Maithili मैथिली, মৈথিলী ,maithilī
Spoken - India, Nepal
Region -Bihar, Jharkhand, parts of West Bengal in India, Terai Region in Nepal
Total speakers -34,700,000 (As per SIL),
Language family -Indo-European
Eastern Group

Writing system Devanagari, Kaithi, Mithilakshar
Official status
Official language in In 8th schedule of Constitution of India, Bihar state in India and Nepal
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 bh (Bihari)
ISO 639-2 mai
ISO 639-3 mai
Linguasphere –

Maithili language (मैथिली, মৈথিলী, Maithilī) is spoken in the eastern part of India, mainly in Bihar, Jharkhand and parts of West Bengal, with cultural and linguistic centers in the cities of Madhubani and Darbhanga. Maithili is also spoken in the Terai region of Nepal, in particular east of the Narayani Zone.[1]

It is an offshoot of the Indo-Aryan languages, which are part of the Indo-Iranian, a branch of the Indo-European languages. Linguists consider Maithili to be an Eastern Indic language, and thus a different language from Hindi, which is Central Indic in origin. According to the 2001 census in India, 12,179,122 people speak Maithili, but various organizations have strongly argued that the actual number of Maithili speakers is much higher than the official data suggests. SIL estimates it to be more than 35 Million. In 2003, Maithili was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which now allows the language to be used in education, government, and other official contexts. Maithili has a very rich literary and cultural heritage.

Maithili was traditionally written in the Maithili script (also known by the names Tirhuta and Mithilakshar) and Kaithi script. Nowadays, Devanagari script is most commonly used. An effort is underway to preserve the Maithili script and to develop it for use in digital media by encoding the script in the Unicode standard, for which proposals have been submitted.[2]

The term Maithili comes from Mithila, which was an independent state in ancient times. Mithila has a very important place in Hindu mythology, since it is regarded as the birth place of Goddess Sita, the daughter of King Janak of Mithila; who eventually gets married to Lord Rama.

The most famous literary figure in Maithili is the poet Vidyapati. He is credited for raising the importance of 'people's language', i.e. Maithili, in the official work of the state by influencing the Maharaja of Darbhanga with the quality of his poetry. The state's official language used to be Sanskrit, which distanced common people from the state and its functions. The name Maithili is also one of the names of Sita, the consort of Rama.

. It was earlier considered to be a dialect of Hindi and Bengali. However, Maithili achieved an independent language status in India in the year 2003. This could happen only because of a mass movement that called for providing Maithili an official status through its inclusion in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution so that it may be used for education, government and other purposes. It is spoken by approximately 4.5 Crore people in India. It is the 16th most spoken language in India and 40th most spoken language in the World.

The name Maithili is derived from the word Mithila, an ancient kingdom of which King Janaka was the ruler (See Ramayana). Maithili is also one of the names of Sita, the wife of King Rama and daughter of King Janaka.

It is a fact that scholars in Mithila used Sanskrit for their literary work and Maithili was the language of the common folk (Abahatta). The earliest work in Maithili appears to be Varna(n) Ratnakar by Jyotirishwar Thakur dated about 1324.

Early Maithili Period (1300-1600)
With the fall of Pala rule, disappearance of Buddhism and establishment of karnāta kings under patronage of Harasimhadeva (1226-1324) of karnāta dynasty, Jyotirisvara Thakur (1280-1340) wrote a unique work Varnaratnākara in pure Maithili, the earliest prose in any Indian language. The cultivation of literature in Maithili for long in the past, the fruit of which is lost in oblivion.

In 1324, Ghyasuddin Tughluq, the emperor of Delhi invaded Mithila, defeated Harasimhadeva , entrusted Mithila to his family Priest Kameshvar Jha, a Maithil Brahman of the Onibar family but disturbed era did not produce any literature until Vidyapati Thakur (1360 to 1450), an epoch making poet came up under the patronage of the like-minded king Shiva Simha and his queen LakhiMā Devi. He produced over a thousand of immortal songs in Maithili on the theme of erotic sports of Radha and Krishna and the domestic life of Shiva and Parvati, besides a number of treaties in Sanskrit on various subjects. His love-songs spread far and wide in no time and enchanted saints, poets and youth in general. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu saw divine light of love behind these songs, and soon these songs became themes of Vaisnava sect of Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore, out of curiosity, imitated these songs under the pseudonym Bhanusimha. Vidyapati influenced the religious literature of Asama, Vanga and Utkala.

After the invasion of Mithila by the Sultan of Johnpur, Delhi and the disappearance of Shivasimha in 1429, Onibar rule grew weaker and the literary activity shifted to present Nepal.

Middle Maithili period (1600-1860)
When Mahesh Thakur, a great pandit of the Khandvala family of Maithil Brahman was installed as a feudal chief of Mithila under the Mughal empire, literary activity in Mithila language gained momentum in three dimensions: dance, drama and music. After a gap of about two centuries, Umapati Upadhyaya wrote a drama entitled pārijātaharaṇa in Maithili. A number of professional troupes, mostly from dalit class known as Kirtania, the singers of bhajan or devotional songs, started to perform this drama in public gatherings and the courts of the nobles.

Voluminous devotional songs were written by some famous vaisnava saints, Govendadas was the brightest in the mid-17th century, next to Vidyapati in the past, chaitanya Gaudiya Vaisnava cult as well as in literary merit.

