Maithili – An Introduction

Maithili is widely spoken in Northern Bihar, from Muzaffarpur on the west, past the Kosi on the east to western Purnia District, to the districts of Munger and Bhagalpur in the south, and the Himalayan foothills on the north. Cultural and linguistic center are the districts of Madhubani and Darbhanga. Janakpur also important culturally and religiously. Also spoken in Nepal.

Population: 22,000,000 in India (1981). Population total both countries 24,191,900.

Alternate names: Maitli, Maitili, Methli, Tirahutia, Bihari, Tirhuti, Tirhutia, Apabhramsa

Dialects: Standard Maithili, Southern Standard Maithili, Eastern Maithili (Khotta, Kortha), Western Maithili, Jolaha, Central Colloquial Maithili (Sotipura), Kisan, Dehati.

Maithili has a body of literature and its own grammar. Proponents of its use insist that it is a language in its own right and that it is related more closely to eastern Indo-Aryan tongues than to Hindi. Nonetheless, efforts to revive Maithili have had minimal success beyond its use in elementary education.

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 Varn Ratnakar by Jyotirishwar Thakur dated about 1224 AD.

The Medieval age of Maithili appears to be during Karnat Dynasty  when the names of the following scholars got prominance:  Gangesh, Padmanabh, Chandeshwar, Vireshwar, Vidyapati, Vachaspati, Pakshadhar, Ayachi, Udayan, Shankar etc.

Vidyapati is said to have lived in the period 1350 to 1450. Vidyapati, though a Sanskrit scholar, wrote innumerable poems(songs) relating to Bhakti and Shringar in Maithili. Though equally accepted in Bengal and Mithila, his songs are the soul of Mithila and no celebration is complete without his songs. It will not be an exagerration to say that his songs have survived in the throats of Maithil women folk.

Theatrical writings in Medieval age are not less important. The following need mention: Umapati: (Parijat Haran), Jyotireeshwar: (Dhurt Samagam), Vidyapati: (Goraksha Vijay, Mani Manjari), Ramapati: (Rukmini Haran), Lal: (Gauri Swayambar), Manbodh: (Krishna Janma).

Modern Maithili Literature has been blessed with the contribution of the following scholars: Parmeshwar Jha, Sitaram Jha, Kabishekhar Badrinath Jha, Murali Jha, Surendranath Jha Suman, Kashikant Mishra Madhup, Chandranath Mishra Amar, Kanchinath Jha Kiran, Prof. Hari Mohan Jha, Ishnath Jha, Brajkishore Verma Manipadma, Baidyanath Mishra Yatri (Nagarjuna), Sudhanshu Shekhar Choudhary, Upendra Nath Jha Vyas, Prof. Radha Kant Jha, Mahamahopadhyay Umesh Mishra, Dr. JayKant Mishra, Prof. Krishna Kant Mishra, Kumar Ganganand Singh, Dr. Ramanath Jha, Prof. Tantra Nath Jha, Dr. Laxman Jha Dr. Subhadra Jha, Achutanand Dutt, Bhola Lal Das, Baidyanath Jha, Yoganand Jha, Narendra Das, Rajeshwar Jha, Arsi Prasad Singh, Prof. Buddhidhari Singh Ramakar and many more.

Maithili, though not included in VIIIth schedule of the Indian Constitution, was accepted by Sahitya Academy and since its inclusion has won awards almost every year. The list is given elsewhere. A number of academy awards have been won for  translation from other languages.

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