Maithili (/ˈmaɪtɨli/; मैथिली, মৈথিলী, Maithilī) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in eastern Nepal and North Bihar of India
In 2003, Maithili was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which allows the language to be used in education, government, and other official contexts.
Maithili is spoken in Bihar up to the Purnia, Munger and Bhagalpur districts parts of southeast Nepal. The cultural and linguistic centers are the towns of Madhubani and Darbhanga. Native speakers also reside in Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai. Maithili is also spoken in Sitamarhi, Saharsa, Madhepuraand Supaul.
In Nepal, Maithili is spoken mainly in the Outer Terai districts of the Janakpur Zone such as Sarlahi, Mahottari and Dhanusa Districts, in the Sunsari District of the Koshi Zone, and in the Siraha and Saptari Districts of the Sagarmatha Zone. Janakpur is an important religious centre.
The first grammar of Maithili was written in 1880–81. A. F. Rudolf Hoernle published a grammar of the eastern Hindi from London in 1880 and compared with the other Gaudian languages. In this grammar, Dr. Hoernle recognized Maithili as a dialect distinct from Hindi. He was able to give some specimens of its grammatical forms, but no published materials were then available. The mis-classification by early linguists led to language politics in respect of Maithili. Beames (1872/reprint 1966: 84-85) considered Maithili as a dialect of Bengali. Grierson, however, adopted the notional term "Bihari" for the group of languages (Angika,Bajjika,Bhojpuri, Magahi, Maithili) including Maithili used in Bihar.
Maithili is derived from Avahattha, the Maithil Apabhramsha, which is derived from Magadhi Apbhramsha.
· Central Maithili is the standard form, in which books are written. Central Maithili is spoken in the districts of Darbhanga division, Kosi Division.
· Tharuwat, spoken exclusively in Nepal
· Jolaha Maithili, not a dialect but a variety spoken by Muslims of Mithila. It has no specific region.
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. 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.
With the fall of Pala rule, disappearance of Buddhism, establishment of karnāta kings and patronage of Maithili under Harasimhadeva (1226–1324) of karnāta dynasty, Jyotirisvara Thakur (1280–1340) wrote a unique work Varnaratnākara in pure Maithili prose, the earliest specimen of prose available in any Modern Indo-Aryan language.
In 1324, Ghyasuddin Tughluq, the emperor of Delhi invaded Mithila, defeated Harasimhadeva, entrusted Mithila to his family Priest Kameshvar Jha, a Maithil Brahmin of the Oinvar family but disturbed era did not produce any literature in Maithili until Vidyapati Thakur (1360 to 1450), who was an epoch making poet under the patronage of king Shiva Simha and his queen Lakhima Devi. He produced over a thousand immortal songs in Maithili on the theme of erotic sports of Radha and Krishna and the domestic life of Shiva and Parvatias well as on the subject of suffering of migrant labourers of Morang and their families; besides he wrote 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, Banga 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.
The earliest reference to Maithili or Tirhutiya is in Amaduzzi's preface to Beligatti's Alphabetum Brammhanicum, published in 1771. This contains a list of Indian languages amongst which is 'Tourutiana.' Colebrooke's essay on the Sanskrit and Prakrit languages, written in 1801, was the first to describe Maithili as a distinct dialect.
Many devotional songs were written by vaisnava saints, including in the mid-17th century, Vidyapati and Govindadas. mapati Upadhyaya wrote a drama entitled pārijātaharaṇa in Maithili. A number of professional troupes, mostly from dalit classes known as Kirtanias, the singers of bhajan or devotional songs, started to perform this drama in public gatherings and the courts of the nobles. Lochana (c. 1575 – c. 1660) wrote Rāgatarangni, a significant treatise on the science of music, describing the rāgas, tālas and lyrics prevalent in Mithila.
The 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. In the drama Harishchandranrityam by Siddhinarayanadeva (1620–57), some characters speak pure colloquial Maithili, while others speak Bengali, Sanskrit or Prakrit. The Nepaltradition may be linked with the Ankiya Nāta in Assam and Jatra in Odisha.
After the demise of Maheshwar Singh, the ruler of Darbhanga Raj, in 1860, the Raj was taken over by the British Government as regent. The return of the Darbhanga Raj to his successor, Maharaj Lakshmishvar Singh, in 1898. But these happenings has nothing to do with the use of Maithili Language, as the Zamindari Raj has lackadaisical approach towards Maithili Language. The use of Maithili language was revived, however, through personal efforts of MM Parameshvar Mishra, Chanda Jha, Munshi Raghunandan Das and others.
