Maithili Literature


Folk literature

17.1. Introduction:

The literature of illiterate communities grows like wild flowers planted with invisible hands. It is handed down orally from generation to generation reminding the tradition of pre historic Vedic people. The treasure of this oral literature in Maithili is enormous. G.A.Grierson initiated search and study of this treasure in as early as 1881. After a long gap, Brajkishor Varma 'Manipadma' took great interest in it and adopted several gathas or Ballads to his several novels, which include Naika Banijara, Raja salahes, Losic Vijaya etc. Dozen of research works and surveys are published mostly in Maithili. Lok Sahitya: Svarup evam saundarya written by Dr.Ram deo Jha deserves specific mention. The text with comments of a ballad entitled Karikh Lok gatha compiled by Dr.Mahendra Narayan Ram is perhaps the first of its kind after G.A.Grierson (1881). Collection and publication of this oral literature accurately is a long felt desideration before it is washed away in the fast changing world devastatingly.

17.2. Tradition:

Traditionally ballads are recited solo, accompanied with a single stringed instrument called Maithili aruna, a pleasant night of leisurely season without any special occasion.

Now-a-days ballads are adapted to a type of folk drama or nautanki accompanied with modern drums and instruments such as nals and clarinets, by professional teams of folk artists, invited in festive occasion.

The language of ballads is half way between prose and verse and preserves large number of words and expressions not in vogue now a days. The ballads are the rich depository of the cultural and social scenario and events of the past.

The number of Maithili ballads so far known and existent is more than a dozen. More popular ones are Salahes, Dina bhadari, Suthi kummari, Naika Banigar, Raiya Ranpal, Dulra Dayal, and Bihula Bisahari etc.

Excepting a few, all Maithili ballads sing the glories of the heroes belonging to the lowest castes. Whether these heroes are historical may be known only after in-depth study of these ballads and the puranas of the dalit class.

Majority of these ballads are confined to Mithila, some of them cover wider area in a locally modified form and language, lorik is the best example.

Some genres or types of oral literature are performed individually, some in a group and some individually. In case the content is in the form of question – answers, to it is rarely sung in duo.

The folklore in Mithila is performed generally in-group. Festival and ceremonial songs are never sung individually.

Types or genres of folk literature.


17.3. Ballads:

In Maithili folklore, ballad is the richest in bulk. Essentially the word ballad is not a happy English rendering of which is called Lokgatha. It may be compared to epics or puranas. It tells in detail the life and miracles of the defined heroes of some caste or community on a canvas of social settings. The departed souls of such heroes are worshipped by their caste or community in shrines. Some of their devotes invoke them in their own souls and bestow blessings. This performance is called bha:ǒ khela:ĕb.

17.4. Lyrics or folksongs:

General feature of folksongs is similar in all Indian languages and communities including Maithili. Maithili folksongs are, however, peculiar in one aspect. It is generally seen and believed that folksongs are characteristically anonymous. Maithili, or perhaps only Maithili, is an exception. Right from the great poet Vidyapati (1350-1450) down to Kashikant Mishra 'Madhup' (1906-1987), hundreds of well-known and some unpopular poets have been composing folksongs of several types and their names are invariably tagged in the concluding stanza in their compositions. Such signed songs are more refined in their language with poetic nicety and rhetoric charm without losing the essential simple point where literate and illiterate, high and low, men and women and all sections of the community come together.

Broadly Maithili folk songs may be divided in nine categories:

(a) Hymns or Devotional songs- This type shares the major portion of the stock. The sect-wise and period-wise distribution of hymns shows that, Lord Shiva occupied the largest number in almost all periods. The reason behind this seems to be the fact that the miseries in Maithil community tallied with those in the domestic life of Shiva. Lord Krishna, the one who is mainly associated with erotic songs dominates the second period. In the third or last, Lord Krishna’s period is cornered by Lord Rama. The goddesses of mother cult especially Kali and Durga continued to appear through all periods. In addition to these epic gods and goddesses, folk-gods i.e. caste gods and village gods occupy large number of devotional songs.

(b) Ritual songs - Maithili has nothing special in this category of songs. Sohar is sung during birth ceremony. The most moving and pathetic song in Maithili is Samadauni sung while sending one’s daughter to her husband’ home. In every step of marriage ritual, the marriage of Sita and Ram is paralleled.

(c) Dahkan or Imprecative (abusive) songs - calling names to certain relatives – such as father-in-law of one’s son and daughter, wife’s and husband’s brother and sister is a popular form of amusement in Mithila. Dahkan songs are the sweetest means for entertaining guests deserving such abuses during marriage ceremony. In lower class of the society, these songs often become vulgar.

(d) Betgabani or Travelogue - Batgabani means the songs meant for singing in the way. Women while going on in procession for performing a ritual sing it. In theme it is similar to general lyrics.

(e) Jog or song of enchantment - During marriage some customs of sorcery – type are observed to ensure lasting love of the couple. Songs accompanied with such acts is called jog i.e. miraculous device of Vashikarana.

