Maithils (Tirhuta: মৈথিল, Devanagri: मैथिल, ) also known as Maithili people are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group who speak the Maithili language and inhabit the Mithila region, which is now situated mainly in Northern Bihar of India and some adjoining districts of the eastern Terai of Nepal.
The Maithil homeland forms an important part of Hindu mythology as it is said to be the birthplace of Sita, the wife of Ram. "Pure" Maithil culture is said to be found in the villages of Madhubani district in Bihar.
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 where called Janakas.
The Videha Kingdom later became incorporated into the Vajji confederacy which was based in Mithila.
From the 11th century to the 20th century, Mithila was ruled by various indigenous dynasties. The first of these where the Karnatas who where of Parmar Rajput origin, the Oinwar dynasty who where Maithil Brahmins and the Khandavalas of Raj Darbhanga who where also Maithil Brahmins. It was during this period that the capital of Mithila was shifted to Darbhanga.
Maithils are those who reside of North of the Ganges; based around Darbhanga and the rest of North Bihar. Maithili speaking districts that are inhabited by Maithils in India are Muzzafarpur, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Saharsa, Purnea, Madhepura, Supaul, Madhubani and North Monghyr.
Darbhanga in particular played an important role in the history of Mithila and is considered one of its "core centers". It was the center of Raj Darbhanga who ruled most of the region. Madhubani was also where Madhubani paintings originated from which is a major part of Maithil culture. Sitamarhi is claimed by many to be the birthplace of Goddess Sita with Sitakund being a major pilgrimage site.
Most of the region from Jhapa to Parsa in Nepal (centered around Janakpur, in southeastern Nepal) form Nepalese Mithila. This area was part of the kingdom of Videha, with its capital at Janakpur (or Mithila Nagari). The kingdom appears in the Ramayana; according to it and other ancient texts, it is the birthplace of Janaka, father of Hindu Goddess Sita. Many people claim Janakpur to be the birthplace of Goddess Sita also but this is disputed as many consider Sitamarhi as Her birthplace. Maithils in Nepal have been working towards a "Free Maithil state".
Many ethnic groups and castes inhabit the Mithila region, these include Maithil Brahmins, Rajputs, Bhumihars, Kayasthas, Ahirs, Kurmis, Koeris, Baniyas and many more.
Maithil Brahmins are the Hindu Brahmin community of the Mithila region. They are one of the five Pancha-Gauda Brahmin communities. They are also noted for panjis, the extensive genealogical records maintained for the last twenty-four generations.
Rajputs are scattered throughout the region and are divided into various sub-clans with the most prominent being the Gandhawarias who ruled estates mainly in Saharsa and Madhepura. The Rajputs of Mithila maintain social and marital relations with Rajputs in other states.
The common language of Maithil people is Maithili, which is one of the recognised regional languages of India and the second national language of Nepal elisted in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and the Interim Constitution of Nepal. It is an ancient language, from which Nepali, Bengali and related scripts have evolved. The oldest example of this Mithilakshar or Tirhuta script is a Shiva temple inscription in Tilkeshwarsthāna (near Kusheshwarsthāna, in Darbhangā district), in which it is mentioned in Eastern Māgadhi Prākrit that the temple was built on "Kāttika sudi" (Kārtika Shukla pratipadā, or the first tithi in the bright half of the Hindu lunar month of Kārtika) in "Shake 125" (AD 203) on the day after Diwāli (still regarded as auspicious for installing an icon in a temple). The script of the inscription is little different from modern Maithili script. However, during the 20th century most Maithili writers gradually adopted Devanagari script for Maithili. Some traditional pandits still use Tirhutā or Mithilākshara script for pātā (ceremonial letters related to important functions, such as marriage). Fonts for this script were developed in 2003.
Historically most Maithils never left their homeland – a life that kept them isolated in their own localities. In this isolation they developed a unique culture free from the influence of other parts of India, or from the mountain and hills groups of Nepal. The most striking aspects of their environment are the decorated rice containers, colorfully painted verandahs and outer walls of their homes using only available materials like clay, mud, dung and grass. Much of the rich design is rooted in devotional activities and passed on from one generation to the next, occasionally introducing contemporary elements such as a bus or an airplane.
Traditionally Maithils lived in Badaghars called longhouses with big families of many generations, sometimes 40-50 people. All household members pool their labor force, contribute their income, share the expenditure and use one kitchen.
The religious practices of the Maithils is based on orthodox Hinduism as Mithila has historically been a principle seat of Hindu learning.
The people of Mithila traditionally subsisted on farming, irrigation is one of the most important aspects of the community. Maithils in Eastern Nepal built canals that irrigate thousands of hectares of land. They plant rice, mustard, corn and lentils, but also collect forest products such as wild fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants and materials to build their houses; hunt deer, rabbit and wild boar, and go fishing in the rivers and oxbow lakes. Hundreds of years ago, without using any sophisticated tools, they built hundreds of kilometers of irrigation canals in the Jhapa and Morang districts of Nepal. An irrigation canal could be used by several villages. Its water and diversion works need to be managed fairly. As a token of respect, the community members may also help them in farming for a day free of cost.
Mithila regionalism unites Maithils of India and Maithil of Nepal from both sides of international border. Since they share a common history, language, culture, ethnicity, and same origin, they feel part of one Mithila. Positive events on one side of the international border are celebrated on the other side, and negative events are mourned on both sides.Sita - the wife of the Hindu figure Ram.
King Janaka - King of the Videha kingdom.
Kirti Azad - former Indian cricketer and politician for Darbhanga.
Udit Narayan -Bollywood playback singer.
Jyotirishwar Thakur- Maithili poet and writer.
Vidyapati - Maithili poet and a Sanskrit writer.
Shiva Singh - 15th century King of Mithila.
Kameshwar Singh Bahadur - the last zamindar of Raj Darbhanga in India.
Ram Baran Yadav - former president of Nepal.
Kranti Prakash Jha - Bollywood actor and model.
Gangesha Upadhyaya - 12th century Indian mathematician and philosopher.