The Maithils – VIII

The previous post marks the end of romantic descriptions about culture and all.

Present day scenario – I have been mentioning things which are not followed strict now (or have even disappeared) and things which are being adopted from other communities.

The sad part is the disappearence of language. I have mentioned earlier my reasons for not speaking Maithili. I was often chided in my childhood by relatives and family friends for not speaking it, but seeing the situation now, it seems I was only little ahead of time. For the kids of the next generation, even in villages people are encouraging the use of Hindi; urban areas its almost a norm. While I am trying to learn, others are unlearning. I remember I was once calling up a cousin sister of mine who stays with her in-laws in a village of Supaul (closer to “uttar”). Hers is a big and joint family and considered very traditional one. Normally she would not pick up the phone herself and hence I decided to talk in Maithili with whosoever picks it up. Else, it would not appear very good; so I thought. I wasn’t quite comfortable with Maithili then. But I thought it was a matter of few minutes, after which the phone will be handed over to my sister. As it happened my brother-in-law picked up the phone, and then I regretted having spoken in Maithili. With him I had to talk for sometime and he didn’t intend to buzz from Maithili when he heard me using it! -) But the surprise was yet to come. I talked to my sister and then she handed over the phone to my little nephews (with whom I had not had a chance to talk earlier) and they started talking in Hindi! After finishing the conversation I was looking surprised and then my mother gave me the clarification that in her family all the kids talk in Hindi only. Well, I thought the family prided itself in its “traditional” values.

No, do not get the notion that I am too partial to following tradition, no matter what; of course I do not believe in throwing away things just like that.

Tradition brings with it bad things, which must be thrown away. For example, “parda”. Parda system is still very strict in Maithil society. It is more strictly followed than in many other communities around, even today. The progress has not been very much. There are some interesting aspects here too. Though parda is there with all elder male members amongst the in-laws, the most prohibitive of the relationships is between “bhaisur” (”Jeth” in Hindi – husband’s elder brother) and “bhabho” (a man’s youger brother’s wife). As daughter-in-law gets settled in the family, with time, it might be acceptable to talk to father-in-law, especially if no elderly lady in the family is left, but not with Jeth! Similarly prohibitive relationship is with “Mamia Sasur” (husband’s maternal uncle). But of course, this one does not matter much, since it would not be very often that one would come in contact of “Mamia Sasur”. Since my mother had gained quite some bit of fame for observing several nuances of parda in my native village despite having been brought up in an urban setting, I keep hearing stories about it from time to time. It was after 25 years of her marriage that she, for the first time, stepped into somebody else’s house in my village! Of course, it was possible only because she would visit the place only occasionally (say once or twice a year). Still – that’s pretty much a reason for her to be have gained (+ve) fame -)

The situation of dowry, I have already talked about. That leads of the situation of girls. Most of the time brought up simply to get married! Once in a while I have been chided by some “concerned” relatives for not getting up early enough, for letting my brother make tea when I am there, for not knowing how to cook, for not waiting with the jug of water after giving somebody a glass of it etc. etc. I remember once I was studying and my father was drinking water, when I asked him to give me a glass too. One of my relatives was visiting us then; and as I came to know later, this incidence had become quite a bit of story! Similarly once my mother was ill. I was at home for summer vacation. Just then some other relatives came to visit us. Out of habit, or probably because I wouldn’t know where she keeps the things in the kitchen anyway, my mother asked my brother to make tea and I did not show any initiative either. Around 6 months later, my mother heard concerns over my not knowing how to make tea in a function where several relatives had come.

Not to say that one should not know how to cook, or make tea or wait with a jug of water, but I would have accepted these suggestions better without the qualifier “being a girl”. Of course it would be unfair to say that it is the situation only in Maithil Society. This is a pan-India problem – in one form or the other. And nor do I see future as completely bleak. We are making progress.