(g) Songs of Sama – Chakeba - Based on a myth of immortal love, clay figurines of a pair of particular birds, called Shyama and Cakravaka, is worshipped by women in a group wishing long life for their brothers. This festival is characteristic to Maithil community. Now a days this is staged in the form of ballad dance or drama.

(h) Marsia - Muslim women sing Marsia in chorus often accompanied with the beats of jharni - the splitted bamboo sticks.

(i) Lagani – It is sung in duo while operating grinding wheel. It has its own tune and metrical composition, but its theme is not specific.

17.5. Sammar or Svayamvar

It is a long song narrating some marriage of Swayamvar type described in Hindu epics and puranas. It is popular only among literate women and differs a bit from the folk style. In other words it is a miniature of traditional Mahakavya.

17.6. Folk dance and drama:

Staging drama has been a taboo in Maithili. Not only the upper class people but also all cases, except some castes refrained from appearing on the stage. Similar is the case of dance as well. Women, the chief conservators and custodians of culture, have however, preserved some folk drama and folk dance in its rudiments. It is noteworthy that women in Maithili community never touched drum or musical instrument in the past, and all types of songs described above are sung without orchestra. It is also to be noted that one can find no difference between dance and drama. The following Maithili folk dramas deserve mention.

(a) Jata-jatin - Originally it seems to be based on some sorcery believed to bring rainfall. The belief and the trait of the sorcery still remain, but this article is concerned only with the drama accompanying it. It is played only by women. One plays the role of husband wearing male’s costume while another plays the role of his wife. The drama starts with a struggle for supremacy, one trying to subdue the other. Man becomes poorer in fulfilling her demands and is compelled to leave home for earning elsewhere, and returns with fortune enough to enjoy happy conjugal life. Modern artists now stage it with grand success in both rural and urban areas. It survives also in traditional style among rural folk.

(b) Domkach – The word ka:chab means in old Maithili to play the role of or to mimic some one. So domkach means ‘playing other’s role by the men of Dominant caste’ (renowned in the past for such performances). Now this form of dance is rarely seen. It was a kind of force performed specially on the occasion of marriage ceremony abusing the bride’s ride in amusement.

17.7. Religious discourse:

On specific religious occasions, stereotype discourse, mostly in prose is repeated as mantra or sacred. Of such occasions the most charming one is known as Madhushravani. It is similar to honeymoon in as much as it takes place in the ensuing month of Shravan (rainy season) after marriage. Bride and bridegroom together worship serpent gods for fifteen days during which interesting tales and poems not only religious but also erotic and entertaining are recited before the couple as if importing lessons for happy conjugal life. For example one couplet maybe seen:

		लाल सेनुर लाल ओडहुल लाल तिल कोर रे 
		ताहूसँ जे लाल देखल फलनाँ दाइक ठोर रे 

		/ la:l senur la:l ǒḍul la:l tilkor re 
		ta:hu: sã:  je la:l dekhal phalna: da:ik thor re /  

'Red is Vermillion, red is China rose, and red is the ripe fruit of Tilt or creeper. Bull lips of the bride surpass all'.

Written literature

A. History:

18.1. Proto-Maithili Period (715-1130 A.D.):

History of Maithili literature begins from 8th century A.D. with the composition of occult songs by a host of Buddhist monks. Writing of such songs continued throughout the period of Pala –rule (750-1130 A.D.) and ended with the devastation of Nalanda and Vikramashila Mahaviharas. The product of this tradition is claimed by all languages of eastern region (i.e. Maithili, Bangla, Asamiya and Oriya) as their own. But as the language of these songs is close to the language of some portions of Varṇaratnākara of Jyotirisvara (1280-1340) and Kīrtilatā and Kīrtipatāka of Vidapati Thakur (1350-1490), and as Vidyapati explicitly calls this language Desilavayanā, the language of his deśa Mithila, (Certainly not of his own time), and as the major eastern part of Mithila under the rule of Pala kings interspersed with such monks, it seems most probable that the language of the said Buddhist songs originally belonged to Mithila and has spread out eastward with the local variations culminated in different languages.

This chapter in the history of Maithili literature is known as Proto-Maithili Period.

B. Periods:

18.2. Early Maithili Period (1300-1600):

Fall of Pala-rule, disappearance of Buddhism and establishment of an independent political power under karṇāṭa kings heralded a new chapter in the history of Maithili literature. Under the patronage of Harasimhadeva (1226-1324) of karnāta dynasty Jyotirisvara Thakur (1280-1340) wrote a unique work Varṇaratnākara in pure Maithili. This specimen of prose is perhaps the earliest not only in Maithili but in all modern Aryan languages of India. From the historical, linguistic and social points of view, it is acclaimed the most important work in the stock of Maithili. Its well accomplished literary style presupposes the cultivation of literature in Maithili for long in the past, the fruit of which is lost in oblivion.

