Mithila (region)

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Cultural region
Janki Mandir alt version.jpg
Darbhanga royal insignia.jpg
Fort of Darbhanga.jpg
Top to bottom: Janaki temple (Janakpur), Royal Insigna of Raj Darbhanga, and Fort of Darbhanga and
CountriesIndia and Nepal
States or ProvincesBihar and Jharkhand (India) and Madhesh Province, Province No. 1 and Bagmati Province (Nepal)

Mithila (IAST: Mithilā), also known as Tirhut, Tirabhukti and Mithilanchal is a geographical and cultural region of the Indian subcontinent bounded by the Mahananda River in the east, the Ganges in the south, the Gandaki River in the west and by the foothills of the Himalayas in the north.[1][2] It comprises certain parts of Bihar and Jharkhand of India[3] and adjoining districts of the eastern Terai of Nepal.[4][5] The native language in Mithila is Maithili, and its speakers are referred to as Maithils.[1]

The name Mithila is commonly used to refer to the Videha Kingdom, as well as to the modern-day territories that fall within the ancient boundaries of Videha.[5] Till the 20th century, Mithila was still ruled in part by the Raj Darbhanga.


Vedic period[edit]

Mithila first gained prominence after being settled by Indo-Aryan peoples who established the Videha kingdom.[6] During the Later Vedic period (c. 1100–500 BCE), Videha became one of the major political and cultural centers of Ancient India, along with Kuru and Panchala. The kings of the Videha Kingdom were called Janakas.[7] The Videha Kingdom was later incorporated into the Vajjika League, which had its capital in the city of Vaishali, which is also in Mithila.[8]

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, the Oiniwar Dynasty and the Khandwala Dynasty a.k.a. Raj Darbhanga. The Malla dynasty and licchivi dynasty of Nepal were also Maithil in origin. The rulers of the Oiniwar Dynasty and the Raj Darbhanga were Maithil Brahmins. It was during the reign of the Raj Darbhanga family that the capital of Mithila was shifted to Darbhanga.[9]

Tughlaq had attacked and taken control of Bihar, and from the end of the Tughlaq Dynasty until the establishment of the Mughal Empire in 1526, there was anarchy and chaos in the region. Akbar (reigned from 1556 to 1605) realised that taxes from Mithila could only be collected if there was a king who could ensure peace there. The Brahmins were dominant in the Mithila region and Mithila had Brahmin kings in the past.[citation needed]

Akbar summoned Rajpandit Chandrapati Thakur to Delhi and asked him to name one of his sons who could be made caretaker and tax collector for his lands in Mithila. Chandrapati Thakur named his middle son, Mahesh Thakur, and Akbar declared Mahesh Thakur as the caretaker of Mithila on the day of Ram Navami in 1557 AD.

Lakshmeshwar Singh (reigned from 1860 to 1898) was the eldest son of Maharaja Maheshwar Singh of Darbhanga. He, along with his younger brother, Rameshwar Singh received a western education from Government appointed tutors as well as a traditional Indian education from a Sanskrit Pandit. He spent approximately £300,000 on relief work during the Bihar famine of 1873–74. He constructed hundreds of miles of roads in various parts of the Raj, planting them with tens of thousands of trees for the comfort of travellers, as part of generating employment for people effected by famine. He constructed iron bridges over all the navigable rivers

He built, and entirely supported, a first-class Dispensary at Darbhanga, which cost £3400; a similar one at Kharakpur, which cost £3500; and largely contributed to many others.

Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh

He built an Anglo-vernacular school at a cost of £1490, which he maintained, as well as nearly 30 vernacular schools of different grades; and subsidised a much larger number of educational institutions. He was also one of the founders of Indian National Congress as well as one of the main financial contributors thereto. Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh is known for purchasing Lowhter Castle for the venue of the 1888 Allahabad Congress session when the British denied permission to use any public place. The British Governor[who?] commissioned Edward Onslow Ford to make a statue of Lakshmeshwar Singh. This is installed at Dalhousie Square in Kolkata.