The partiality for male-child is also there and shockingly even in my generation!! At this rate, it seems it will continue for quite some time. There have been cases where upto 5-6 daughters have been brought in this world to get one male-child! With the attitude towards the career of girls given and soaring dowry rates, one might wonder what will be left with the parents to give to the male-child who is born after half a dozen sisters! Again not a problem exclusive to Maithil Society though.

We are all living with a mix of good and evil. So are Maithils.

(Okay, chill now. This was the last post in the series -) If you are a new visitor, please do not read just this post. This will give a rather gloomy picture. Read at least couple of other posts in the series.)

20 thoughts on “The Maithils – VIII

  1. Since I am removing the Haloscan Comments, I am copy-pasting the comments I got on this post here.

    Bhagwan (atleast JJ) ne meri sun li
    NB:-last two anonymous comments were from me
    Anonymous | 12.17.04 – 11:45 pm | #

    Gravatar Anonymous:From dawn to dusk work corporate study or service ,serving MNCs for quick bucks,and some party or some entertainment and at last tired and slept.Is this our Indian activity? Don’t we need to introspection of it’s diversified cultural values, merits,demerits ? Do we have our own something which represents the mass of us?
    Prem Piyush | Email | Homepage | 12.18.04 – 9:13 pm | #


    Suddenly I realized that while talking about mithila, u forgot to outline a brief on Madhubani paintings.(today I read a bit about Madhubani paintings) Anyway, reserve it for sometime later.
    Sandeep | 12.25.04 – 6:24 pm | #

    Are you sure you have read all the posts? Check out the mention of Madhubani Painting in the third post of the series. I am almost illeterate with respect to art forms in general. So, it mentions only the limited knowledge I have.
    Jaya Jha | Homepage | 12.25.04 – 10:52 pm | #

    True! you have mentioned about madhubani paintings and it didn’t register with me. Possibly, because the comments are only introductory. Nevertheless, I guessed you would know more (am I demanding?)
    Sandeep | 12.27.04 – 3:51 pm | #

  2. Hi Jaya,

    It was great going through this series. Though I’m not a Maithil (Brahmin), I found almost all your descriptions of culture exactly similar to what I’ve seen in my village (which is Sonbarsa which falls in Naugachia (Bhagalpur Dist.)).

    Probably you missed out Kali Puja and Chath (also called Badka Paban ( in some) which happens to be a very important festival in Mithila region.

    Do keep writing about Mithila and Maithili.


  3. Hi M.
    I m after half a dozen sisters!!And always led a very lavish life style till i was in REC.After that…donot ask i saved even penny!

    Write something..where are you?

    take care


  4. We are all living with a mix of good and evil. So are Maithils.

    You mean I am good and you are evil? lol…

    In general I enjoy your posts, except I think you are too wired up. Loosen up, life is only as serious as we make it.

    Who cares if there is a preference for boys rather than girls? Its just a hangover from a past age, and with a return to normalcy there will be a mean reversion as well.

  5. Jaya,

    Salute to you 🙂
    Really a great post regarding Maithils
    Being a Maithil,I heard of almost everything you mentioned.
    But now i can say i Knew about almost everything.

    No Thanks for this 🙂


    Ami Jha

  6. Whats so wrong with parda system in maithil? Why to encourage low waist jeans plus tight tshirt in maithils? No doubt western civilization has deeply deprecated our culture. India is land of monks. We don’t want provocative physical appearance.

    Parda system was incorporated to encourage the practice of “brahmcharya”. some couplle of gen down the line we will loose many maithil values.

  7. Unfortunately I cannot wear. Nuns do wear veil. My mom and aunties do parda when they meet anyone elder or unknown people. You want to say my mom should not put her sari on top of her face when she met her bhaisur?

  8. Have u ever gently asked your mom why she does that? Then why asking us?

    The question is not that why i don’t do that while meeting elder sister of my wife (although iam unmarried). The question is how much it takes to do that in just to put sari on top of ur face, which will preserve the culture practiced since ages. And trust me, there is no harm in that. Why to create a new custom for men when we are following existing culture being affected from western civilization.

