History of Maithili

Maithili or Tirhutiya is  the language of Mithila or Tairabhukti , the ancient name of Tirhut 

According to the Mithila-mahatmya, a Sanskrit work of considerable repute  in the territory which it describes, Mithila is the country bounded on the north by the Himalaya, on the south by the Ganges, on the  west by the river Gandak, and on the east by the river kosi as well as the strip of the Nepal Tarai.

There are speakers of this great Bihari dialects  scattered all over the world. 

King Janaka Greets Dasharatha Before Rama's Wedding: by  an unknown painter of 1700-1710 AD,Source -Philadelphia museum                          

Maithili as a distinct language

Indeed, at that time it was the general belief that, all over Bihar, the language spoken was a corrupt form of Hindi, whereas, as Colebrooke had long previously pointed out, it was much more nearly allied to Bengali than to the Hindi . Matters remained in this state, till the Maithili grammar appeared in the year 1880-81. Hoernle, A. F. R. published a Grammar of the Eastern Hindi from London in 1880 and compared with the other Gaudian Languages. In this Grammar, Dr. Hoernle recognized Maithili as a dialect distinct from Hindi. He was able to give some specimens of its grammatical forms, but no published materials were then available.
Maithili is the only one of the Bihari dialects
 , which has a literary history. For centuries, the pandits of Mithila have been 
famous for their learning  and more than one Sanskrit work of  authority has been written by them.

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 in his famous essay on the Sanskrit and Prakrit languages written in the year 1801, is the first to describe Maithili  as a distinct dialectHe points out its affinity with Bengali, discusses the written character used by the Brahmans, and adds;
“as the dialect of Mithila has no extensive use, and does not appear to have been at any time cultivated by elegant poets, it is unnecessary to notice it any further in this place.”

Since then, like the other dialects of Bihar, Maithili remained unnoticed and forgotten, till Mr. Fallon gave a few specimens of it in the Indian Antiquary in the year 1875. In the preceding year some examples of the dialect were given in Sir George Campbell's Specimens, but they were there classed as some of many dialects of Hindi spoken in Bihar. 

 One of the few learned women of India whose name has come down to us was Lakhima
 Thakkurani, who, according to tradition, lived at the end of the 14th century A.D. Nor was the field of vernacular literature neglected by them. The earliest vernacular writer, of whom we have any record, was the celebrated Vidyapati, who raced in the court of Maharaja Shiva Simha of Sugaona ,who flourished in the middle of the l5th century

The age of Vidyapati is well known. He belonged to the fifteenth century and he was a long-lived man.   
Mahamahopadhyaya Hara Prasad Shastri has ascertained his date from a manuscript got in Nepal. 
As a writer of Sanskrit works Vidyapati  was an author of considerable repute, and one of his works, translated into Bengali, is familiar as a text-book, under the name of the Purusa-pariksha, to every student of that language. But it is upon his dainty songs in the vernacular that his fame mainly rests. He was the first of the old master- singers whose short religious poems, dealing mainly  with Radha and Krisna, exercised such an important influence on the religious history of Eastern India. His songs were adopted and enthusiastically recited by the celebrated Hindu reformer Chaitanya, who flourished at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and, through him, became the house-poetry of the Lower Provinces. Numbers of imitators sprung up, many of whom wrote in Vidyapati's name, so that it is now difficult to separate the genuine from the    imitations, especially as in the great collection of these Vaisnava songs, the Pada-kalpa-taru, which is the accepted authority in Bengal, the former have been altered in the course of generations to suit the Bengali idiom and metre. 

The Pada-kalpa-taru was the only record that we had of the poet's vernacular works, till, in the first edition of the Maithili Chrestomathy, GEORGE A. GRIERSON published a collection of songs attributed to Vidyapati,  which he collected in Mithila itself, partly from the mouths of itinerant singers and partly from manuscript collections in the possession of local pandits. That all the songs in this collection are genuine is not a matter capable of proof, but there can be little doubt that most of them are so, although the language has been greatly modernised in the course of transition from mouth to mouth during the past five centuries. A larger collection of these songs had also been made by Babu Nagendra Nath Gupta.
Coat of Arms of the Darbhanga Raj  Source-Golden Book of India, 1893
Amongst other writers in Maithili may be mentioned Man bodh Jha
, who died about the year 1788 A.D. He composed a Haribans, or poetical life of Krisna, of which ten cantos are still extant,and enjoy great popularity.

The drama  had several authors in Mithila. The local custom had been to write the body of a play in Sanskrit, but the songs in the vernacular. The best known of these plays are The Parijata-harana, and the Rukmini-parinaya, both by Vidyapati ,The Gauri-parinaya by Kavi-lala,The Usa-harana by Harsanatha  and The Prabhavati-harana by Bhanunatha.  Umapati Upadhyaya, a dramatist , attended the Court of Hari, or Hara Deva, whom GEORGE A. GRIERSON  considers to be the King of that name who ruled in Mithila in the fourteenth century. In a paper, he further discusses the identity of this ruler and the consequent date of the dramas,  which has been maintained by Pandit Chetnath Jha. Gokulnath Upadhyaya who lived in the days of Maharaja Raghava Sinha (1698— 1724), was a personal friend of Umapati Upadhyaya.  


The Dramas in Mithila

In the dramas of Mithila, the superior male characters all speak Sanskrit, and the women, when speaking prose, use Sauraseni Prakrit ; but all the songs, whether sung by men or women, are in the Maithili dialect .
Under the enlightened guidance of the late Maharaja of Darbhanga, there has been a remarkable revival of Maithili literature during the nineteenth century. Chandra Jha, who had remarkable literary powers, has written a Mithila-bhasha Ramayana, and a translation, with an edition of the original Sanskrit text, of the Purusa-pariksa of Vidyapati , both of which  repays well on  their perusal. 

Bibliography-
  • MAITHILI  DIALECT  OF  THE BIHARI LANGUAGE  AS SPOKEN IN  NORTH BIHAR   BY  GEORGE A. GRIERSON, C.I.E., Ph.D., D.Litt,(1909) PRINTED AT THE BAPTIST MISSION PRESS AND PUBLISHED BY THE ASIATIC SOCIETY, 57. PARK STREET. Calcutta
  • Asiatic Researches, Vol. VII (1801), pp. 199 
  •  A Grammar of the Eastern Hindi compared with the other Gaudian Languages.By Hoernle, A. F. R., — London, 1880. 
  •  Seven Grammars of the Dialects and Sub-Dialects of the Bihari Language.Grierson, G. A. , 1883 Calcutta 

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