri. Bundeli is also closely related to Braj Bhasha, which was the foremost literary language in central India until the nineteenth century.
Like many other Indo-Aryan languages, Bundeli has often been subject to a designation as a dialect, instead of a language. Furthermore, as is the case with other Hindi languages, Bundeli speakers have been conflated with those of Standard Hindi in censuses.
Grierson divided Bundeli into four dialect groups:
The Bundelkhand region comprises regions of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Bundeli is spoken in the Chattarpur, Panna, Tikamgarh, Banda, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Jhansi, Gwalior, Vidisha, Bhopal, Sagar, Ashoknagar, Jabalpur, Lalitpur, Chitrakoot, Mahoba, Damoh, Narsinghpur, and Hoshangbad districts.
In the past Bundeli was used in government correspondences, messages, invoices, gazette and friendship treaties. Early examples of Bundelkhandi literature are the verses of Bhaddari as well as versions of the Alha-Khand epic. It is still preserved by bards in the Banaphari region. The epic is about heroes lived in the 12th century AD. The poed Chand Bardai, wrote this epic based on King Prithiviraj's wars with state of Mahoba. Many literary works in Bundheli were produced during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Notable figures are the poet Kesab Das of the 16th century, while Padmakar Bhatt and Prajnes wrote several works during the 19th century. Prannath and Lal Kabi, produced many works in Bundheli language at the court of Chhattarsal of Panna.
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