In 1350, Ghyasuddin Tughluk, the emperor of Delhi invaded Mithila, defeated Harasimhadeva and after some time entrusted the administration of Mithila to his family Priest Kamashvar Jha, a Maithil Braman of Onibar family. Thus a new dynasty was founded in Mithila. The period between the downfall of Karnataka dynasty and the consolidation of this new dynasty was too disturbed to produce any literature.

As soon as this cloud of political disturbance cleared off, Vidyapati Thakur, an epoch making poet, accompanied with a band of poets shone in the sky like a full moon amid some bright stars. Under the patronage of a like minded king Shiva Simha and his queen Lakhi Mādevi, he produced over a thousand of immortal songs in Maithili on the theme of erotic sports of Radha and Krishna and the domestic life of Shiva and Parvati, besides a number of treaties in Sanskrit on various subjects. His love-songs spread far and wide in no time and enchanted saints, poets and youth in general. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu saw divine light of love behind these songs and soon these songs became themes of Vaisnava sect of Bengal. Ravindranath Tagore, out of curiosity, imitated these songs under a pseudo named Bhanusimha.

Vidyapati influenced a good number of his contemporary Maithili poets. A host of his successors even initiated him. This tradition initiated by Vidyapati continued throughout the early Maithili period.

In those days art and literature flourished only under patronage and this is specially true in the case of early as well as middle Maithili literature. After the invasion of Mithila by the Sultan of Johnpur, Delhi and disappearance of Shivasimha in 1429, Oinibar rule grew weaker and weaker and growth of Maithili literature slowed down in Mithila. Literary activity shifted to Nepal and other parts of the country wherever patronage was available.

The grand success of this period is the inflow and influence of Maithili literature specially of Vidyapati on the religious literature of Asama, Vanga and Utkala.

18.3. Middle Maithili period (1600-1860):

The end of Onibar rule in 1525 was the second set back to the growth of Maithili literature in proper Mithila. Due to this, literary activity shifted to Nepal and elsewhere. After a quarter of century marked with political turmoil, Mahesh Thakur, a great pandit belonging to Khandvala family of Maithil Brahman was installed as a feudal chief of Mihtila under Mughal empire. Consequently political tranquility returned and literary activity gained momentum in three dimensions; dance, drama and music in Mithila proper. The early period had only two dramas : Dhūrtasamāgama of Jyotirīshvara and Gorakshavijaya of Vidyapati. After a gap of about two centuries Maithili got a drama entitled pārijātaharaṇa from the pen of Umapati Upadhyaya. It proved a grand success on the stage. A number of professional troupes mostly from dalit class, known then as Kirtania the singers of bhajan or devotional songs, started to perform this drama in public gatherings and the courts of the nobles. More and more dramas on the tested model of the aforesaid drama were written successively till the end of this period.

The second remarkable achievement of this period is the volumnous devotional songs written by some famous vaisnava saints. Govendadas (Mid. 17th century) was the brightest rinking, only next to Vidyapati in the past chaitanya Gaudiya Vaisnava cult as well as in literary merit.

The third notable contribution of the period is Rāgatarangṇi of Lochana (Cr. 1575-1660), a treatise on the science of music, describing the rāgas, tālas and lyrics prevalent in Mithila.

Scared of frequent muslim invasions and high handedness, large number of maithili took shelter in Nepal valley from time to time, creating a diaspora there. They got liberal and congenial patronage from the rulers of Mall dynasty. As Maithili happened to be the mother tongue of these rulers, Maithili literature spread far and wide throughout Nepal valley during the Mall dynasty from 16th to 17th century. The kings themselves used to write dramas and lyrics in Maithili in collaboration with a number of noted Maithili writers. During these two centuries at least 70 Maithili dramas were produced. First time one can find pure, colloquial and contemporary prose abundantly in the dialogue of these dramas. These playwrights have often incorporated suitable lyrics written by known and unknown authors.

Along with this, Maithili Bangla also partook in the above literary activities in Nepal. Curiously, in a drama, namely Harishchandranrityam of Siddhinarayanadeva (1620-57) some characters speak pure colloquial Maithili while others speak Bangla, Sanskrit or Prakrit.

It may perhaps be not hazardous to link the Nepal tradition with the Anukiya Nāta in Assam and Jatra in Bengal.

18.4. Modern Maithili Period (1860 onwards):

History of Maithili literature is top heavy. It reached the enviable height and climbed down to the ground and started to raise its head anew, against all odds. In Nepal, Maithili was the first casualty of the downfall of Mall dynasty. In Mithila it suffered deathblow when Hindi was imposed on Maithili speaking community in course of introduction of modern education in the country.

The modern Maithili period starts with the demise of Maheshvar singh, the ruler of Darbhanga Raj, in 1860. And in the same year the Raj was taken over by the British Government under courts of wards act. Consequently all sorts of local power was usurped by influential outsiders who were indifferent, rather apathetic to the tradition of the land and the will of the people.

