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 Tirhut and Tirabhukti, is a geographical and cultural region located in the Indian state of Bihar. This region is 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 extends into the southeastern Terai of Nepal.[3][4]

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.[4] In the 18th century, when Mithila was still ruled by the Raj Darbhanga, the British Raj annexed the region without recognizing it as a princely state.[5][6] Today, Mithila comprises the Champaran, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Saharsa and Purnia districts.[1]


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 abbreviated to Tirhut.[7]


Vedic period[edit]

Mithila first gained prominence after being settled by Indo-Aryan peoples who established the Videha kingdom.[8] 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.[9]

The Videha Kingdom later became incorporated into the Vajji confederacy, which had its capital in the city of Vaishali, which is also in Mithila.[10]

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.[11] It was during this period that the capital of Mithila was shifted to Darbhanga.[12][13]


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.[14]

Rivers and floods[edit]

Mithila has seven major rivers, Mahananda, Gandak, Kosi, Bagmati, Kamala, Balan, and the Budhi Gandak.[15] 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.[16]

The people of Mithila can be split into various caste/clan affiliations such as Brahmins, Rajputs, Kayasthas, Ahirs, Kurmis, Koeris, Baniyas and many more.[17]

Notable people from Mithila region[edit]

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


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.[32] 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.[33]

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 Darbhanga is the most likely candidate. Other potential capitals include Muzaffarpur, Purnia and Begusarai.[34]

Recently, that was also a movement in the Maithili speaking areas of Nepal for a separate state which ended only after promulgation of Constitution of Nepal 2015 guaranteed it in form of province two and transforming the country into Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal with total seven provinces. Also the First President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal was Maithili speaking personnel Dr. Ram Baran Yadav from Janakpur, which lies in province two, a Mithila state of Nepal.[35]


According to Jain Agamas, 21st Tirthankara Naminatha was born in Mithila[36] to King Vijaya and Queen Vapra.[37] Mithila was ruled by King Vijaya of Ikshvaku dynasty and after him, by Lord Naminatha.[38]

See more[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 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. 
  2. ^ Mishra, V. (1979). Cultural Heritage of Mithila. Allahabad: Mithila Prakasana. p. 13. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ a b Kumar, D. (2000). "Mithila after the Janakas". The Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 60: 51–59. 
  5. ^ Singh, U. N. (1986). "The Maithili Language Movement: Successes and Failures". Language Planning: Proceedings of an Institute: 174–201. 
  6. ^ Jha, M. (1997). "Hindu Kingdoms at textual level". Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective. New Delhi: M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. 
  7. ^ Cust, R.N. (1901). "The Indian Hero". Linguistic and oriental essays: written from the year 1840 to 1903. London: Trübner & Co. pp. 144–158. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  8. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, pages 13, 17 116-124, 141-143
  9. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, pages 13, 141-143
  10. ^ Raychaudhuri Hemchandra (1972), Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.85-6
  11. ^ "Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective". Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  12. ^ "Wetlands management in North Bihar". Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  13. ^ "Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective". Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  14. ^ "City, Society, and Planning: Society". p. 424. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  15. ^ "Rivers of Bihar | Bihar Articles". Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  16. ^ James B. Minahan. "Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia". Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  17. ^ Makhan Jha. "Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective". pp. 33–40. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  18. ^ "The birth place of Vidyapati is Known to be Madhubani in Present day Bihar, India". 
  19. ^ Padma Awards Official listings Govt. of India portal.
  20. ^ Phanishwar Nath 'Renu' Profile Seasoninindia.
  21. ^ Edited by S.Sengupta & Anjali Basu (2002). Sansad Bengali Charitavidhan (Bengali). kolkata: Sahitya Sansad. pp. 324, 325. ISBN 81-85626-65-0. 
  22. ^ "Bihar elections: Ram Vilas Paswan remained a facilitator, never the face". 
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Chief Minister list,, accessed March 2009
  27. ^ "PRESS COMMUNIQUE". Press Information Bureau. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  28. ^ Ram Baran Yadav
  29. ^ "Nepal parliament elects new PM". AFP via Google News. 
  30. ^ "Nepal PM quits in live TV address". BBC News. 30 June 2010. 
  31. ^ Madhav Kumar Nepal
  32. ^ "Madhubani Painting". p. 96. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  33. ^ Carolyn Brown Heinz, 2006, "Documenting the Image in Mithila Art," Visual Anthropology Review, Vol. 22, Issue 2, pp. 5-33
  34. ^ "Small States Syndrome in India". p. 146. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  35. ^ Burkert, C. (2012). "Defining Maithil Identity". In Gellner, D.; Pfaff-Czarnecka, J.; Whelpton, J. Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom: The Politics and Culture of Contemporary Nepal. London, New York: Routledge. pp. 241–273. ISBN 9781136649561. 
  36. ^ Tukol 1980, p. 31.
  37. ^ Jain 2009, p. 87-88.
  38. ^ Shah 1987, p. 163-164.


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

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