  9. Trust me – its not just about a gesture. Its symbolizes and is a result of a lot of other stuff, which are extremely harmful. But those aren’t such unknowns that I have to discuss them here. For anybody who cares to look around, things would be obvious. So, the end from my side.

  10. There is indeed some turthness in the question you’ve raised. But that’s not the root problem. Most of the time we try to solve the problem whose origin is somewhere else which is hidden from us. This problem any many such others are due to fundamental disparity between male and female.

  11. Hi,
    I have read the whole of your series on Mithila and Maithili. Had few points of disagreements but then thought things were your interpretation of the culture.

    But could not resist on :I quote “..Tradition brings with it bad things, which must be thrown away. For example, “parda”…”

    If you look at the traditions you got to step into the time such tradition came into practice and compassionately analyze why it is there, one should consider the socio-economic system prevalent then…., the moral philosophical high point….etc.”

    Say for example the parda system…. one should consider the following:-
    1) The importance given to the ladies in the family..
    2) The Child marriage system, where the father-in-law is still young when his daughter-in-law comes in, human being human could make mistakes, such traditions prevented any such mishaps (there is nothing wrong or right but its mishap from the moral philosophic high point prevalent and accepted by society, even today) by not providing a favorable environment to happen, etc…

    I would like to quote few line in Hindi, from a poem titled Parampara by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, a poet of Bihar origin and could be said of Mithilanchal:-

    Parampara ko andhi lathi se mat pito
    ush mein bahut kuch, jo jivit hai,
    jivan dayak hai
    Jaisa bhi ho
    dhwansh se bacha rakhne ke layak hai.

    Pani ka chichla hokar
    Samtal mein daurna
    yah kranti ka nam hai
    Lakin, Ghat bandhkar
    pani ko gahara banana
    yah parampara ka kam hai.

    I will attempt to translate this in English, (some of the hindi words may not be comprehensible when written in english script)

    Don’t beat the tradition blindly with a stick
    Some of the things alive in it, is still life saving/supportive
    however it(tradition) is,
    its capable of saving from destruction (probably of society)

    being the flow of water,
    running on the plains is the nature of revolution
    However, collecting and making the water deep
    by creating embankment around ,
    is the role of tradition.

  12. @Sourav

    1. मैं परपरा को अंधी लाठी से नहीं पीट रही। Even the poem you have quoted says “उनमें बहुत कुछ है” It does not say “इनमें सब कुछ है” जी जीवित है etc. etc. So, allow me the liberty to point out what I think is not right in the tradition. And I stand by ‘parda’ not being right.
    2. The ‘importance to ladies’ part is not clear to me at all. For the other argument, it hardly holds good today when child marriages are illegal and even socially unacceptable. And even when marriage in a young age was a norm, why the much younger daughter-in-law must be burdened with parda and the ‘young’ father-in-law is happily free in the world. Its very ridiculous, if you are willing to see it form the perspective of the victim of the system.

  13. Jaya

    he ahan t’ bahut tikshna drishti rakhai chhi. ekta iitian se ham sab eah aasha rakhait chhi. mithila sanskriti ke etek vilakshan varnan a etek sanchhep mein, ati adbhut.

    nik a bejai te sab kichh mein takal ja sakait acchi, ohina apan mithila me seho achhi. dehej t’ sab se uppar achhi.

    jaya, apne kon gamak chhi? apne ke vivah bhel ki nahi. Jan bhel t’ kon gaam. aasha achhi je ahan jatay rahab maithili a mithila ke dhwaja phahrabait rahab.

  14. Indifference bordering on contempt towards Maithil culture is rampant amongst ‘expatriate’ Maithils . Some of the maithils who settled down in MP etc one odd genertaion ago , even do not know that their roots lie in Maithil Bhoomi of North Bihar .

    It is painful to see decline of such great culture and tradition. Can some common effort be made ?

  15. me too learning Maithili- my “mother-tongue” and the maithili script…..awesome feeling!!! finally formed a signature comprising of maithili alphabets…

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