The situation began to improve with the return of the Darbhanga Raj to its. successor Maharaj Lakshmishvar Singh in 1898. A galaxy of enthusiastic pandits gathered around him and came forward to enrich their mother tongue with modern literature in consonance with the growing literature in neighbouring languages. Forerunners, to name a few, were M.M. Dr. Sir Ganganath Jha, M.M. Parameshvar Mishra, Chanda Jha, Munshi Raghunandan Das and others. Publication of Mithila Mihir (1908), Maithil hita sadhana (1905) and Mithila Moda (1906) encouraged writers and discourses in prose on social, political and educational problems began to appear. Some long narrative poems in epic style were written. The first and foremost social organization Maithil Mahasabha was established in 1910 for development of Mithili and Maithili, followed by a number of such organizations. Maithil Mahesabha was the first to raise the demand for the recognition of Maithili as a regional language. Of course the findings of some great linguists like Geoge Abraham Grieson, Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, gave pillip to it. Ultimately Calcutta university came forward to recognize Maithili in 1917. Gradually other universities followed suit.

The vexed question of the standardization of language and orthography was solved (See § 16.4.) Important literary works of early period were edited and published to meet the demand in education. The pace of creation and publication of modern literature increased.

The second part of this period is more encouraging. The country got independence and the number of schools, colleges and universities increased. The weekly Maithili magazine Mithila Mihir reappeared with advanced style and fresh outlook. In 1965 Sahitya Akademi included Maithili in its programme. Government of Bihar established Maithili Academy at Patna in 1975. The Bihar Public Service Commission introduced Maithili as a subject in its competitive examination. Maithili literature breathed the fresh air from all directions and came out of the suffocated atmosphere of orthodox literary tradition hindering the process of change in all spheres of life.

It is this bulk of literature and the literary activities of the Maithili speaking people that brought a place for Maithili in the 8th schedule of Indian Constitution in 2004.

C. Genres of Maithili literature:

18.5. Fiction – Novel:

Fiction writing in Maithili started with ākhyayikā i.e. tales of mythological heroes and heroines. Sīmantinī ākhyāyika of M.M.Parameshvar Jha is perhaps the first. Presentation of mythological tales in the cultural surroundings of contemporary life in Mithila is the novelty of such tales. The first unsuccessful novel is Madana rājacarita of Babu Tulāpati Singh (1859-1914). Novel in its true sense starts in early twentieth century with Rameshvara of Jibachh Mishra (1863-1923) and Mithila darpana of Punyanand Jha (1898-1967) Punarvivāh of Janardan Jha 'Janasidan' (1872-1951) and Kanyādān of Harimohan Jha. These early novels mainly depicts the social evils affecting exclusively the upper class people. Exclusion of lower class and the absence of the voice of social justice is a shortcoming Mithili Darpana is indeed an exception, where smothering dalit rebel is shown in side light.

But the next batch of fiction writers, specially those who took pen after the independence, came out of the said narrow circle, broke the hurdles created by the old guards of the traditional society, and tried to create a programme modern society - free, fair, frank and bold. Pāro of Yatri (1937) and Prithvi – putra of Lalit (1965) are the best examples and trend setters. Prabhas kumar Chaudhari, Direndra and Jivakant are some of the best novelists of this trend. But Lily Ray excells all of them on several counts. Her Marīchikā (mirage) is all in volume in canvas, in time-cover, in detail, and overall in craftmanship. Deservedly she received the Prabodha Samman Purskar, 2004, the highest one in Maithili.

In historical novels Bālāditya and Bishākhi Puranima of Chandranarayan Mishra and Vidyāpatik ātmakathā of Govind Jha are noteworthy.

Manipadma, perhaps the most prolific writer, is credited with about a dozen of novels which are based on or the adaptations of ballads of oral tradition. Maithili is perhaps the richest of this type of novels, though poor in all other types.

18.6. Fiction – Short stories:

In topics, trends and style, short stories in Maithili closely follow the novels. Almost all novelists have written short stories as well. Short story has, perhaps, been the most popular genres of Maithili. A survey reveals that during the period 1915-1995, number of Maithili stort stories of about 8224 were written by about 200 authors. Naturally there work covers every corner of the society. According to the above survey, Jivakant (132 works), Vinod Vihari Lal (111 works) and Manipadma (108 works) have authored maximum number of works in this period.. The number of collections of short stories published during the period was 224. The position during 1981-2000 may be seen in the National Bibliography of Indian literature, Second series.

18.7. Light essays:

Writing of essays started with the appearance of Maithil Hit Sadhan, the first Maithili monthly in 1905 and the recorded Mithila Moda in 1907. M.M. Muralidhar Jha (1869-1929) is the first as well as the foremost essayist. His witty, sarcastic pungent comments proved equally effective in admonishing as well as in amusing the society. Next to him in admonishing, but surpassing in amusement is Harimohan Jha who has authored Praṇamyadevata (Gods deserving obeisance). Essay, specially light essay, seems to be one of the neglected genres in Maithili. Mantreshvar Jha has written Ojhālekhẽ:ga:m bata:h, Chhatranand Jha’s Dokaharak ā:khi, Haṃsara:j’s Je kine se, Amarnath Jha’s Chahi ek ṭā draupadi, and Ramanand Jha ‘Raman’’s Mānī tā satya and some others deserve mention.

