Maithili language

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मैथिली / 𑒧𑒻𑒟𑒱𑒪𑒲
Maithili in Tirhuta script.svg
Maithili in traditional Tirhuta and recent Devanagari script
Native to India and Nepal
Region Bihar and Jharkhand in India;[1][2] Province No. 2 and Province No. 1 in Nepal
Ethnicity Maithil
Native speakers
30–35 million (2000)[3]
(only 13.58 million reported their languages as Maithili on the 2011 census of India,[4] as many consider it to be a variety of Hindi
Tirhuta (Mithilakshar) (Former)
Kaithi (Maithili style) (Former)
Devanagari (Current)
Official status
Official language in
 India (8th schedule of Constitution of India, Bihar, Jharkhand)[8]
   Nepal (Interim Constitution 2007 and Constitution 2016)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 mai
ISO 639-3 mai
Glottolog mait1250[9]

Maithili (/ˈmtɪli/;[10] Maithilī) is an Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian subcontinent, mainly spoken in India and Nepal. In India, it is spoken in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand and is one of the 22 recognised Indian languages.[11][1][2] In Nepal, it is spoken in the eastern Terai and is the second most prevalent language of Nepal. It is also one of the 122 recognized Nepalese languages.[12][13] Tirhuta was formerly the primary script for written Maithili. Less commonly, it was also written in the local variant of Kaithi.[14] Today it is written in the Devanagari script.[15]

Official status

In 2003, Maithili was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution as a recognised Indian language, which allows it to be used in education, government, and other official contexts in India.[11]

The Maithili language is included as an optional paper in the UPSC Exam.

In 2007, Maithili was included in the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2063, Part 1, Section 5[16] as a recognized Nepalese language.

In March 2018, Maithili received the second official language status in the Indian state of Jharkhand.[17]

Geographic distribution

In India, Maithili is spoken mainly in Bihar and Jharkhand in the districts of Darbhanga, Samastipur, Madhubani, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Begusarai, Munger, Khagaria, Purnia, Katihar, Kishanganj, Sheohar, Bhagalpur, Madhepura, Araria, Supaul, Vaishali, Saharsa, Ranchi, Bokaro, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Deoghar. Madhubani, Samastipur and Darbhanga constitute cultural and linguistic centers.[18]

In Nepal, Maithili is spoken mainly in the Outer Terai districts including Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusa, Sunsari, Siraha, Morang and Saptari Districts. Janakpur is an important linguistic centre of Maithili.[18]


In the 19th century, linguistic scholars considered Maithili as a dialect of Bihari languages and grouped it with other languages spoken in Bihar. Hoernlé compared it with Gaudian languages and recognized that it shows more similarities with Bengali languages than with Hindi. Grierson recognized it as a distinct language and published the first grammar in 1881.[19][20]

Chatterji grouped Maithili with Magadhi Prakrit.[21]


Maithili varies greatly in dialects.[22] The standard form of Maithili is Sotipura or Central Maithili or Madhubani dialect[23] which is mainly spoken in Darbhanga and Madhubani districts in Bihar, India.[24]

Several other dialects of Maithili are spoken in India and Nepal, including Dehati, Kisan, Bantar, Barmeli, Musar, Tati, Kortha and Jolaha. All the dialects are intelligible to native Maithili speakers.[18]

Origin and history

The name Maithili is derived from the word Mithila, an ancient kingdom of which King Janaka was the ruler (see Ramayana). Maithili is also one of the names of Sita, the wife of King Rama and daughter of King Janaka. Scholars in Mithila used Sanskrit for their literary work and Maithili was the language of the common folk (Abahatta).