Rāgatarangni of Lochana (Cr. 1575-1660) wrote a significant treatise on the science of music, describing the rāgas, tālas and lyrics prevalent in Mithila.

The rulers of Malla dynasty's mother tongue was Maithili, which spread far and wide throughout Nepal from the 16th to the 17th century. During this period, at least 70 Maithili dramas were produced. Curiously, in a drama, namely Harishchandranrityam of Siddhinarayanadeva (1620-57) some characters speak pure colloquial Maithili, while others speak Bangla, Sanskrit or Prakrit.

The Nepal tradition may be linked with the Anukiya Nāta in Assam and Jatra in Bengal.

Modern Maithili Period (1860 onwards)
After the demise of Maheshvar Singh, the ruler of Darbhanga Raj, in 1860 the Raj was taken over by the British Government under courts of wards act. With the return of the Darbhanga Raj to successor Maharaj Lakshmishvar Singh in 1898, a galaxy of enthusiastic pandits gathered around him and enriched their mother tongue. To name a few, M.M. Dr. Sir Ganganath Jha, M.M. Parameshvar Mishra, Chanda Jha, Munshi Raghunandan Das and others.

Publication of Maithil Hita Sadhana (1905) and Mithila Moda (1906), Mithila Mihir (1908),encouraged writers. The first social organization, Maithil Mahasabha was established in 1910 for development of Mithili and Maithili, and it was followed by a number of such organizations. Maithil Mahasabha was the first to raise the demand for the recognition of Maithili as a regional language.

The findings of some great linguists like George Abraham Grieson, Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, gave phillip to it. Ultimately Calcutta university came forward to recognize Maithili in 1917. Gradually other universities followed suit.

In 1965, Maithali was officially accepted by Sahitya Academy, an organization dedicated to the promotion of Indian literature. Since the language's inclusion, works in Maithili (including translations of works from other languages) have been recipients of awards almost every year.

In 2003 Maithili was recognized on the VIII schedule of the Indian Constitution and once again given its proper status as a major Indian language; Maithili is now one of the 22 national languages of India.

Some of the theatrical writings of the medieval age are Jyotireeshwar (Dhurt Samagam), Vidyapati (Goraksha Vijay, Mani Manjari), Ramapati (Rukmini Haran), Lal (Gauri Swayambar), Manbodh (Krishna Janma), and Umapati (Parijat Haran).

Modern Maithili came into its own after Sir George Abraham Grierson, an Irish linguist and civil servant, tirelessly researched Maithili folklore and transcribed its grammar. Paul R. Brass wrote that "Grierson judged that Maithili and its dialects could fairly be characterized as the language of the entire population of Darbhanga and Bhagalpur districts and of a majority or a significant minority of the populations of Muzaffarpur, Monghyer, Purnia and Santhal Parganas."[3] In April 2010 a translation of the New Testament into Maithili was published by the Bible Society of India under joint copyright with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Some important Maithili writers of ancient, medieval and modern era:-

Sidha Sarahpad (700 AD-780 AD)
Jyotirishwar Thakur
Vidyapati (1350 AD-1450 AD)
Srimanta_Sankardeva (1449- AD-1568 AD)
Chanda Jha (1831 AD-1907 AD)
Laldas (1856 AD-1921 AD)
Munshi Raghunandan Das (1860 AD-1945 AD)
Acharya Ramlochan Saran (1889 AD-1971 AD)
Sitaram Jha (1891 AD-1975 AD)
Badrinath Jha (1893 AD-1973 AD)
Babu Dhanushdhari Lal Das(1895 AD-1965 AD)
Bholalal Das (1897- AD-1977 AD)
Hari Mohan Jha - (1908-1984)-who published the collection Khattar kaka
Radha Krishna Choudhary
Binod Bihari Verma
Rajkamal Chaudhary
Surendra Jha Suman (1910-2002)[4]
Yatri- Nagarjun
Sudhanshu Shekhar Chaudhari (1922-1990)
Jayamant Mishra
Ramdeo Jha (1936- )
Kalikant Jha "Buch" (1934-2009)
Mantreshwar Jha (1944- ), awarded for his book Katek Daaripar.[5]
Upendra Nath Jha "Vyas" (1917-2002), though an engineer by profession, made notable contributions to modern Maithili literature. "Doo Patra", his most famous work, exhibited the goods and the evils of the Maithili society.
Gopaljee Jha "Gopesh" (1931-2008)
Subhash Chandra Yadav (1948- )
Jagdish Prasad Mandal (1947- )
Mahendra Malangia (1946- )
Siyaram Jha "Saras" (1948- )
Ramlochan Thakur (1949- )
Dr Ramanand Jha Raman (1949- )
Dr Yoganand Jha (1955- )
Ramesh 1961-
Rajdeo Mandal
Chandeshwar Khan
Bechan Thakur
Dr Shankardeo Jha (1969- )
Gajendra Thakur (1971- )
Shiv Kumar Jha "Tilloo" (1973- )
Umesh Mandal (1980- )
Anmol Jha (1970- )
Munnaji- Manoj Kumar Karn (1971- )
Anand Kumar Jha (1977- )
ghanshyam jha sijoulia madhubani ( 1982- )
Manish Kumar Mishra "Guddu" ( 1980- )

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