18.8. Drama:

Maithili drama starts as early as in 13th century and is continuing since then with long and short gaps and changing itself from time to time. Dhu:rtasama:gama of Jyotirisvara is the first, not only in Maithili but also in all modern Aryan languages of India. It is a farce as its name suggests – the meeting of knaves. Gorakʂavijaya of Vidyapati describes about the great saints Matsyendranatha and Goraksanatha. Anandavijaya of Ramadasa initiates purely mythological stories (17th century). He introduced a new theme purely vaisnavite and ↝ mythological, while retaining the style and pattern of the previous dramas. This theme and pattern was adopted by the successive playwrights for long. Maithili possesses 14 dramas of this type. The last writer of this tradition is Mahamahopadhyaya Harsanath Jha (1847-98).

The main characteristic of these dramas is the predominance of Maithili songs covering the whole story of the play and all dialogue being in Sanskrit and Prakrit following the practice of Sanskrit drama.

As this type of dramas was performed by the troupes of Kirtan singers, these came to be called Kiratnia Natak. Certainly such troupes were ignorant of Sanskrit and Prakrit. It may, therefore, be presumed that the actors used Maithili versions of the dialogue instructed orally. It is surprising that dialogue in Maithili prose first appears in the dramas written outside proper Mithila.

The tradition of Kirtania drama ended at the close of 18th century, and at the same time a new chapter opened with Sa:mavati: purarjanma and Sundarasaṃyoga of Jivan Jha in Mithil proper. He is the first to introduce dialogue in modern colloquial Maithili. Henceforth Sanskrit and Prakrit left Maithili stage forever, and diversity in theme and style started. Sa:vitri:svayamvara of Laldas (1856-1911) and Mithila:na:ʈak of Munshi Raghunandan Das ( 1860-1945) was perhaps the first to gain popularity on the stage for long. After a gap of 20 years, Chi:ni:k laɖɖu (1952) and Ugana: (1956) of Ishnath Jha, and Basa:t (1958) of Govind Jha hit the stage and showed the way for writing modern drama. During the period 1981-2000 A.D. 96 dramas were publications in book form. Top ranking dramatists of this period is Sudhansushekhar Chaudhari, Govinda Jha, Mahendra Malangia and Aravind Akkoo.

Outside Mithila, Maithili drama was amply produced in Nepalat Bhatgaõ, Kathmandoo and Vanepa during the period 1626-1768. Hundreds of dramas were written and staged. Only a few of them have so far been published and are of literary value, most of them seem to be scripts for performance. Unlike the Kirtania dramas of Mithila, they cover different sects and deities, traditional literary tales and provide more opportunity for dance. Muditakuvalaya:sva and Haragaurivivaha written by Jagajjyotirmalla with the help of Vamshamani Jha deserve special mention on several counts.

It is claimed that some Ankiya Nats of Assam contain dialogues in a language akin to Maithili, and this claim was accepted by some Asamiya critics as well.

18.9. Epic or Narrative Poems:

In Indian terminology, epics may be classified as Mahakavya, Khanda Kavya and Katha Kavya. In other words the big, the middle and the small in bulk. Most of them try to make room for the vivid description of contemporary local culture ignoring the sequence of time.

The early period, excepting two dramas, is entirely devoted to lyrics. The middle period also is confined to Kirtania drama and lyrics. So narrative poetry in Maithili starts as late as in 1888 with Krishnajanma of Manabodha. It narrates the life of Lord Krishna. Couched in Charming and lucid style and idiomatic, contemporary and colloquial language, it spread like folk songs from mouth to mouth. Essentially it is a versified tale and lack the para phernalia of an epic and is only a prelude to the same.

Similar to this there are some short narrative poems known as Sammar, the tale of marriage in the manner of Svayamvara (selection of a husband by a prince herself). Originally it lived in oral tradition. Now only a few from written sources are available. They are Usaharana-sammara of Chakrapani, Sitaramavivaha of Shivadatta, Rukmini – Sammara of unknown author.

Epic or Mahakavya in its proper form began to appear in Maithili on the advent of Rama Cult in Mithila under the influence of Ramacharitamanasa of Tulasidas.

Rameshvara charita MithilaRamayana of Laldas and Mithila Bhasa Ramayana of Chanda Jha are the earliest, written in the early years of the 20th century. Quite naturally focus on Sita and Mithila is the speciality of tradition of Rama-kavya in Maithili continuing since then. Ramajanma of Tejnath Jha (1854-1934), Amba-Charita of Sitaram Jha (1881-1975), Ravanavadha of Jivanath Jha(1955), Sitayana of Vaidyanath Mallik 'Vidhu', Rama-suyasasagara of Vishvanath Jha 'Visapayi' Vyathā of Ramakant Jha and others sing the same song in different tunes and tenors.