The beginning of Maithili language and literature can be traced back to the 'Charyapadas', a form of Buddhist mystical verses, composed during the period of 700-1300 AD. These padas were written in Sandhya bhasa by several Siddhas who belonged to Vajrayana Buddhism and were scattered throughout the territory of Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. Several of Siddas were from Mithila region such as Kanhapa, Sarhapa etc. Prominent scholars like Rahul Sankrityanan, Subhadra Jha and Jayakant Mishra provided evidences and proved that the language of Charyapada is ancient Maithili or proto Maithili.[27] Apart from Charyapadas, there has been rich tradition of folk culture, folk songs and which were popular among common folks of Mithila region.[citation needed]

After the fall of Pala rule, disappearance of Buddhism, establishment of Karnāta kings and patronage of Maithili under Harasimhadeva (1226–1324) of Karnāta dynasty dates back to the 14th century (around 1327 AD). Jyotirishwar Thakur (1280–1340) wrote a unique work Varnaratnākara in Maithili prose. [28] The Varna Ratnākara is the earliest known prose text, written by Jyotirishwar Thakur in Mithilaksar script[19], and is the first prose work not only in Maithili but in any modern Indian language.[29]

In 1324, Ghyasuddin Tughluq, the emperor of Delhi invaded Mithila, defeated Harisimhadeva, entrusted Mithila to his family priest Kameshvar Jha, a Maithil Brahmin of the Oinwar dynasty. But the disturbed era did not produce any literature in Maithili until Vidyapati Thakur (1360 to 1450), who was an epoch-making poet under the patronage of king Shiva Singh and his queen Lakhima Devi. He produced over 1,000 immortal songs in Maithili on the theme of love of Radha and Krishna and the domestic life of Shiva and Parvati as well as on the subject of suffering of migrant labourers of Morang and their families; besides, he wrote a number of treaties in Sanskrit. His love-songs spread far and wide in no time and enchanted saints, poets and youth. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu saw the divine light of love behind these songs, and soon these songs became themes of Vaisnava sect of Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore, out of curiosity, imitated these songs under the pseudonym Bhanusimha. Vidyapati influenced the religious literature of Asama, Bangal, Utkala and gave birth to a new Brajabuli language.[citation needed]

The earliest reference to Maithili or Tirhutiya is in Amaduzzi's preface to Beligatti's Alphabetum Brammhanicum, published in 1771.[30] This contains a list of Indian languages amongst which is 'Tourutiana.' Colebrooke's essay on the Sanskrit and Prakrit languages, written in 1801, was the first to describe Maithili as a distinct dialect.[31]

Many devotional songs were written by Vaisnava saints, including in the mid-17th century, Vidyapati and Govindadas. Mapati Upadhyaya wrote a drama titled Pārijātaharaṇa in Maithili. Professional troupes, mostly from dalit classes known as Kirtanias, the singers of bhajan or devotional songs, started to perform this drama in public gatherings and the courts of the nobles. Lochana (c. 1575 – c. 1660) wrote Rāgatarangni, a significant treatise on the science of music, describing the rāgas, tālas, and lyrics prevalent in Mithila.[citation needed]

During the Malla dynasty's rule Maithili spread far and wide throughout Nepal from the 16th to the 17th century.[32][33] During this period, at least seventy Maithili dramas were produced. In the drama Harishchandranrityam by Siddhinarayanadeva (1620–57), some characters speak pure colloquial Maithili, while others speak Bengali, Sanskrit or Prakrit.[citation needed]

After the demise of Maheshwar Singh, the ruler of Darbhanga Raj, in 1860, the Raj was taken over by the British Government as regent. The Darbhanga Raj returned to his successor, Maharaj Lakshmishvar Singh, in 1898. The Zamindari Raj had a lackadaisical approach toward Maithili. The use of Maithili language was revived through personal efforts of MM Parameshvar Mishra, Chanda Jha, Munshi Raghunandan Das and others.[citation needed]

Publication of Maithil Hita Sadhana (1905), Mithila Moda (1906), and Mithila Mihir (1908) further encouraged writers. The first social organization, Maithil Mahasabha, was established in 1910 for the development of Mithila and Maithili. It blocked its membership for people outside from the Maithil Brahmin and Karna Kayastha castes. Maithil Mahasabha campaigned for the official recognition of Maithili as a regional language. Calcutta University recognized Maithili in 1917, and other universities followed suit.[citation needed]