On the occasion of the Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria, Lakshmeshwar Singh was declared as a Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, and was promoted to Knight Grand Commander in 1897. He was also a member of the Royal Commission on Opium of 1895, formed by British Government along with Haridas Viharidas Desai who was the Diwan of Junagadh. The Royal Opium Commission consisted of a 9-member team of which 7 were British and 2 were Indians and its chairman was Earl Brassey.


Mithila is a 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. Due to the flat plains and fertile land Mithila has a rich variety of biotic resources; however, because of frequent floods people could not take full advantage of these resources.[10]

Seven major rivers flow through Mithila: Mahananda, Gandak, Kosi, Bagmati, Kamala, Balan, and the Budhi Gandak.[11] They flow from the Himalayas 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.[citation needed]


Madhubani/Mithila Painting[edit]

Madhubani art or Mithila painting is practiced in the Mithila region of India and Nepal. It was traditionally created by the women of different communities of the Mithila region. It is named after Madhubani district of Bihar, India which is where it originated.[12]

National Institute Of Mithila Art

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.[13]

Mithila Paag[edit]

The Paag is a headdress in the Mithila region of India and Nepal worn by Maithil people. It is a symbol of honour and respect and a significant part of Maithil culture.

The Paag dates back to pre-historic times when it was made of plant leaves. It exists today in a modified form. The Paag is wore by the whole Maithil community. The colour of the Paag also carries a lot of significance. The red Paag is worn by the bridegroom and by those who are undergoing the sacred thread rituals. Paag of mustard colour is donned by those attending wedding ceremonies and the elders wear a white Paag.

This Paag now features place in the popular Macmillan Dictionary. For now, Macmillan Dictionary explains Paag as “a kind of headgear worn by people in the Mithila belt of India.”[14]


On 10 February 2017, India Posts released a set of sixteen commemorative postage stamps on "Headgears of India". The Mithila Paag was featured on one of those postage stamps.


People of Mithila region speak Maithili primarily and are well versed in other languages like Hindi, Nepali, English, Bhojpuri for other different purposes.

While Maithilis living in Nepal also use Nepali language. And some also use Bengali language in significant part of Bihar-Bengal region.

This language is an Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian subcontinent, mainly spoken in India and Nepal and is one of the 22 recognised Indian languages. In Nepal, it is spoken in the eastern Terai and is the second most prevalent language of Nepal. Tirhuta was formerly the primary script for written Maithili. Less commonly, it was also written in the local variant of Kaithi. Today it is written in the Devanagari script.

Maithil Cuisine[edit]

Traditional Maithil cuisine

Maithil cuisine is a part of Indian cuisine and Nepalese cuisine. It is a culinary style which originated in Mithila. Some traditional Maithil dishes are:

Main festivals[edit]


Mithila Painting of Radha-Krishna

Maithili language speakers are referred to as Maithils and they are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group. There are an estimated 75 million Maithils in India alone. The vast majority of them are Hindu.[15]

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

Notable people[edit]

The following are notable residents (past and present) of Mithila region.

Demands for administrative units[edit]

Proposed Indian state[edit]

Indian Mithila

There is an ongoing movement in the Maithili speaking region of Bihar and Jharkhand for a separate Indian state of Mithila.[30]

Proposed Nepalese province[edit]

There is a movement in the Maithili speaking areas of Nepal for a separate province.[31] Province No. 2 was established under the 2015 Constitution, which transformed Nepal into a Federal Democratic Republic, with a total of 7 provinces. Province No. 2 has a substantial Maithili speaking population and consists most of the Maithili speaking areas of Nepal. It has been demanded by some Mithila activists that Province No. 2 be named 'Mithila Province'.[32]

