A language of India

Alternate Names
Mahili, Mahle, Mahli

26,400 in India (2011 census), decreasing. Ethnic population: 278,000 (2007). Total users in all countries: 29,400.


Assam state: tea estates; Bihar state; Jharkhand state: Dhanbad, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Pargana, Ranchi, Santal Lohardaga, Saraikela Kharsawan, East Singhbhum, and West Singhbhum districts in Chota Nagpur area; Odisha state: Balasore, Keonjhar, and Mayurbhanj districts; West Bengal state: Jalpaiguri and West Medinipur districts.

Language Status

6b* (Threatened).


Possible dialect of Santhali [sat]. Lexical similarity: 69%–87% between varieties of Mahali, 68%–93% with Santhali [sat], 53%–59% with Mundari [unr].

Language Use

Most in Jharkhand reported Santhali [sat], Sadri [sck] or Mundari [unr] as their mother tongue rather than Mahali. May be a threatened language. Home, village, private prayer for half the L1 speakers in Jharkhand. Also use Bengali [ben], Hindi [hin], Munda [unx], Mundari [unr], Odia [ory], Sadri [sck], Santhali [sat].

Language Development

Literacy rate in L2: 12% for Jharkhand (20% male, 4% female) (1981 census); 32% for Odisha (2001 census).


Latin script [Latn], used in Bangladesh.

Other Comments

Mahli are reported to speak Sadri [sck] as L1 in Jharkhand, the Thar dialect of Dhatki [mki] in Odisha, and Bengali [ben] in West Bengal. Hindu.

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