Babu Bhola Lal Das wrote Maithili Grammar (Maithili Vyakaran). He edited a book Gadyakusumanjali and edited a journal Maithili.[citation needed] In 1965, Maithili was officially accepted by Sahitya Academy, an organization dedicated to the promotion of Indian literature.[citation needed]

In 2002, Maithili was recognized on the VIII schedule of the Indian Constitution as a major Indian language; Maithili is now one of the twenty two national languages of India.[34]

The publishing of Maithili books in Mithilakshar script was started by Acharya Ramlochan Saran.[citation needed]



Labial Dental/
Retroflex Palato-
Velar Glottal
voiceless p t ʈ k
aspirated ʈʰ tʃʰ
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
murmured ɖʱ dʒʱ ɡʱ
Fricative s (ʂ) (ʃ) h
Nasal m n (ɳ) (ŋ)
Tap ɾ (ɽ)
Lateral l
Approximant (w) (j)
  • Fricative sounds [ʂ, ʃ] only occur marginally, and are typically pronounced as a dental fricative /s/ in most styles of pronunciation.
  • In most styles of pronunciation, the retroflex flap [ɽ] occurs marginally, and is usually pronounced as an alveolar tap /ɾ/ sound.
  • A retroflex nasal sound [ɳ] only occurs before a voiced retroflex /ɖ/ sound.
  • A velar nasal sound [ŋ] only occurs before a velar plosive consonant.
  • Approximant sounds [w, j], mainly occur in words that are borrowed from Sanskrit or in words of Perso-Arabic origin.


Front Central Back
short nasal short nasal short nasal
Close i ĩ u ũ
Mid e ə ə̃ o õ
Open æ æ̃ a ã ɔ ɔ̃
  • All vowel sounds are realized as nasal when occurring before or after a nasal consonant.[35]

Writing system

Consonants in Mithilakshar

Maithili was traditionally written in their own script which is known as Mithilakshar or Tirhuta. This script is similar to Bengali script. Devanagari script is most commonly used since the 20th century.[36]

The Tirhuta (Mithilakshar) and Kaithi scripts are both currently included in Unicode.

Maithili calendar

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.

Names and approximate lengths of Maithili months[37]
No. Name Maithili (Tirhuta) Maithili (Devanagari) Sanskrit Days (Traditional Hindu sidereal solar calendar)
1 Baisakh বৈসাখ बैसाख वैशाख 30 / 31
2 Jeth জেঠ जेठ ज्येष्ठ 31 / 32
3 Akhadh অখাঢ় अखाढ़ आषाढ 31 / 32
4 Saon সারোন साओन श्रावण 31 / 32
5 Bhado ভাদো भादो भाद्रपद, भाद्र, प्रोष्ठपद 31 / 32
6 Aasin আসিন आसिन आश्विन 31 / 30
7 Katik কাতিক कातिक कार्तिक 29 / 30
8 Agahan অগহন अगहन अग्रहायण, मार्गशीर्ष 29 / 30
9 Poos পূস पूस पौष 29 / 30
10 Magh মাঘ माघ माघ 29 / 30
11 Phagun ফাগুন फागुन फाल्गुन 29 / 30
12 Chait চৈতি चैति चैत्र 30 / 31


See also


  • George A. Grierson (1909). An Introduction to the Maithili dialect of the Bihari language as spoken in North Bihar. Asiatic Society, Calcutta.
  • Ramawatar Yadav, Tribhvan University. Maithili Language and Linguistics: Some Background Notes (PDF). University of Cambridge.