Mithila speaking region of Nepal

On 23 December 2021, four different names for the Province No. 2 were presented by the various parties of the Provincial Assembly of Madhesh Province. The four names were ‘Madhesh Pradesh’, ‘Janaki Pradesh’, ‘Madhya Madhesh Pradesh’ and ‘Mithila Bhojpura’.[33] Among the four names, Madhesh Pradesh (Madhesh Province) was chosen and finalized on 17 January 2022. The name was finalized with 80 percent majority in the Provincial Assembly. Janakpur was named as the capital of the province.[34]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Jha, M. (1997). "Hindu Kingdoms at contextual level". Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective. New Delhi: M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. pp. 27–42. ISBN 9788175330344.
  2. ^ Mishra, V. (1979). Cultural Heritage of Mithila. Allahabad: Mithila Prakasana. p. 13.
  3. ^ Jha, Pankaj Kumar (2010). Sushasan Ke Aaine Mein Naya Bihar. Bihar (India): Prabhat Prakashan. ISBN 9789380186283.
  4. ^ Ishii, H. (1993). "Seasons, Rituals and Society: the culture and society of Mithila, the Parbate Hindus and the Newars as seen through a comparison of their annual rites". Senri Ethnological Studies 36: 35–84. Archived from the original on 23 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b Kumar, D. (2000). "Mithila after the Janakas". The Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 60: 51–59.
  6. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, pages 13, 17 116–124, 141–143
  7. ^ Witzel, M. (1989). "Tracing the Vedic dialects". In Caillat, C. (ed.). Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes. Paris: Fondation Hugot. pp. 141–143.
  8. ^ Hemchandra, R. (1972). Political History of Ancient India. Calcutta: University of Calcutta.
  9. ^ Jha, Makhan (1997). Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective. pp. 55–56. ISBN 9788175330344.
  10. ^ Thakur, B.; Singh, D.P.; Jha, T. (2007). "The Folk Culture of Mithila". In Thakur, B.; Pomeroy, G.; Cusack, C.; Thakur, S.K. (eds.). City, Society, and Planning. Volume 2: Society. pp. 422–446. ISBN 9788180694608.[dead link]
  11. ^ "Rivers of Bihar | Bihar Articles". Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  12. ^ Madhubani Painting. 2003. p. 96. ISBN 9788170171560. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  13. ^ Carolyn Brown Heinz, 2006, "Documenting the Image in Mithila Art," Visual Anthropology Review, Vol. 22, Issue 2, pp. 5-33
  14. ^ "Maithili 'paag' finds place in Macmillan Dictionary".
  15. ^ James B. Minahan (30 August 2012). Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ISBN 9781598846607.
  16. ^ Makhan Jha (1997). Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective. pp. 33–40. ISBN 9788175330344.
  17. ^ Ministry of Culture, Government of India. "Maghfoor Ahmad Ajazi".
  18. ^ Sajjad, Mohammad (6 January 2013). "Maghfur Aijazi: A freedom-fighter and a builder of Indian democracy". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Nidhi appointed NC Vice-Prez, Khadka Gen Secy". Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  20. ^ "Ramdhari Singh Dinker - Hindi ke Chhayavadi Kavi". Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  21. ^ Nitish Kumar and the Rise of Bihar. Penguin Books India. 1 January 2011. ISBN 9780670084593.
  22. ^ "" मुख्य समाचार " :: नेपाल ::". 24 May 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  23. ^ "Seasons India :: Hindi Literature of India". Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  24. ^ IANS (10 December 2013). "BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain on IM hit list". Business Standard India. Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 26 October 2017 – via Business Standard.
  25. ^ "BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain's impersonator arrested". Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  26. ^ "PM's 'lack' of leadership has made UPA 'sinking ship': BJP". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  27. ^ "8th Lok Sabha – Members Bioprofile – AZAD, SHRI BHAGWAT JHA". Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  28. ^ "I want self-reliant Bihar; Sushil Modi is our guardian, says new deputy CM Tarkishore Prasad". 19 November 2020.
  29. ^ Reed, Stanley (1950). The Indian And Pakistan Year Book And Who's Who 1950. Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd. p. 679. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  30. ^ Kumāra, Braja Bihārī (1998). Small States Syndrome in India. p. 146. ISBN 9788170226918. Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  31. ^ Burkert, C. (2012). "Defining Maithil Identity". In Gellner, D.; Pfaff-Czarnecka, J.; Whelpton, J. (eds.). Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom: The Politics and Culture of Contemporary Nepal. London, New York: Routledge. pp. 241–273. ISBN 9781136649561. Archived from the original on 20 August 2017.
  32. ^ "Samiti vows to protest for Mithila Province".
  33. ^ "Five names proposed for Province 2". Khabarhub. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  34. ^ Pradhan, Shirish B. (18 January 2022). "Nepal's Province 2 renamed 'Madhes Pradesh'". ThePrint. Retrieved 14 September 2022.


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

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