Mithila (region)

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Royal Insigna
Fort of Darbhanga
CountriesIndia and Nepal
States or ProvincesBihar and Jharkhand (India) and Province No. 2, Province No. 1 and Bagmati Pradesh (Nepal)

Mithila (IAST: Mithilā), also known as Tirhut and Tirabhukti, is a geographical and cultural region of the Indian subcontinent, mainly 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 eastern 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 in part by the Raj Darbhanga, the British Raj annexed the region without recognizing it as a princely state.[5][6] Mithila comprises Tirhut, Darbhanga, Kosi, Purnia, Munger, Bhagalpur and Santhal Pargana divisions[a] of India[7] and some adjoining districts of Nepal.


Vedic period[edit]

Mithila first gained prominence after being settled by Indo-Aryan peoples who established the Videha kingdom.[8]During the Later Vedic period (c. 1100–500 BCE), Videha became one of the major political and cultural centers of South Asia, along with Kuru and Panchala. The kings of the Videha Kingdom were called Janakas.[9]The Videha Kingdom was later 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, the Oiniwar Dynasty and the Khandwala Dynasty a.k.a. Raj Darbhanga. 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.[11]

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 thirty 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 contributor 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 created a Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, being 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.

Independence Era[edit]

Kameshwar Singh Gautam Bahadur (Reign: 1929 -1952) , He was patron of the All India Football Federation which was founded at Darbhanga in 1935. He had started the Darbhanga cup tournament at calcutta (Kolkata) in which teams from Lohare, Peshawar, Madras (Chennai), Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai (Bombay), Afghanistan and England participated. He built 4 indoor and outdoor stadiums including a polo stadium.

He was a member of the team that visited London for the First round Table and the Second Round Table Conference held in 1930–31.

He was a member of the Council of State for years 1933–1946, member of the Constituent Assembly of India for years 1947–1952. He was elevated from C.I.E. and made a Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire on 1 January 1933.

After, the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake, he started construction of a fort called Raj Quila, to commemorate the memory, when the British Raj announced to confer the title of "Native Prince" to Maharaja Kameshwar Singh. He was the first person in India to get a bust of Mahatma Gandhi made, by celebrated artist Clare Sheridan, cousin of Winston Churchill. The bust was presented to the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, to be displayed in Government House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan). This was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi in a letter to Lord Linlithgow in 1940.

He served a pro-vice-chancellor of Benaras Hindu University, to which his father Sir Rameshwar Singh was a major benefactor, inherited investments in businesses and industries begun by his father, who was also the co-founder of Bengal National Bank in 1908. Some of the major companies controlled by him were : Darbhanga Aviations (an airlines company owned by him); The Indian Nation and Aryavatra – newspaper, Thacker Spink & Co; a publishing company; Ashok Paper Mills, Sakri Sugar Factory and Pandaul Sugar Factory, Rameshwar Jute Mills, Darbhanga Dairy Farms, Darbhanga Marketing Co, Darbhanga Lahoriasrai Electric Supply Corporation, Walford, an automobile showroom at Calcutta. Further, he held controlling or major stakes, among others, in British India Corporation, which owned several mills in Kanpur & other parts, Octavius Steel (a large conglomerate having varied interests in Steel, Jute and Tea); Villiers & Co (colliery), through his company, Darbhanga Investments. After the independence of India from British rule in 1947, the Government of India initiated several land reform actions and the Zamindari system was abolished. The fortunes of Darbhanga Raj dwindled.

The last ruler of Raj Darbhanga was Maharaja Bahadur Sir Kameshwar Singh. He died in 1960 without naming a successor.


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.[12]

Seven major rivers flow through Mithila: Mahananda, Gandak, Kosi, Bagmati, Kamala, Balan, and the Budhi Gandak.[13] 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 (Mithila painting) is practiced in the Mithila region of India and Nepal. Mithila Painting.jpg 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.[14]

Major Institute of 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.[15]

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.” [16]


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 speaks Maithili for the most of time whereas they used to speak 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.

Maithili Calendar[edit]

The Maithili calendar or Tirhuta Panchang is followed by the Maithili community of India and Nepal. It is one of the many Hindu calendars based on Vikram Samvat. It is a sidereal solar calendar in which the year begins on the first day of Baisakh month, i.e., Mesh Sankranti. This day falls on 13/14 April of the Georgian calendar. Pohela Baishakh in Bangladesh and in West Bengal, Rangali Bihu in Assam, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, and Vaishakhi in Punjab are observed on the same day. These festivals mark the beginning of new year in their respective regions.