Lord Krisna so dominant in earlier periods lost his glory in this area. There are only two epics on his life : Krisna Janma described above and Krisna charita of Tantranath Jha. The latter is more didactic than poetic and concentrates on the episode of Krisna’s education in gurukula. He is however present subordinately in Radhaviraha of Kashikant Mishra ‘Madhup’ and Rukminiparinaya of Babuaji Jha, 'Ajnat'. The former is highly admired for presenting subtle divine love of Shrimadbhagavata tradition and display of rhetoric fun. Lord Shiva, having so much share in lyrics, appears only in three epics in Maithiil: Tripunda of Dhireshvar Jha 'Dhirendra' and Paramashiva Gauri – Shankar and Muktipatha of Mahinath Jha. Tripunda portrays Shiva as an ideal agriculturist inspired by Marxism – apparently an imposed personality. Paramashiva deals mainly with the philosophy of Shaiva and Shakta cults framed in Sankhya system. Muktipath cunningly describes the story of Indian Independence in the guise of the life of Shiva – a novel way of imagination.

The stories from Mahabharata and Puranas are the sources for the notable epics in Maithili. Subhadraharama of Munshi Raghunandan Das faithfully follows the Sanskrit tradition of epic-thin in story and elaborate in description in rhetoric style.

Ekavaliparinaya of Kavishekhar Badarinath Jha also follows the traditional style. Stringed in a very thin story it describes in detail the life of the hero Ekavira undergoing all samskaras or personal sacrament from birth to marriage and coronation in the manner as if he was a typical prince of modern Mithila. It is unique in poetic refinement, sustained loftiness of imagination and elevated tone.

Shakuntala of Damodarlal Das, Kadambari of Damodar Jha, Rukmini Parinaya and Pratijnapandava of Babuji Jha ‘Ajnat’ are nothing but versified mythical stories with poetic tinge.

Harmony between north and south or between Arya and Dravida is aimed at successfully in Agastyayani of Markandeya Pravasi and Ganga of Lakshman Jha. Discarding the conventional form of epic, pravasi strictly concentrated to main theme of love and advantage and gave a new meaning to his story in the interest of national integration. Likewise, Lakshman Jha celebrated the marriage of River Ganga, the daughter of Himalaya, with Indian ocean. All characters are the objects of nature represented as human beings in allegorical way.

Kichakavadha of Tantranath Jha is the first epic to introduce blank verse. Like Meghanadavadha of Michael Madhusudatta in Bangla, it dispensed many poetic conventions for easy focusing and pushing on the theme and got grand success.

Parashara of Kanchinath Jha 'Kiran', is the fore-runner towards the social justice tracing the equal dignity of all human beings in the hoary past and discarding the caste prejudice. This venture, in spite of poetic weakness, is the sole and solid ground of its admiration.

Chanakya of Dinanath Pathak ‘Bandhu’ and Dattavati of Surendra Jha ‘Suman’ are admired for infusing sentiment of Hindutva or nationalism. The former is lucid and straight forward and fluent in its expression while the latter is ornate, classic, serious and didactic.

18.10. Poetry or Kavita:

Poetry in Maithili is the result of three types of motive: spiritual, emotional and intellectual. It started with spiritualism in the songs of the Buddhist saints of the sahajiā cult, turned to emotion in the songs of Vidyāpati; and came to intellectualism in the poetries of Yatri.

These three motives determine the period, the form and the contents of the Maithili poetry. The entire poetry of early and middle period is in the form of songs either spiritual or devotional. With the advent of modern period a new type of poetry emerged called Kavitā. In form it closely resembled songs and as such it was also known as pragit 'lyrics' Ramānāth Jha named this new genre Navin Git 'new type of song'. Apparently this genre is imported from the west via Bengali and Hindi.

It is strange the muktaka kavya 'poem of single stanza' , is common in Sanskrit as subhasita 'good saying' and in Hindi as dohā, sabiya etc. 'couplet, quadruplet etc.' But it is absent in Maithili literature.

Kavita in Maithili shows sharp departure from the tradition in contents. Long tradition of devotional and erotic themes suddenly disappears giving the way for secular, profain and worldly thought for the well-being of mankind. The first quarter of the 20th century starts with svadesh sangit ‘songs devoted to one’s own country’ that is Mithila as well as Bharat Struggle for independence, social reforms, awakening the people for revival of the past glory were the main concern of the poets.

This phase of kavitā ended soon after independence and Maithili poetry followed, lingering all the trends taking place in Bangla and Hindi known as prayogavad 'experimentalism' naī kavitā 'new poetry', sabuj kavita 'green poetry' and the like. In Maithili this phase in known as nab kabitā. Chitra (1948) of Yatri is the first step and Svaragandhā. (1958) of Rajkamal is yet regarded the last step in Maithili nab kavita.

Thus the modern Maitili poetry in essence is not different from the pan-Indian one. Nevertheless it differs from the rest in its local colour. Dictions, social and environmental settings, historical and cultural prejudices and the like are its own.

