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 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 by the Raj Darbhanga, the British Raj annexed the region without recognizing it as a princely state.[5][6] Today, Mithila comprises the West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Begusarai, Munger, Khagaria, Saharsa, Madhepura, Supaul, Purnia, Araria, Katihar, Kishanganj, Bhagalpur, Godda, Deoghar and Banka districts of India and some adjoining districts of Nepal Terai.[1][7]


The name Mithila is derived after mythical King 'Miti' which means "Soil". He was supposed to have been created from the body of his father King Nimi. 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.[8]


Vedic period

Mithila first gained prominence after being settled by Indo-Aryan peoples who established the Videha kingdom.[9] 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 were called Janakas.[10] The Videha Kingdom was later incorporated into the Vajji confederacy, which had its capital in the city of Vaishali, which is also in Mithila.[11]

Medieval period

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.[12] It was during this period that the capital of Mithila was shifted to Darbhanga.[13][14]


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.[15]

Rivers and floods

Mithila has seven major rivers, Mahananda, Gandak, Kosi, Bagmati, Kamala, Balan, and the Budhi Gandak.[16] 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.[17]

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

Notable people from Mithila region

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


Madhubani art

Madhubani painting/Mithila painting was traditionally created by the women of different communities in Mithila region of India and Nepal. It is named after Madhubani district of Bihar, India which is where it originated.[44] 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.[45]

Proposed Indian state

There is an ongoing movement in the Maithili speaking region of Bihar for a separate Indian state of Mithila. A likely candidate for the capital of the proposed state is Darbhanga, while other potential sites include Muzaffarpur, Purnia, and Begusarai.[46]

Nepalese Province

There was also a movement in the Maithili speaking areas of Nepal for a separate state, which ended after the Constitution of Nepal 2015 guaranteed it and Province No. 2 was established. The 2015 Constitution transformed the country into the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, with a total of 7 provinces.[47]


Mithila holds a significant value in Hinduism as it is thought to be the birthplace of Sita, the wife of Rama.[48]


In the Jain tradition, it is believed that the 24th Tirthankara Mahavira was born in early part of the 6th-century BC into a royal family in what is now Vaishali district in Mithila region of Bihar, India. According to Jain Agamas, 21st Tirthankara Naminatha was born in Mithila[49] to King Vijaya and Queen Vapra.[50] Mithila was ruled by King Vijaya of Ikshvaku dynasty and after him, by Lord Naminatha.[51]

See more


  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. 
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  • Tukol, T. K. (1980). Compendium of Jainism. Dharwad: University of Karnataka. 
  • Shah, Umakant Premanand (1987). Jaina-Rupa Mandana: Jaina Iconography:, Volume 1. India: Shakti Malik Abhinav Publications. ISBN 81-7017-208-X. 

External links

  • The Maithil Brahmans - an online ethnography
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