Maithili language is mostly spoken in the eastern part of India in state of Bihar and the eastern Terai region of Nepal. It was earlier considered to be a dialect of Hindi and Bengali. However, Maithili achieved an independent language status in India in the year 2003. This could happen only because of a mass movement that called for providing Maithili an official status through its inclusion in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution so that it may be used for education, government and other purposes. It is spoken by approximately 4.5 Crore people in India. It is the 16th most spoken language in India and 40th most spoken language in the World.
It is said that the Maithili language is Eastern Indic in origin, thus different from Hindi which is Central Indic in origin. The name of the language is derived from the word Mithila which is said to be the ancient kingdom of Sita’s father King Janaka. Though it is said that in ancient times in Mithila, Sanskrit was used by the scholars for their literary work and Maithili was the common language of the local folk. The earliest work of Maithili found till now is the Varn Ratnakar by Jyotirishwar Thakur dated about 1224 AD. However, the language got literary prominence in the medieval age when Maithili scholars like Gangesh, Padmanabh, Chandeshwar, Vireshwar, Vidyapati, Vachaspati, Pakshadhar, Ayachi, Udayan and Shankar came up with some magnificent work. The modern era of Maithili began with the invent of Maithili Theatre by Shri Kaushal Kumar Das in 1982.
Maithili has a rich literature. If you start tracing the history of Maithili literature, you will find that the most famous literary figure in Maithili was poet Vidyapati. He is responsible for elevating Maithili from the status of people's language to one used for official work in Bihar, by impressing the maharaja of Darbhanga with his poems. Earlier, the state language used to be Sanskrit that distanced commoners from the state and its functions.
Varn Ratnakar by Jyotirishwar is probably the earliest work in Maithili literature dated at about 1224 AD. The medieval period of Maithili was during the Karnat Dynasty and litterateurs like Gangesh, Padmanabh, Chandeshwar, Vireshwar and others were famous during this period. Though poet Vidyapati was a Sanskrit scholar, he wrote many poems on Bhakti and Shringar in the Maithili language.
In fact, this language was also employed by many authors to write on humor and satire. For instance, writers like Dr Hari Mohan Jha took measures to bring about crucial changes in the ancient Mithila Culture. In fact, his renowned work 'Khatar Kaka Ke Tarang' is considered to be like a crown embellishing the modern Maithili literature. After the Maithali language was accepted by India's Sahitya Academy, it has won awards almost every year. Literary works in the Maithili language have also won a number of other awards.
Writing Style and Grammar
In the very inception, Maithili used to be written in the Maithili script, which has some resemblance to the Bengali script and is also known by names like Tirhuta and Mithilakshar. Apart from this, the Maithili language was also written in the Kaithi script. However, it is the Devanagri script that is most commonly used for writing Maithili in the present times. A proposal has been drafted to preserve as well as develop the Maithili script by using it in the digital media by encoding the script in the Unicode standard. Maithili Grammar is considered to be a very standard Grammar. It is based on the based on the sutras of Sanskrit grammar of Panini.