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Maithili

Maithili is a language of the family of Indo-Aryan languages, which are part of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is spoken in the Indian state of Bihar and in the eastern Terai region of Nepal. Linguists consider Maithili to be an Eastern Indic language, and thus a different language from Hindi, which is Central Indic. Maithili has been considered a dialect of both Hindi and Bengali, and in fact was classified as a mother tongue of Hindi in the Census of India. In 2003 Maithili gained the status of an independent language in India. A movement to give the language official status through inclusion in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution so that it may be used in education, government, and other official contexts, resulted in Maithili being given official status in 2003.

Maithili was traditionally written in the Maithili script (also known by the names Tirhuta and Mithilakshar). It was also written in the Kaithi script, but the Devanagari script is the script most commonly used today for Maithili. An effort is underway to preserve the Maithili script and to develop it for use in digital media by encoding the script in the Unicode standard, for which a proposal, submitted by Anshuman Pandey, to allocate the script in the Unicode Roadmap has been submitted as the first step.

The term Maithili comes from Mithila, which was an independent state in ancient times. Maithili is a separate language, having a large Maithili-speaking community (4.5 crore, or 45 million, people) with a rich literature. The most famous literary figure in Maithili is the poet Vidyapati. He is credited for raising the importance of 'people's language', i.e. Maithili, in the official work of the state by influencing the Maharaja of Darbhanga with the quality of his poetry. The state's official language used to be Sanskrit, which distanced common people from the state and its functions. The name Maithili is also one of the names of Sita, the consort of Rama.

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