This new type of poetry in Maithili is growing fast in spite of being less popular. Maithili nav kavitā (1970) edited by Ramakrishna Jha 'Kisun' is the best anthology representing the new trends in Maithili poetry. The representative poets are Yatri (1911-2000), Rajkamal (1929-1967), Ramkrisha Jha Kisun (1923-1970), Dhirendra (1934-2004), Mayanand Mishra (1934), Somdev (1934), Jivakanta (1936), Kirtinarayan Mishra (1336). The Rani singh (1945-1995), Udayanarayana Singh 'Nachiketa' etc.

18.11. Autobiography and Bibliography:

(a) Autobiography:

There are very few autobiographies in Maithili. So far only four tilts of this genre is noticed: Atitak Smriti Patal of Lakshmi pati Singh, Jivan-Yatrā of Harimohan Jha, Kichu dekhal Kichu sunal of Girīndra mohan Mishra, Man paḍait achi of Surendra Jha Suman and Preranā punja of Kashikant Mishra 'Madhup'. The second and the third are winner of Sahitya Akademi award and the last is curiously inverse.

(b) Biography:

One has to thank sahitya Akademi, Government of India., Maithili Academy, Government of Bihar., etc., for bringing out biographies in Maithili. Stock of biography in Maithili is satisfactory. Barring few, all are on the life and achievements of reputed authors. A survey enumerates about 70 out of 44 of Maithili biographies are original and the rest are translated from English. Most of them are concentrated on literary activities with scantly private life.


This genre is new in Maithili and is mainly scattered in periodicals. Like biography it covers mostly Maithili writers in their social and personal perspectives. Akṣar Akṣar Amrit and Yugāntar of Visvanath Jha are charming as well as authentic as they are based on personal interview. Man āngan me tharh of Bhimanath Jha and Smritik dhǒkhral rang of Ramlocan Thakur are highly appreciated.

18.13. Travelogues:

Srī Jaganna:thapurī yā:trā of Chetanath Jha published on the 20 June 1910, is the earliest travelogue known so far. Detail of journey with accurate fare, distance etc. makes it historicaly important. Yatra prakaraṇa shatak and Pravasajivan of Subhadra Jha describe the horrible life in France devastated by second world war. Shyamali "the green land" describes a town of Ireland. The comparison of the linguistic problem in Mithila with that in Ireland is interesting for socio-linguistics. The rest few are the stereo-type accounts of pilgrim’s interest.

18.14. Literary Criticism:

Maithili has three established writers specialized in literary criticism. Ramanath Jha (1906-1971) is the earliest as well as the topmost critique well versed alike in traditional and modern schools. His valuable contributions yet scattered, are forthcoming in a volume of his collected works. Mohan Bharadvaj is sharp in evaluation of literature in its social aspect, while Ramanand Jha ‘Raman’ has done a lot to evaluate new Maithili poetry and to search out valuable Maithli works in oblivion.

Chetana samiti, a literary organization has been holding seminar annually and publishing the papers read therein. Histories of Maithili literature have given due coverage to literary criticism. Some critics have worked on specific genres, authors, or aspects. Examples are Prem Shankar Singh on drama, Nita Jha on social aspect, Meghan Prasad on short stories and Ramanand Jha 'Raman' on poetry.

C. Other aspect of literacy:

18.15. Woman classic:

In Maithili there are two works on the contribution of Maithili women to literature, Mihilāk vidusē mahila of Arundhati Devi (1915-?) and Vaidehī-puṣpahār of Satish Chandra Jha (1941 ). Both start from the hoary past and suddenly come down to the 20th century indicating that the women in Mithila were carefully kept illiterate up to the mid 20th century.

There is hardly any organization of women striving for equal share with men. Of course, a few Maithili ladies are active on this line. Two of them deserve mention.

Gauri Mishra, under the banner of Sewa Mithila has done appreciable work in rehabilitating needy woman by giving training in different crafts. Adya Jha, wife of Aditya nath Jha, Lieutenant Governor, Delhi was active in Delhi. A hostel for destitude women, named after her is running in Hanj Khas in New Delhi.

In contrast to the above reality, modern Maithili literature, fiction and poetry alike, has since sixties been vibrant with the voice of women weeping, crying, retaliating, challenging and often even fighting whenever offended by men.

Contribution of women to Maithili literature seems proportionate to their literacy. A survey of 1981-2000 shows that out of 362 writers, women’s share is 26 or 7.18%. Top four among them are Lily Ray, Nita Jha and Vibha Rani and Niraja Renu. The first and the last are recipients of Sahitya Akademi Award.

18.16. Rebel literature:

Like feminist literature, Dalit literature in its strict sense, is yet in the beginning stage. In the literary activities in Maithili the participation of muslims may hardly be five percent and of dalits not more than one percent. Dalit literature may be defined as ‘by the dalit and for the dalit’. Ramdeo Bhavak and Vibha Rani are the two great writers of such literature.

