Mithila (region)

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Region in Asia
Skyline of Mithila
Continent Asia
Largest cities
Population (2011)
 • Total 40 million

Mithila (IAST: mithilā, also known as Mithilanchal, Tirhut and Tirabhukti) is a geographical and cultural region located in the northern part of South Asia. The native language is known as Maithili and its speakers are referred to as Maithils.[1] Mithila is bounded on the north by the Himalayas and on the south, west and east by the Ganges, Kaushiki and Gandaki respectively.[2] The majority of the Mithila region falls within modern day India more specifically the state of Bihar.[3]

The name is commonly used to refer to the Videha Kingdom itself, as well as to the modern-day territories that fall within the ancient boundaries of Videha (Mithila, India and Mithila, Nepal). The Mithila kingdom existed on the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plain, an area which today is spread over more than half of India's Bihar state and the eastern parts of the adjoining Madhesh region. Although Janakpur was the capital of Mithila during the ancient period, it was later shifted to Darbhanga during the rule of Raj Darbhanga.[4][5]


The name Mithila is derived after mythical King 'Miti' which in Dhatki language means "Soil". He was supposed to have been created from the 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.[citation needed]

Another name of the region was Tirabhukti meaning "bound by rivers". This was later corrupted into Tirhut.[6]


Vedic period[edit]

Mithila first gained prominence after being settled by Indo-Aryan peoples who established the Videha kingdom.[7] 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 where called Janakas.[8]

The Videha Kingdom later became incorporated into the Vajji confederacy which was based in the city of Vaishali which is also in Mithila.[9]

Medieval period[edit]

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.[10] It was during this period that the capital of Mithila was shifted to Darbhanga.[11][12]


Mithila is distinct geographical region with natural boundaries like rivers and hills. It is largely a flat and fertile alluvial plain criss-crossed by numerous rivers which originate from the Himalayas. The flat plains and fertile land have meant that Mithila has a rich variety of biotic resources; however, frequent floods have restricted the people from taking advantage of these.[13]

Rivers and floods[edit]

Mithila has seven major rivers, Mahananda, Gandak, Kosi, Bagmati, Kamala, Balan, and the Budhi Gandak.[14] They flow from the Himalaya mountains in the north to the Ganges river in the south. These rivers regularly flood, depositing silt onto the farmlands and sometimes causing death or hardship.


Maithili language speakers are referred to as Maithils and they are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group. There are an estimated 35 million Maithils in India alone. The vast majority of them are Hindu but there is a small Muslim minority.[15]

The people of Mithila can be split into various caste/clan affiliations such as Brahmins, Rajputs, Kayasthas, Ahirs, Kurmis, Koeris, Baniyas and many more.[16]


Madhubani art[edit]

Madhubani painting/Mithila painting was traditionally created by the women of the Brahman, Dusadh and Kayastha communities in Mithila region in India and it is named after Madhubani district of Bihar which is where it originated.[17] This painting as a form of wall art was practiced widely throughout the region; the more recent development of painting on paper and canvas originated among the villages around Madhubani, and it is these latter developments that may correctly be referred to as Madhubani art.[18]

Proposed States[edit]

There is an ongoing movement in the Maithili speaking region of Bihar for a separate Indian state of Mithila. What will be the capital of the state has yet to be decided however Muzaffarpur is the most likely candidate. Other potential capitals include Darbhanga, Purnia and Begusarai.[19]

There is also a movement in the Maithili speaking areas of Nepal for a separate state which wants secession from the country and to rejoin Maithils in India.[20]


According to Jain Agamas, 21st Tirthankara Naminatha was born in Mithila[21] to King Vijaya and Queen Vapra.[22] Mithila was ruled by King Vijaya of Ikshvaku dynasty and after him, by Lord Naminatha.[23]

See more[edit]


  1. ^ "Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective". p. 27. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Radhakrishna Choudhary. "A Survey of Maithili Literature". Retrieved 22 December 2016. 
  3. ^ "Cultural Heritage of Mithila". p. 13. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  4. ^ "Wetlands management in North Bihar". Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  5. ^ "Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective". Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Robert Needham Cust. "Linguistic and oriental essays: Written from the year 1840 to 1903 ...". p. 148. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  7. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, pages 13, 17 116-124, 141-143
  8. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, pages 13, 141-143
  9. ^ Raychaudhuri Hemchandra (1972), Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.85-6
  10. ^ "Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective". Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  11. ^ "Wetlands management in North Bihar". Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  12. ^ "Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective". Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  13. ^ "City, Society, and Planning: Society". p. 424. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  14. ^ "Rivers of Bihar | Bihar Articles". Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  15. ^ James B. Minahan. "Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia". Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  16. ^ Makhan Jha. "Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective". pp. 33–40. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  17. ^ "Madhubani Painting". p. 96. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  18. ^ Carolyn Brown Heinz, 2006, "Documenting the Image in Mithila Art," Visual Anthropology Review, Vol. 22, Issue 2, pp. 5-33
  19. ^ "Small States Syndrome in India". p. 146. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  20. ^ "Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom: The Politics and Culture of contemporary Nepal". p. 251. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  21. ^ Tukol 1980, p. 31.
  22. ^ Jain 2009, p. 87-88.
  23. ^ Shah 1987, p. 163-164.


  • Tukol, T. K. (1980). Compendium of Jainism. Dharwad: University of Karnataka. 

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