Publication of Maithil Hita Sadhana (1905), Mithila Moda (1906), and Mithila Mihir (1908), further encouraged writers. The first social organization, Maithil Mahasabha was established in 1910 for the development of Mithila and Maithili, but it blocked its membership for people outside from the Maithil Brahmin and Karna Kayastha castes. Maithil Mahasabha campaigned for the official recognition of Maithili as a regional language. Calcutta University recognized Maithili in 1917, and other universities followed suit. Babu Bhola Lal Das also wrote Maithili Grammar (Maithili Vyakaran"). He edited a book "Gadyakusumanjali" and edited a journal "Maithili".
In 1965, Maithili was officially accepted by Sahitya Academy, an organization dedicated to the promotion of Indian literature. In 2003 Maithili was recognized on the VIII schedule of the Indian Constitution as a major Indian language; Maithili is now one of the 22 national languages of India.
The publishing of Maithili books in Mithilakshar script was started by Acharya Ramlochan Saran.
Maithili was traditionally written in the Maithili script (also known by the names Tirhuta, i.e., Mithilakshar) and Kaithi script. The ISO of Unicode Technical Committee has approved the encoding of Kaithi and Tirhuta scripts. 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 by Sh. Anshuman Pandey (now it has been approved by the ISO, the Unicode Technical Committee).
The most famous literary figure in Maithili is the poet Vidyapati (1350–1450), who wrote his poems in the language of the people, i.e., Maithili, at a time when state's official language used to beSanskrit and Sanskrit was still being used as a literary language. The use of Maithili, instead of Sanskrit, in literature became more common after Vidyapati.
The main characteristics of Magadhi Prakrit is to mutate 'r' into 's', the 'n' for n, of 'j' for 'y', of 'b' for 'y' In the edicts of Ashoka the change of 'r' to 'h' is established. Mahavir and Buddha delivered their sermons in the eastern languages. The secular use of language came mainly from the east as will be evident from the Prakritpainglam, a comprehensive work on Prakrit and Apabhramsa-Avahatta poetry. Jyotirishwar mentions Lorika. Vachaspati II in his Tattvachintamani and Vidyapati in his Danavakyavali have profusely used typical Maithili words of daily use. The Maithili script, Mithilakshara or Tirhuta as it is popularly known, is of a great antiquity.. The Lalitavistara mentions the Vaidehi script. Early in the latter half of the seventh century A. D., we find a marked change in the north-eastern alphabet and the inscriptions of Adityasena exhibit this change for the first time and hence forward the eastern variety develops by itself and becomes the Maithili script—a script which ultimately comes into use in Assam, Bengal and Nepal. The earliest recorded epigraphic evidence of the script is to be found in the Mandar Hill Stone inscriptions of Adityasena (c. 7th century A. D.), now fixed in the Baidyanath temple, Deoghar.
The Kamrupa dialect was originally a variety of eastern Maithili and it was, no doubt, the spoken Aryan language throughout the kingdom which then included the whole of Assam valley and whole of North Bengal with the addition of the district of Purnea. The language of the Buddhist Dohas is described as belonging to the mixed Maithili—Kamrupi language.
Early Maithili Literature (ca. 700–1350 AD)
The period was of ballads, songs, and dohas. Some important Maithili writers of this era were:
· Kavi Kokil Pre-Jyotirishwar Vidyapati
· Jyotirishwar Thakur (1290–1350) whose 'Varnartnakar' is the first prose and encyclopedia in any north Indian language
Middle Maithili Literature (ca. 1350–1830 AD)
The period was of theatrical writings. Some important Maithili writers of this era were:
· Vidyapati (1350–1450)
· Srimanta Sankardeva (1449–1568)
Modern Maithili Literature (1830 AD to date)
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 Madhubani districts". 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.
The development of Maithili in modern era was due to various magazines and journals. Some important writers of this era are:
· Acharya Ramlochan Saran (1889–1971)
· Surendra Jha 'Suman' (1910–2002) represented Maithili in the Sahitya Akademi
· Radha Krishna Choudhary (1921–1985)
· Sudhanshu Shekhar Chaudhary (1920–1990) authored plays in Maithili and received the Sahitya Akademi Honour in 1981.
· Jaykant Mishra (20 December 1922 – 3 February 2009) represented Maithili in the Sahitya Akademi
· Jata Shankar Das (1923–2004)
· Rajkamal Chaudhary (1929–1967)
· Binod Bihari Verma (1937–2003)
· Gajendra Thakur (1971– )
· Dr Raman Jha (1957– )