Mithila (मिथिला, mithilā) was a kingdom in ancient India. It existed in the eastern Gangetic plains in areas which is today spread over more than half of Bihar state of India, and parts of adjoining Nepal. Mithila was the capital of Videha Kingdom as per epic Ramayana. This city is identified as modern day Janakpur in Dhanusa district of Nepal. The country of Videha is sometimes referred as Mithila though it was the capital city, much the same way as Kosala Kingdom is referred as Ayodhya though Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala kingdom.
The legend of Mithila extends over many centuries. Both Gautama Buddha and Vardamana Mahavira are said to have lived in Mithila. It also formed the center of Indian history during the first millennium, and has contributed to various literary and scriptural works.
The name Mithila is derived after Mythical King ‘Miti’. He was supposed to have been created from body of his father King Nimi. He established the capital of his kingdom at Mithilapuri and hence the region came to be called Mithila. Since he was born out of body of his father, he took the title Janaka. After this, the Kings of Mithila were called Janaka. The most famous Janaka was Kushadhwaja, father of Sita. He was 21st Janaka of Mithila. This Dynasty was also called Videha Janaka. There were 57 kings in the dynasty of Videha Janaka.
Ancient History and Myths
The most important reference to Mithila is in the Hindu epic, Ramayana where Lord Rama’s wife Sita is said to have been the princess of the land, born to King Janaka, who ruled Mithila from Janakpur. Other famous kings of Mithila during ancient period are King Bhanumath, Satghumanya, Suchi, Urjnama, Satdhwya, Kriti, Anjan, Arisnami, Srutayu, Supasyu, Suryasu, Srinjay, Sourmabi, Anena, Bhimrath, Satyarath, Upangu, Upgupt, Swagat, Snanand, Subrachya, Supraswa, Subhasn, Suchurut, Susurath, Jay, Vijay, Critu, Suny, Vith Habya, Dwati, Bahulaswa, Kriti Tirtiya.
It is said that the last King of Janak Dynasty was of bad character. He was dethroned by public under leadership of Acharyas (Learned Men). Thereafter, Mithila remained without King for hundreds of years. Instead of King, a democratic system was followed were the ruler was elected by the people and the decisions were taken in a collective manner. In fact, Mithila can be said to be the first democracy of the world. This continued for several centuries till the region was attacked and conquered by Maghadan Empire.
Thereafter several dynasties such as Vajjisangh, Lichhavis, Shaishunag, Nand, Maurya, Shung, Kant, Gupta, Vardhan etc. ruled there from time to time. There was no significant ruler in Mithila after Janaks till 5th–6th century when Jaywardhan Raja Salhesh became King. He made his capital at Mahisautha-Sirha (presently in Nepal). He defended the region against attacks by Tibetans several times. Hence, he was called Shailesh (king of Mountains) from Jaywardhan which in local dialect was called Salhesh.
Ruling Dynasties of Mithila
In the Medieval & Modern History of India, Mithila has never been ruled as a separate state. Till the 14th century, Mithila being a part of erstwhile Bengal, was ruled by Bengal Kings. Later on, after fall of Bengal to Muslim Rulers, Mithila became a part of Ghulam/Tuglaq/Mughal kingdoms. Starting with the Oinwara dynasty, all the rulers of Mithila listed hereunder were not independent kings. Their status was more or less of Rent paying Rajas/ Subedars/Jamindars despite the fact that several of them were granted the Titles of Raja/ Maharaja/Maharajadiraj by Muslim/English Rulers.
Around 6th century to 9th century (Pal Dynasty)
Mithila, being part of erstwhile Bengal, was ruled by Pal Dynasty for three centuries. Pal Dynasty were followers of Buddhism.The last king of Pal Dynasty was Madanpal. Madanpal proved to be a weak king and was defeated by Adishur Samant Sen’s army.
Around 9th century to 11th century (Sen Dynasty)
Sen Dynatsy were followers of Hinduism and hence people of Mithila, being followers of Hinduism, helped Samant Sen in defeating Madanpal. Mithila thus came under the rule of Sen Dynasty. Eminent scholar Vachaspati Mishra (from Village Thardhi in Madhubani district) was from this period, Sen Dynasty had five kings – Samant Sen, Hemant Sen, Vijay Sen, Vallal Sen and Laxman Sen (until the 11th century).
