Maithili (; ''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. 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.Yadava, Y. P. (2013). Linguistic context and language endangerment in Nepal
Nepalese Linguistics 28
: 262–274.

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. The Maithili language is included as an optional paper in the UPSC Exam. In March 2018, Maithili received the second official language status in the Indian state of Jharkhand.

Geographic distribution

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


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. Chatterji grouped Maithili with Magadhi Prakrit.


Maithili varies greatly in dialects. The standard form of Maithili is Sotipura or Central Maithili or Madhubani dialect which is mainly spoken in Darbhanga and Madhubani districts in Bihar, India. *Bajjika dialect of Maithili is spoken in Samastipur, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, East Champaran and West Champaran districts of Bihar in India. Bajjika is listed as a distinct language in Nepal and overlaps by 76–86% with Maithili dialects spoken in Dhanusa, Morang, Saptari, and Sarlahi Districts. * Thēthi dialect is spoken mainly in Kosi, Purnia and Munger divisions of Bihar, India and some adjoining districts of Nepal. Angika is sometimes considered a dialect of Maithili. 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.

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. Apart from Charyapadas, there has been rich tradition of folk culture, folk songs and which were popular among common folks of Mithila region. 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. The ''Varna Ratnākara'' is the earliest known prose text, written by Jyotirishwar Thakur in Mithilaksar script, and is the first prose work not only in Maithili but in any modern Indian language. 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, Bengal, Utkala and gave birth to a new Brajabuli language. The earliest reference to Maithili or Tirhutiya is in Amaduzzi's preface to Beligatti's ''Alphabetum Brammhanicum'', published in 1771. 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. 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. During the Malla dynasty's rule Maithili spread far and wide throughout Nepal from the 16th to the 17th century. 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. 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. 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. Babu Bhola Lal Das wrote ''Maithili Grammar'' (''Maithili Vyakaran''). He edited a book ''Gadyakusumanjali'' and edited a journal ''Maithili''. In 1965, Maithili was officially accepted by Sahitya Academy, an organization dedicated to the promotion of Indian literature. 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 Scheduled languages of India.Singh, P. & Singh, A. N. (2011). Finding Mithila between India's Centre and Periphery. ''Journal of Indian Law & Society'' 2: 147–181. The publishing of Maithili books in Mithilakshar script was started by Acharya Ramlochan Saran.



* Fricative sounds only occur marginally, and are typically pronounced as a dental fricative // in most styles of pronunciation.ः is always added after a vowel. * In most styles of pronunciation, the retroflex flap occurs marginally, and is usually pronounced as an alveolar tap // sound. * A retroflex nasal sound only occurs before a voiced retroflex // sound. * Approximant sounds and fricative sounds , mainly occur in words that are borrowed from Sanskrit or in words of Perso-Arabic origin. From Sanskrit, ''puʂp(ə)'' as ''puɸp(ə)''. Conjunct of ''ɦj'' as ''ɦʑ'' as in ''graɦjə'' as ''graɦʑə''.

Non syllabic Vowels

There are four non-syllabic vowels in Maithili- i̯, u̯, e̯, o̯ written in Devanagari as य़, व़, य़ॆ, व़ॊ. Most of the times, these are written without nukta.


* All vowels have nasal counterparts, represented by "~" in IPA and ँ on the vowels, like आँ ãː . *All vowel sounds are realized as nasal when occurring before or after a nasal consonant. * Sounds eː and oː are often replaced by diphthongs əɪ̯ and əʊ̯. *æ is a recent development. *ɔ is replaced by ə in northern dialects and by o in southernmost dialects. *There are three short vowels, as described by Grierson, but not counted by modern grammarians. But they could be understood as syllable break :- ॳ / ɘ̆ /, इऺ/ ɪ̆ /, उऺ/ ʊ̆ / . Or as syllable break ऺ in Devanagari and "." in IPA. * ꣾ is a Unicode letter in Devanagari, (IPA /əe̯/) which is not supported currently on several browsers and operating systems, along with its mātrā (vowel sign).


अय़(ꣾ) / əi̯ / ~ /ɛː/ - अय़सनऺ (ꣾ सनऺ) / əi̯sənᵊ / ~ /ɛːsɐnᵊ/ 'like this'
अव़(ॵ) / əu̯ / ~ /ɔː/- चव़मुुखऺ(चॏमुखऺ) / tɕəu̯mʊkʰᵊ / ~ /tɕɔːmʊkʰᵊ/ 'four faced'
अयॆ / əe̯ / - अयॆलाः / əe̯la:h / 'came'
अवॊ (अऒ) / əo̯ / - अवॊताः / əo̯ta:h / 'will come'
ऐ / a:i̯ / - ऐ / a:i̯ / 'today'
औ / a:u̯ / - औ / a:u̯ / 'come please'
आयॆ (आऎ) / a:e̯ / - आयॆलऺ / a:e̯l / 'came'
आवॊ (आऒ) / a:o̯ / - आवॊबऺ / a:o̯bᵊ / 'will come'
यु (इउ) / iu̯/ - घ्यु / ghiu̯ / 'ghee'
यॆ (इऎ) / ie̯ / - यॆः / ie̯h / 'only this'
यॊ (इऒ) / io̯ / - कह्यो / kəhio̯ / 'any day'
वि (उइ) / ui̯ / - द्वि / dui̯ / 'two'
वॆ (उऎ) /ue̯/ - वॆ: / ue̯h / 'only that'

Svarabhakti (Vowel Epenthesis)

