|(c. 43 million)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|India||40 million (2001 Census)|
|Nepal||3.1 million (2011 Census)|
Minority:Islam · Buddhism · Jainism
|Related ethnic groups|
|Magahi people · Bhojpuris · Awadhis|
Maithils (Tirhuta: মৈথিল, Devanagri: मैथिल), also known as Maithili people, are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group who speak the Maithili language and inhabit the Mithila region, which is now situated mainly in northern and eastern Bihar of India and some adjoining districts of the eastern Terai of Nepal.
The Maithil homeland forms an important part of Hindu mythology as it is said to be the birthplace of Sita, the wife of Ram. "Pure" Maithil culture is said to be found in the villages of Madhubani district in Bihar.
Mithila first gained prominence after being settled by Indo-Aryan speaking peoples who established the Videha kingdom. During the late Vedic period (c. 1100-500 BCE), Videha became one of the major political and cultural centers of South Asia, along with Kuru and Pañcāla. The kings of the Videha Kingdom were called Janakas.
From the 11th century to the 20th century, Mithila was ruled by various indigenous dynasties. The first of these were the Karnatas, who were of Parmar Rajput origin, the Oinwar dynasty, who were Maithil Brahmins, and the Khandavalas of Raj Darbhanga, who were also Maithil Brahmins. It was during this period that the capital of Mithila was shifted to Darbhanga.
Maithils are those who reside north of the Ganges; based around Darbhanga and the rest of North Bihar. Maithili speaking districts that are inhabited by Maithils in India are Muzzafarpur, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Saharsa, Purnea, Madhepura, Supaul, Madhubani and North Monghyr.
Darbhanga in particular played an important role in the history of Mithila and is considered one of its "core centers". It was the center of Raj Darbhanga who ruled most of the region. Madhubani was also where Madhubani paintings originated from which is a major part of Maithil culture. Sitamarhi is claimed by many to be the birthplace of Goddess Sita with Sitakund being a major pilgrimage site. Baliraajgadh, situated in present-day Madhubani district, is claimed to be the Mithila Nagari, which was the capital of ancient Videha Kingdom.
Most of the region from Jhapa to Parsa in Nepal (centered around Janakpur, in southeastern Nepal) form Nepalese Mithila. This area was part of the kingdom of Videha. The kingdom appears in the Ramayana. Many people claim Janakpur to be the birthplace of Goddess Sita but this is disputed as many consider Sitamarhi as Her birthplace. Maithils in Nepal have been working towards a "Free Maithil state".
There was a movement in the Maithili speaking areas of Nepal for a separate state, which concluded after the Constitution of Nepal 2015 guaranteed it and Province No. 2 was established. The 2015 Constitution transformed the country into the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, with a total of 7 provinces.
Ethnicities and castes
Maithil Brahmins are the Hindu Brahmin community of the Mithila region. They are one of the five Pancha-Gauda Brahmin communities. They are also noted for panjis, the extensive genealogical records maintained for the last twenty-four generations.
Rajputs are scattered throughout the region and are divided into various sub-clans with the most prominent being the Gandhawarias who ruled estates mainly in Saharsa and Madhepura. The Rajputs of Mithila maintain social and marital relations with Rajputs in other states.
The common language of Maithil people is Maithili, which is one of the recognised regional languages of India and the second national language of Nepal listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and the Interim Constitution of Nepal. It is an ancient language, from which Nepali, Bengali and related scripts have evolved. The oldest example of this Mithilakshar or Tirhuta script is a Shiva temple inscription in Tilkeshwarsthāna (near Kusheshwarsthāna, in Darbhangā district), in which it is mentioned in Eastern Māgadhi Prākrit that the temple was built on "Kāttika sudi" (Kārtika Shukla pratipadā, or the first tithi in the bright half of the Hindu lunar month of Kārtika) in "Shake 125" (AD 203) on the day after Diwāli (still regarded as auspicious for installing an icon in a temple). The script of the inscription is little different from modern Maithili script. However, during the 20th century most Maithili writers gradually adopted Devanagari script for Maithili. Some traditional pandits still use Tirhutā or Mithilākshara script for pātā (ceremonial letters related to important functions, such as marriage). Fonts for this script were developed in 2003.
The most striking aspects of their environment are the decorated rice containers, colorfully painted verandahs and outer walls of their homes using only available materials like clay, mud, dung and grass. Much of the rich design is rooted in devotional activities and passed on from one generation to the next, occasionally introducing contemporary elements such as a bus or an airplane.
Traditionally Maithils lived in Badaghars called longhouses with big families of many generations, sometimes 40–50 people. All household members pool their labor force, contribute their income, share the expenditure and use one kitchen.
Mithila regionalism unites Maithils of India and Maithils of Nepal from both sides of international border. Since they share a common history, language, culture, and ethnicity, they feel part of one Mithila. Positive events on one side of the international border are celebrated on the other side, and negative events are mourned on both sides.
- Sita – wife of the Hindu figure Ram
- King Janaka – king of the Videha kingdom
- Kirti Azad - former Indian cricketer and politician from Darbhanga
- Udit Narayan – Bollywood playback singer
- Jyotirishwar Thakur – Maithili poet and writer
- Vidyapati - Maithili poet and a Sanskrit writer
- Shiva Singh - 15th-century King of Mithila
- Kameshwar Singh Bahadur - the last zamindar of Raj Darbhanga in India
- Ram Baran Yadav - former president of Nepal
- Kranti Prakash Jha - Bollywood actor and model
- Gangesha Upadhyaya - 12th-century Indian mathematician and philosopher
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