Around 11th century to 14th century (Deva Dynasty)
Nanya Deva defeated the last King of Sen Dynasty, Laxman Sen and became King of Bengal and thereby Mithila which till bifurcation of Bihar from bengal was a part of that State. Nanya Deva had come from west and had his first capital at Simraun Garh (Birganj).
Krnat Dynasty also had five kings namely Nanya Dev, Gang Dev, Narshingh Dev, Shakrasingh Dev and Hari Singh Dev. Of these Hari Singh Dev became the most famous. He was instrumental in initiating and implementing PANJI Prabandha system in Maithil Brahmins and Maithil Kayasthas (Karn Kayasthas). He was also great patron of art and literature. In the court of Hari Singh Dev the Royal Priest was Pt. Kameshwar Thakur the author of ‘VARNA RATNAKAR’, which is considered to be the first prose, an encyclopedia in any north Indian language. Pt. Kameshwar Thakur later became founder of Oinwar Dynasty.
Kings from 1326AD to 1526 (Oinwar Dynasty)
In 1326, Firoz Shah Tughlak attacked and conquered Mithila region. The last king of Karnat Dynasty Harisingh Dev fled to Nepal. According to historian Dr. Upendra Thakur anarchy prevailed in Mithila region for next 27 years. In 1353 Firoz Shah Tughlak appointed Pt. Kameshwar Thakur as KARAD RAJA (rent paying king). Kameshwar Thakur belonged to village named Oini, which is presently in SAMASTIPUR District. The dynasty was named after the village Oini as Oinwar Dynasty. Kameshwar Thakur, being of scholarly nature, was unable to collect and pay tax to Firoz Shah Tughlak. Thus, Kameshwar Thakur was dethroned and his son, Bhogishwar Thakur was made next King of Mithila region. This dynasty was one of the few ruling dynasties of India who were Brahmins. Thereafter, the Mithila region had Kings from Brahmin caste only.
The list kings of Oinwar Dynasty is as under:
- Kameshwar Thakur
- Bhogishwar Thakur
- Ganeshwar Singh
- Kirti Singh
- Bhavesh Thakur (also known as Bhav Singh) – He was younger son of Kameshwar Thakur. Since Kirti Singh died issueless, the kingdom passed over to Bhavesh Thakur.
- Dev Singh
- Shiv Singh – He declared himself to be independent King and stopped paying taxes to Tughlak empire. Due to his decision to challenge authority of Tughlaks empire, Ibrahim Shah Tughlak attacked Mithila. In the battle, Shiv Singh was killed.
- Padma Singh – He was younger brother of Shiv Singh.
- Queen Bishwas Devi – Padma Singh died issueless at an early age. After his death, his wife Queen Bishwas Devi ruled Mithila region, but she too died soon after taking over reign of Mithila.
- Hari Singh – He was cousin of Padma Singh. Since Padma Singh died issueless, the throne passed to Hari Singh.
- Nar Singh
- Dhir Singh (ruled 1459–1480)
- Bhairav Singh (ruled 1480–1515) – He was a very popular king and initiated several development works like digging of ponds construction of roads, wells, temples, etc. He was a great patron of art and culture as well.
- Rambhadra Singh Dev
- Laxminath Singh Dev – He was the last King of OINWAR dynasty. Sikandar Lodhi attacked Mithila region in 1526 and Maharaja Laxminath Singh Dev was killed in the ensuing battle.
1526–1577 – Period of Anarchy
Sikandar Lodhi made his son-in-law, Alauddin, the ruler of this area. During this period, Mogul Empire was beginning to take its root in Delhi. Alauddin was not a successful ruler and for next 50 years, anarchy prevailed in Mithila region.
When Akbar became emperor, he tried to bring normalcy to Mithila region. He came to the conclusion that only after a Maithil Brahmin was made King, peace can prevail and rent can be collected in Mithila. In 1577, Emperor Akbar declared Pt. Mahesh Thakur as the ruler of Mithila. Pt. Mahesh Thakkur was of the mool ‘Kharaure Bhaur’ and hence that dynasty was called ‘Khandwala Kul’ and the capital was made in the northwest of Sarisab-Pahi and Rajgram.
1577–1947 – Khandavala Dynasty
See Kings of Darbhanga for detailed list.