This project focuses on an Early Modern vernacular Maithili song-poems of historical poets like Vidyāpati Ṭhākura (c.1360-1450 CE) from the Mithila region of India and Nepal. This song-poetry tradition is preserved in manuscripts currently held in inaccessible and deteriorating archives in Nepal and India and in a living performance tradition in the region. Making these texts widely available allows Maithili-speakers of all caste communities across the India-Nepal border to scrutinise and interrogate essential parts of their literary and material past. For a textual-performance tradition, digitisation provides a unique opportunity to merge, compare, and trace this mercurial tradition further afield into other regions of South Asia.
Many intact manuscripts in Old Maithili, survive in state and private collections in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. A combination of environmental degradation and political machinations have left most Maithili-language manuscripts in the low-lying, flood prone region of Mithila, in the north of the Indian state of Bihar and in southeastern Nepal, destroyed or lost. This large collection also provides evidence for a robust and intricate network of brahmins, artists, and other elites migrating from the lowlands into the Kathmandu Valley and the language and literary tradition that they brought with them. The texts of the Maithili manuscript of Nepal primarily consist of lyrical anthologies and devotional dramas in Maithili and Newari scripts and on a variety of materials.