A peculiar type of phonetic change is recently taking place in Maithili by way of epenthesis i.e. backward transposition of final i and u in all sort of words. Thus: Standard Colloquial - Common Pronunciation अछि / əchi / - अइछऺ / əich / 'is' रवि / rəbi / - रइबऺ / rəib / 'Sunday' मधु / mədhu / - मउधऺ / məudh / 'honey' बालु / ba:lu / - बाउलऺ / ba:ul / 'sand'


Grammatical cases

Nouns are inflected for several cases. Grammarians consider only few of them to be pure inflection. } ''kartā'') | |नेन खैतऺ छॏ। |Boy is eating. |∅ (Inherent Vowel) | -(अ)नऺ, -(अ)निऺ (ə)nᵊ, (ə)nɪ̆ |- ! rowspan="2" |Accusative ( sa2|कर्म ''karma'') !Definite Object (without determiners) |के ke |ऊ नेनाके खिलैैतꣿ। |He/she will feed the boy. | colspan="2" |Postposition used ← |- !Indefinite Object | |बियाहकऺ बादऺ ऊ पालऺतꣿ नेना। |He/she nurture a boy, after marriage | colspan="2" |∅ |- ! colspan="2" |Instrumental ( sa2|करण ''karaṇa'') |सँ sɔ̃ |नेनासँ गिरलऺ रहꣿ। |It was fallen by the boy. | -एँ ẽː** | -(अ)न्हिऺ (ə)nʰɪ̆ |- ! colspan="2" |Dative ( sa2|सम्प्रदान ''sampradāna'') |कॅ, लॅ, लेलऺ kæ læ, leːlᵊ |नेनाकॅ खाना खिलौ। |Feed the boy the food. | -(अ)ल (ə)lə |Postposition used ← |- ! colspan="2" |Ergative (सापेक्ष)‡ |न, नॆ nə, ne |नेनेँ पेड़ दॆखलऺकꣿ। |The boy saw the tree. | -एँ ẽː | rowspan="2" |No forms |- ! colspan="2" |Ablative ( sa2|अपादान ''apādāna'') |सॆ se |पेड़ऺसॆ फलऺ गिरलॏ। |Fruit fell from the tree. | -(अ)तः (ə)təh -(अ)हु* |- ! colspan="2" |Genitive ( sa2|सम्बन्ध ''sambandha'') |करऺ kərᵊ |नेनाकऺ खॆॆलॏनऽ छॏ। |The toy is of the boy. | -(अ)कऺ (ə)kᵊ -(अ)रऺ (ə)rᵊ | -केरऺ, -आँँकऺ keːrᵊ, ãːkə̆ᵊ |- ! colspan="2" |Locative ( sa2|अधिकरण ''adhikaraṇa'') |मेँ mẽː (Inessive), पर्, पॅ pər, pæ (Superessive) |छतऺपर् रखऺने छꣿ।
|It is placed on the terrace. | -ए eː**
-(अ)हि* | -आँ ãː |- ! colspan="2" |Postpositional (परसर्गीय parasargīya)§ | |अगऺलऽ महीनामेँ हॊय़तꣿ। |It will happen in next month. |∅ (In र, ड़, ढ़, ल, न, ब stems -आ aː) | rowspan="2" | -(अ)नऺ, -(अ)निऺ (ə)nᵊ, (ə)nɪ̆ (ə)nᵊ, (ə)nɪ̆ |- ! colspan="2" |Vocative ( sa2|सम्बोधन ''sambodhana'') | |रॏ नेनऽ! औ। |O boy! Come. |∅ **These forms are abundant in literature, but are less used in spoken language. *†It is a form came from locative. *‡Ergative is more used in eastern and southern dialects. Maithili also has parallel accusative structure and both can be used. If ergative is used, then nominative is used as absolutive. *Used only in neuter and inanimates. *§It is used, when a postposition is added to the word. Some other postpositions are- Some postpositions are added to the genitive too. *Inflectional plural is less in use than the Periphrastic one, and is mostly found in literature. *Periphrastic Plural is made by suffixes like सभऺ səbʰᵊ; लोकनिऺ loːknɪ̆, सबहिऺ səbəɦɪ̆, गण ɡəɳᵊ, जन dʑənᵊ could be used for animates and आरनिऺ aːrənɪ̆, सनि sənɪ for all.

Common vowel stem


The difference between adjectives and nouns is very minute in Maithili. However, there are marked adjectives there in Maithili.


Pronouns in Maithili are declined in similar way to nominals. However, genetic case has a different form in most of the pronouns. The lower forms are Accusative and Postpositional. Periphrastic Plural is used to form Plurals.

Writing system

Maithili was traditionally written in their own script which is known as Mithilakshar or Tirhuta. This script is similar to the Bengali-Assamese script. Devanagari script is most commonly used since the 20th century.Pandey, A. (2009)
Towards an Encoding for the Maithili Script in ISO/IEC 10646.
The University of Michigan, Michigan.
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.


See also

* Languages with official status in India * List of Indian languages by total speakers


* *


External links

UCLA Language Materials Project : Maithili

National Translation Mission's (NTM) Maithili Pages

Videha Ist Maithili

Maithili Books

Udbodhana Regd International e journal
{{Authority control Category:Eastern Indo-Aryan languages Category:Official languages of India Category:Languages of Bihar Category:Languages of Nepal Category:Culture of Mithila Category:Languages attested from the 14th century Category:Bihari languages Category:Languages of India Category:Languages of Jharkhand Category:Ancient languages