18.17. Awards and awardees:

Regular awards for works and / or authors in Maithili are as follows:

(a) Sahitya Akademi Award – Maithili has been sponsoring this award since 1966. So far 36 authors have received this award annually, most of them in creative literature, two in autobiography and one each in philosophy, language and literary history.

(b) Sahitya Akademi Translation Award - It has been received by 12 translators so far.

(c) Prabodh sahitya samman - It was established in 2004 by Swasti Foundation, shahmoura (Sahara, Bihar) . Under this, a prize of Rupees one lakh is awarded to the best writer of Maithili.

(d) Grierson – Puraskar – It is awarded annually by the Government of Bihar to the best writer of Maithili.

(e) Yatri Purskar – It is established by 'Chetana Samiti', Patna for perpetuating the memory of Vaidyanath Mishra 'Yatri' (Nagarjun of Hindi), the pioneer of modernism in Maithili literature.

18.18. Agencies:

(a) Central Government – Government of India is the most important agency for the development of Maithili literature. Through Sahitya Akademi it awards Maithili writers. This award is perhaps the most effective in Maithili. Besides it has enriched maithili literature in various other ways.

(b) Government of Bihar - The Government of Bihar through Maithili Academy has been enriching Maithili literature by publishing valuable works in Maithili since 1974.

(c) Non-Government agencies - Numerous literary and cultural organizations mostly in cities and towns spread over the country are active in enriching and popularizing Maithili literature. Prominent among them are:

Chetana Samiti, Widyapati Bhavan, Vidyapati Marg, Patna 1.

Karna-Gosthi, Bagmari Lane, Kolkata – 45. Akhil Bharatiya Mithila Santh, 5/2, Garstin Place, Kolkata-1. Sankalp lok, Supaut, Vaidehi samiti, Darbhanga. All India Maithili Conference, Allahabad. Akhiyasal, Lalganj, Madhubani.

(d) Individual – Role of individuals has the largest share in credit of enriching Maithili literature, as most of the writers publish their works at their own cost even facing the loss, often under the banner of some peudo-publishers.

18.19. Translation:

Before independence Maithili could attract only a few scholars and as such translation from Maithili to other languages during the British rule is scanty. Some important works are as follows:

Maithili Chrestomathy of G.A.Grerson, 1882, contains english prose rendings of Krishna janma of Manabodha, some songs of Vidyapati and others and some folk ballads.

Parijataharana of Umapati, translated into english by G.A.Grierson (See bibliography).

Hindustani English Dictionary of S.W. Fallon (See Bibliography) contain numerours Maithili proverbs translated into English verse.

Songs of Vidyapati by Aurobindo (19...), some songs translated in English verse. Songs of Vidyapati by Subhadra Jha (1957), literal prose rendering of some songs.

The credit of publishing English, Hindi, Urdu and Gujarati translation of Maithili works in appreciable number goes to Sahitya Akademi. The Akademi has so far published the following translations.

Du partra by Upendra Nath Jha ‘Vyas’.

Naika in Hindi, Banijara by Manipadma and I Batahā in Hindi Sansar by Sudhamshusekhar Chaudhari in Hindi.

Akṣar Akṣar Amrit Samak Pauti of Govinda Jha in Bengali.

Umesh Mishra of Govinda Jha in English. Other translation include:

Maithjili Katha Dhara edited by Kamakya Devi in Bangla.

Maihtili Poetry edited by Udayanarayana Singh.

Nachiketa in English and Bangla.

18.20. Translation from other languages into Maithili:

Maithili, like underdeveloped country, has little to export and more to import. In early modern period, works mostly from Sanskrit classics and modern Bangla literature were translated into Maithili. Kalidasa, Bankimchandra, Ravindra and Sarat were favourites. The earliest translation from English to Maithili is Wekphildak Padari (1939) (Vicar of Wakefield) of Oliver Goldsmith translated by Dinanath Jha, and Deshamani (Macbeth) (1957) Kumar Hamlet (1973) (Hamlet) of William Shakespeare translated by Rajendra Jha 'Svatantra'.

Tempo of translation in Maithili comes when Sahitya Akademi admitted Maithili in 1956. According to Anukriti (Bibliography of translated works, CIIL, Mysore), Maithili possesses 48 translated works from English, one each from French, Greek and Norwegian, 2 from Assamese, 24 from Bangla, 1 from Gujarati, 6 from Hindi, 1 from Kannada and 36 from Sanskrit.

Following are the important translations of Rabindranath Tagore: Patalbhairavi,Patijharaksvar, ārogyaniketan,Samskar,Manojdasak Kahini.

The Major Aryam Fasil translators are:

Govinda Jha – Maithili to Assamese, Bangla, Oriya, English, Sanskrit. Murari Madhusudan – Maithili to English. Fazlur rahman – From to Urdu. Ramakant Jha – English. Prem Shankar Singh Bangla, Oriya to Maithili, Ramanand Jha ‘Raman’ – Oriya to Maithili.


Copyright CIIL-India Mysore