मैथिली भाषा क इतिहास
The North Bihar, or the Mithila region has been the most neglected area in terms of economic development within India. These districts have one of the largest density of population with least per capita income. No important industry or investment could be seen here. This has surely given rise to a asense of discrimination among the Maithili community, and has kept the separatist movement based on language and culture going.
Politically, there has been several chief ministers of Bihar who spoke Maithili. But they were mostly afraid to do anything substantially to uplift the status of this language, except for promising to do something from time to time. Most of the favourable decisions have come from non-maithili speaking Chief Ministers who wanted their popularity graph rise in this electorally sensitive and populous area.
Historically speaking, after 1860, the Maharaja of Darbhanga was advised to adopt Hindi, rather than Persian or Urdu – the twin languages which were earlier introduced by the Court of Wards by abolishing the use of Maithili for administrative purposes. This move of delinking Maithili, the language of the area from the domain of work place and attempts to confine it to the home alone obviously had a devastating effect on the development of Maithili literature – a curse from which Maithili could be freed only in the begining of the 20th century. The movement to re-establish the language and culture of Mithili, or the search for its independent identity culminated into the creation of Maithili Mahasabha 1910. To that extent, 1910 becomes an important year for Mithila and Maithili, too.
The other factor that directly influenced the growth or threatened the future of the language (migration, temporary labour, deportations, wars…) was the following: During the British period, the Indo-Gorkha war ended with a treaty signed in 1816 which is called the Treaty of Sugauli. A substantial part of Mithila went to Nepal (=the Terai, already mentioned) as a result of which the number of speakers came down. After that, there have been a lot of out-migration to Bengal, Orissa, M.P., U.P., and punjab and Haryana in search of livelihood. Floods, draught and natural calamities have had their toll regularly in Mithila area also contributing to death, devastation and flight of speakers outside Bihar.
It is generally presumed that Maithili is spoken only by the Brahmins in the Mithila region. This seems to be a disinformation spread by the anti-Maithili lobby. It is well-known that many scholars had been active in trying to somehow fit it as a dialect of Hindi, mainly in order to increase the official figure of speakers of Hindi. But a look at the caste composition in North Bihar and the actual census returns for Maithili would show the truth.
Interestingly, in the Census enumerations, the high returns for Maithili could be explained only by the fact that although 46.84% people living in the Mithila-speaking districts are Muslims, as against 31.06% Hindus in Mithila, there could not have been an overwhelming support for Maithili unless a good number of them returned Maithili as their mother tongue.
However, there is no doubt that the life and culture of Mithila have been deeply influenced by the Shakta philosophy under the Hindu tradition, although it has also been a seat of the epical story of the Ramayana, being the birth-place of the Janaki, or Sita. Ion this respect, Vidyapati’s influence has been phenomenal.
The spread of this language being in both North Bihar and the Terai region of Nepal, it has several dialectal variants, esp the following, if we are to follow Subhadra Jha’s (1958) work on ‘The Foundation of Maithili’ (London” Luzac and Co.):
- The Standard dialect, based on the speech variety used in and around Darbhanga -Samastipur in Bihar, although the Maithili spoken in Saharsa and Purnea has also emerged as a competing Standard in the writings of many prominent authors.
- Chikaa-Chhikii (a dialect born out of contact between Maithili and Magahi in the south,
- Western Maithili (which has a lot of Bhojpuri in it),
- The Jolahaa bolii (also known as the Shekhai or Musalmani, and has traits of Awadhi).
- The Bhagalpuri variety (often known as the Angika)
- The Saharsa-Purnea dialect (which is close to the dialect of Maithili spoken in the Terai region of Nepal) is also used
During the Moghal era, the region was called “Tirhut” (cf. “Tirhutaa” was name of the writing system employed by Maithili), and it formed a Sarkaar (= division) of the ‘subah’ (= province) of Bihar. Even in the early British period, as the District Gazetteer of Muzaffarpur says, there indeed was a large geographical space under the “Tirhut division” bound on the north by Hajipur, Mongyr an Purnea divisions. The British use “Tirhut” to designate a revenue division spreading over the districts of Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Champaran and Saharsa. Jayakanta Mishra (1976: 2) describes its area to be spreading over the following districts: “[this comprises roughly the districts of] Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Vaishali, Darbhanga, Maddhubani, Samastipur, Saharsa, North Monghyr, North Bhagalpur and a part of Purnea in the Indian Republic and those of Rautahat, Saralahi, Saptari, Mohatari and Morang in the Kingdom of Nepal”.