  1. ^ a b "मैथिली लिपि को बढ़ावा देने के लिए विशेषज्ञों की जल्द ही बैठक बुला सकते हैं प्रकाश जावड़ेकर". Archived from the original on 21 March 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b "मैथिली को भी मिलेगा दूसरी राजभाषा का दर्जा". Hindustan. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  3. ^ Maithili at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Maithili". Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
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  8. ^ "झारखंड : रघुवर कैबिनेट से मगही, भोजपुरी, मैथिली व अंगिका को द्वितीय भाषा का दर्जा". Archived from the original on 21 March 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  9. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Maithili". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  10. ^ "Maithili". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ "Nepal". Ethnologue. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  13. ^ Sah, K. K. (2013). "Some perspectives on Maithili". Nepalese Linguistics (28): 179–188.
  14. ^ Brass, P. R. (2005). Language, Religion and Politics in North India. Lincoln: iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-34394-5. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  15. ^ Yadava, Y. P. (2013). Linguistic context and language endangerment in Nepal. Nepalese Linguistics 28 Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine: 262–274.
  16. ^ Government of Nepal (2007). Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 Archived 15 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "झारखंड : रघुवर कैबिनेट से मगही, भोजपुरी, मैथिली व अंगिका को द्वितीय भाषा का दर्जा". Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  18. ^ a b c Lewis, M. P., ed. (2009). "Maithili". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (Sixteenth ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Archived 22 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ a b Yadav, R. (1979). "Maithili language and Linguistics: Some Background Notes" (PDF). Maithili Phonetics and Phonology. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Kansas, Lawrence. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 May 2017.
  20. ^ Yadav, R. (1996). A Reference Grammar of Maithili. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, New York.
  21. ^ Chatterji, S. K. (1926). The origin and development of the Bengali language. University Press, Calcutta.
  22. ^ Brass, P. R. (2005). Language, Religion, and Politics in North India. iUniverse, Lincoln, NE.
  23. ^ Yadav, R. (1992). "The Use of the Mother Tongue in Primary Education: The Nepalese Context" (PDF). Contributions to Nepalese Studies. 19 (2): 178–190. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 April 2016.
  24. ^ Choudhary, P.K. 2013. Causes and Effects of Super-stratum Language Influence, with Reference to Maithili. Journal of Indo-European Studies 41(3/4): 378–391.
  25. ^ Simons, G. F. and Fennig, C. D., eds. (2018). "Maithili. Ethnologue: Languages of the World". Dallas: SIL International. Retrieved 7 December 2018.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  26. ^ Ray, K. K. (2009). Reduplication in Thenthi Dialect of Maithili Language. Nepalese Linguistics 24: 285–290.
  27. ^ Mishra, J. (1949). A History Of Maithili Literature. 1.
  28. ^ Chatterji, S. K. (1940). Varna Ratnakara Of Jyotirisvara Kavisekharacarya.
  29. ^ Reading Asia : new research in Asian studies. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. 2001. ISBN 0700713719. OCLC 48560711.
  30. ^ Ded. St. Borgiae Clementi, XIV. Praef. J. Chr. Amadutii (1771). Alphabetum Brammhanicum Seu Indostanum Universitatis Kasi (in Latin). Palala Press. pp. viii. ISBN 9781173019655.
  31. ^ Thomas Colebrooke, H. (1873). Miscellaneous essays. With life of the author by his son Sir T.E. Colebrooke, Volume 3. p. 26. ISBN 9781145371071.
  32. ^ Ayyappappanikkar; Akademi, Sahitya (January 1999). Medieval Indian literature: an anthology, Volume 3. p. 69. ISBN 9788126007882. Archived from the original on 19 February 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  33. ^ Gellner, D.; Pfaff-Czarnecka, J.; Whelpton, J. (6 December 2012). Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom: The Politics and Culture of ... p. 243. ISBN 9781136649561. Archived from the original on 19 February 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  34. ^ Singh, P. & Singh, A. N. (2011). Finding Mithila between India's Centre and Periphery. Journal of Indian Law & Society 2: 147–181.
  35. ^ Yadav, Ramawatar (1996). A Reference Grammar of Maithili. Trends in Linguistics: Documentation, 11.: Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 15–27.CS1 maint: location (link)
  36. ^ Pandey, A. (2009). Towards an Encoding for the Maithili Script in ISO/IEC 10646. Archived 14 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine The University of Michigan, Michigan.
  37. ^ Maithili Calendar, published from Darbhanga

External links

  • UCLA Language Materials Project : Maithili
  • National Translation Mission's (NTM) Maithili Pages
  • Videha Ist Maithili ISSN 2229-547X
  • Maithili Books
  • Udbodhana Regd International e journal
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