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. It extends into the eastern Terai of Nepal.
The native language in Mithila is Maithili, and its speakers are referred to as Maithils.
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. 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. 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.
The name Mithila is derived after mythical King 'Mithi' 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.
Another name of the region was Tirabhukti meaning "bound by rivers". This was later abbreviated to Tirhut.
Mithila first gained prominence after being settled by Indo-Aryan peoples who established the Videha kingdom. 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. The Videha Kingdom was later incorporated into the Vajji confederacy, which had its capital in the city of Vaishali, which is also in Mithila.
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. It was during this period that the capital of Mithila was shifted to Darbhanga.
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.
Rivers and floods
Mithila has seven major rivers, Mahananda, Gandak, Kosi, Bagmati, Kamala, Balan, and the Budhi Gandak. 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.
The people of Mithila can be split into various caste/clan affiliations such as Brahmins, Rajputs, Kayasthas, Ahirs, Kurmis, Koeris, Baniyas and many more.
Notable people from Mithila region
The following are notable residents (past and present) of Mithila region.
- Nimi, Nimi is considered to be the first king of the Videha kingdom and belonged to the Janaka lineage of Mithila. Nimi was the grandson of Manu and son of Ikshwaku.
- Janaka, Janaka or Janak was a king of Videha. He is revered as being an ideal example of non-attachment to material possessions. As a king, he had access to luxuries and pleasures far beyond the ordinary, but his internal state was closer to that of a sadhu.
- Sita, kishoriji for Maithils, is the consort of Lord Rama (incarnation of Vishnu) and an avatar of Sri Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess that denotes good sign, good fortune, prosperity, success, and happiness. She is esteemed as the paragon of spousal and feminine virtues for all women.
- Ashtavakra, Ashtavakra is the author of the text Aṣṭāvakra Gītā, also known as Aṣṭāvakra Saṃhitā, in Hindu traditions. The text is a treatise on Brahman, Atman and monism (Advaita).Ashtavakra Geeta is the most prolific text on Mind-Body Relation.
- Aksapada Gautama, Great Philosopher from Mithila,The Nyāya Sūtras is an ancient Indian Sanskrit text composed by Akṣapāda Gautama, and the foundational text of the Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy.
- Yajnavalkya, Yajnavalkya was a Hindu Vedic sage.He is mentioned in the Upanishads,and likely lived in the Videha kingdom.Yajnavalkya is associated with major ancient texts in Sanskrit, namely the Shukla Yajurveda, the Shatapatha Brahmana, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Dharmasastra named Yājñavalkya Smṛti,Vrihad Yajnavalkya.He is also mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Puranas as well as in ancient Jainism texts such as the Isibhasiyaim.
- Naminatha, Naminatha was the twenty-first tirthankara of the present half time cycle, Avsarpini. He was born to the King Vijaya and Queen Vipra of the Ikshvaku dynasty. King Vijaya was the ruler of Mithila at that time.When Naminatha was in his mother's womb, Mihila was attacked by a group of powerful kings. The aura of Naminatha forced all the kings to surrender to King Vijaya.
- Gargi Vachaknavi, another Maithilani, was an ancient Indian philosopher. In Vedic Literature, she is honored as a great natural philosopher, renowned expounder of the Vedas,and known as Brahmavadini, a person with knowledge of Brahma Vidya. In the Sixth and the eighth Brahmana of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, her name is prominent as she participated in the brahmayajna, a philosophic debate organized by King Janaka of Videha and challenged the sage Yajnavalkya with perplexing questions on the issue of atman (soul).
- Maitreyi, another Maithilani, Maitreyi ("friendly one") was a Hindu philosopher who lived during the later Vedic period in ancient India. She is mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as one of two wives of the Vedic sage Yajnavalkya; She is estimated to have lived around the 8th century BCE.In ancient Sanskrit literature, she is known as a brahmavadini (an expounder of the Veda).
- Amarnath Jha, Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad and Banaras Hindu University, first chairman of UPSC.
- Aditya Nath Jha, Jha was the son of Sir Ganganath Jha, and the brother of Shri Amarnath Jha, a scholar of English and Sanskrit.He belonged to the 1937 batch of the ICS, also served as the first director of the National Academy of Administration, Mussorie and served as first lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
- Sharda Sinha, another Maithilani, Sharda Sinha is a folk-singer from Mithila. She was born in Hulas, Raghopur, Supaul district in Mithila region of Bihar.She is the most celebrated and renowned singer of Bihar who sings in Maithili, Bhojpuri and Magahi languages.
- Bhawana Kanth, Bhawana Kanth is the first female pilot of India. She was declared as the first combat pilot along with two of her cohort, Mohana Singh, and Avani Chaturvedi. The trio was inducted into the Indian Air Force fighter squadron in June 2016. They were formally commissioned by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar
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. 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.
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.
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.
Mithila holds a significant value in Hinduism as it is thought to be the birthplace of Sita, the wife of Rama.
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 to King Vijaya and Queen Vapra. Mithila was ruled by King Vijaya of Ikshvaku dynasty and after him, by Lord Naminatha.
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