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:


Maithili language speakers are referred to as Maithils and they are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group. There are an estimated 45 million Maithils in India alone. The vast majority of them are Hindu.[17]

The people of Mithila can be split into various caste/clan affiliations such as Brahmins, Bhumihars, Rajputs, Koeris, Baniyas, Kayasthas, Kamatas, Ahirs, Kurmis, Dushads, Koeris and many more.[18]

Notable people[edit]

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


Ravish Kumar Vikas Kumar Jha George Orwell, English novelist and essayist, journalist and critic and author of 6 Novels as follows

  • Rambriksh Benipuri freedom fighter, Socialist Leader, editor and Hindi writer
  • Devaki Nandan Khatri Indian writer who belonged to the first generation of popular novelists in the modern Hindi language.
  • Ganganath Jha a scholar of Sanskrit, Indian philosophy and Buddhist philosophy.
  • Ramjee Singh former Member of Parliament and vice-chancellor of Jain Vishva Bharati University. He is an eminent Gandhian and is the author of a number of books on him. he has earned three doctorate degrees, a PhD in Jainism, a D.Litt. in Hindu thought and another D.Litt. in Political Science in Gandhism and was awarded emeritus fellowship. As a social activist he participated in freedom movement of India in 1942 under Gandhi's leadership and also suffered imprisonment for 21 months when the Indian government had suppressed all civil and political rights and imposed emergency in 1975–77.
  • Acharya Ramlochan Saran a Hindi literature, grammarian and publisher.
  • Ramesh Chandra Jha an Indian poet, novelist and freedom fighter. Wrote 15 Poetry Collection , 7 Historical Novel, 2 Patriotic Work, 6 Social-Political Novel, 14 Children's Literature , 2 Autobiographical Novel, 3 Research Work and one Bhojpuri Novel.

went to jail many times during British rule because of his involvement in the Quit India Movement. He was student of Hazarimal High School, Raxaul that time and was entrapped into several cases of the robbery at police stations during freedom struggle. In his school days he led student protest and was later thrown out from the school.

  • Binod Bihari Verma ,a poet and army man. His father was a freedom fighter, Gandhian and worker for the upliftment of the poor, and he inculcated these values in his children as well. In 1962, during the Sino-Indian War, Verma joined the Indian Army. He was commissioned into the Army Medical Corps in 1963 and served in areas such as Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Punjab, Assam and Goa.

Verma fought in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and in 1984 he took a permanent commission in the army. He was involved in Operation Bluestar in 1984 and the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka in 1988–1990. He is most noted for his pioneering work on Panjis, which are ancient genealogical charts, Maithili Karna Kayasthak Panjik Sarvekshan. He is also known for his depiction of rural poor of the Mithila region in his writings.

  • Acharya Rameshwar Jha, traditional Sanskrit scholar and considered an authority on Nyaya, Vyakarana and Vedanta. He later became an exponent of non dualistic shaivisim and is often credited with establishing and propagating Kashmir Shaivism in Varanasi. His spiritual experiences and deep understanding of ancient texts were spontaneously expressed in numerous Sanskrit verses.
  • Phanishwar Nath 'Renu' one of the most successful and influential writers of modern Hindi literature in the post-Premchand era. He is the author of Maila Anchal, which after Premchand's Godaan, is regarded as the most significant Hindi novel.
  • Ravindra Prabhat a Hindi novelist, journalist, poet, and short story writer.
  • Gajendra Thakur Literary critic, historian,Novelist, Dramatist, Poet,Lexicographer.
  • Anerood Jugnauth former President of Mauritius
  • Parmanand Jha first Vice-President of Nepal

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.[27]

Nepalese Mithila
Nepalese Province No. 2

There is a movement in the Maithili speaking areas of Nepal for a separate province.[28] 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'.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Santhal Pargana division is headquartered at Dumka and the cited source mentions the division as "Dumka division"


  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.
  2. ^ Mishra, V. (1979). Cultural Heritage of Mithila. Allahabad: Mithila Prakasana. p. 13.
  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. Archived from the original on 23 August 2017.
  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. ^ Jha, Pankaj Kumar (2010). Sushasan Ke Aaine Mein Naya Bihar. Bihar (India): Prabhat Prakashan. ISBN 9789380186283.
  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. ^ Witzel, M. (1989). "Tracing the Vedic dialects". In Caillat, C. (ed.). Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes. Paris: Fondation Hugot. pp. 141–143.
  10. ^ Hemchandra, R. (1972). Political History of Ancient India. Calcutta: University of Calcutta.
  11. ^ Jha, Makhan (1997). Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective. pp. 55–56. ISBN 9788175330344.
  12. ^ 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.[dead link]
  13. ^ "Rivers of Bihar | Bihar Articles". Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  14. ^ Madhubani Painting. 2003. p. 96. ISBN 9788170171560. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  15. ^ Carolyn Brown Heinz, 2006, "Documenting the Image in Mithila Art," Visual Anthropology Review, Vol. 22, Issue 2, pp. 5-33
  16. ^
  17. ^ James B. Minahan (30 August 2012). Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ISBN 9781598846607.
  18. ^ Makhan Jha (1997). Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective. pp. 33–40. ISBN 9788175330344.
  19. ^ "Ramdhari Singh Dinker - Hindi ke Chhayavadi Kavi". Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  20. ^ Nitish Kumar and the Rise of Bihar. Penguin Books India. 1 January 2011. ISBN 9780670084593.
  21. ^ "" मुख्य समाचार " :: नेपाल ::". 24 May 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  22. ^ "Seasons India :: Hindi Literature of India". Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain's impersonator arrested". Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  25. ^ "PM's 'lack' of leadership has made UPA 'sinking ship': BJP". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  26. ^ "8th Lok Sabha – Members Bioprofile – AZAD, SHRI BHAGWAT JHA". Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ "Samiti vows to protest for Mithila Province".


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

External links[edit]