Published on Monday, August 12 by Kalpana Jha

Mithila's Bengal Connection: A Conversation with Shalini Ji

This week was really interesting. My team and I spent a whole lot of time talking about all the ways we find Maithili and Bengali Culture the same.

It started when my son brought my attention to the fact that Darbhanga gets its name from the words Dwar and Banga. That is the Gateway to Bengal.

It brought to memory all the beautiful similarities I have seen and appreciated in the two cultures over the years.

Today's newsletter is all about that.

Joining me in telling these stories is a customer and now a dear friend, Shalini Ghosh who I met on Instagram.Shalini has interesting stories to tell.This letter is written in both Hindi and English. Everywhere, my team has helped with translations.Hope you enjoy these stories :)

Shalini: बात भागलपुर के दिनों की है। हालांकि हम बंगाली हैं, by culture। पर घर में हिंदी बोली जाती है। माँ पापा जी आपस में अंगिका बोलते है।

हम असल में बांग्ला बाद में सीखे बोलना, पहले मैथिली। क्यूंकि चौधरी अंकल के घर से हम लोगो को काफी घनिष्टता थी। और मैथिली ही बोलते थे आपस मे।

तभी से हम यह notice किये कि बांग्ला और मैथिली में काफी कुछ common है। तभी मेरे लिए मैथिली के बाद बांग्ला सीखना आसान था। 😀

Translated in English: The story goes back to the days we spent in Bhagalpur. Though we're Bengalis, but everyone usually speaks Hindi in the house. Mummy Papa talk in Angika when speaking with each other.

Actually, I learned Bangla well after I learned Maithili. Because we were close to the Chaudhury family and we spoke primarily in Maithili.

I started noticing that Maithili and Bangla have a lot in common. That's probably why it was easy for me to pick up Bangla after Maithili. 😀

Kalpana: Shalini Ji is right. Bangali Tola in Darbhanga has had a history of Bengali families living here.

Though they have moved away in recent years, it still stays in people's memories.

That's when I noticed that our words, writing style and script are very similar too.

Shalini: जितनी मीठी भाषा है मैथिली और बंगाली, उतने ही मीठे लोग भी हैं यहाँ के।

अभी last year की बात है। यहाँ वैशाली सेक्टर ३ ghaziabad में काली माँ का पुराना मंदिर है, जहाँ हम दिवाली की रात काली पूजा में जाते है।

वहां पर सारे पंडित दरभंगा के है। जो flawlessly बांग्ला बोल रहे थे। और अगले ही मिनट आपस में मैथिली भी।

मेरे लिए यह समझना ज़रा भी मुश्किल नहीं था।

Translated in English: The people in Mithila and Bengal are as sweet as their language.This is a story from last year.

Here in Vaishali, Sector 3 in Ghaziabad, there's a Kali Mata temple where we go every Diwali for Kaali Pooja.

All the Pandits there come from Darbhanga. You'll see them speak flawless Bangla. And at the next minute, they speak with each other in Maithili.

It wasn't difficult for me to understand that at all.)

Kalpana: Similarities don't end at language. They extend to food, fashion, and philosophy. 

Shalini: बंगाल के लोगो के लिए भी ज़िन्दगी एक celebration है, मिथिलांचल के लोगो के लिए भी हर माहौल हर चीज़ के लिए एक particular गाना, एक particular व्यवस्था ।।

Translated in English: People in Bengal as well as in Mithila celebrate life and its various occasions wholeheartedly.

Kalpana: बिलकुल.

Durga Pooja is almost as elaborate an occasion here as in Bengal. Streets are lined up for all 10 days, with the city everywhere in celebration.

In weddings, you'll see the daughters in Mithila as well as Bengal wearing शंख पोला or शाखा पोला.

The food culture borrows a lot of elements from each other too.

Shalini: आपको मूढ़ी ज़रूर मिलेगा बंगाली के घर , तो मिथिलांचल में आपको चूरा ज़रूर मिलेगा .

दोई मिष्टी हमारे लिए अनिवार्य है तो दही रसगुल्ला मिथिला में भी

खाने के बाद खाया जाने वाला पान, बंगाली भी है और मैथिली भी

.In fact, बंगाल में जाने वाला पान maximum बिहार के दरभंगा के side ही उगाया जाता hai.

मछली के बिना हमारा काम नहीं होता, same मछली के बिना मिथिला में भी काम नहीं होता 

Translated in English:  You'll easily find Mudhi in a Bengali home, in Mithila you'll find Choora. Doi Mishti is every Bengali's favorite and Maithilis love Dahi Rasgulla.People chew betel leaves after meals in both cultures. In fact, most of the betel leaves that reaches Bengal comes from the areas around Darbhanga in Bihar.No Bengali can live without fish, and no Maithili either.

Kalpana: बस फर्क है तो कि मिथिला में सरसो माछ बनता है और बंगाल में दही माछ। लेकिन खा के दुपहर में दोनों लोगो को सोने का खूब मज़ा आता है 😉

Translated in English:  The only difference is that people love their fish in Mustard oil in Mithila, while Bengalis love it with Curd. But both of them enjoy their afternoon siesta after a filling meal 😉

Both cultures have influenced each other over hundreds and thousands of years now.

Administratively, right until 1912, Mithila and Bengal were both part of the Bengal Presidency.

Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore has expressed gratitude for the influence that Maithil Kokil Vidyapati had on him. J

ust recently, I discovered Baatak Geet, which is a Maithili adaptation of Satyajit Ray's historic movie Pather Panchali.

These crossovers in cultures continue to amaze me.

How do you feel about it all? Do you have a story to share about the similarities between the Bengali and Maithili culture? Or cultural crossovers in general?

Write to me in comments or on email and I'll share it with others in Instagram stories :)

P.S. A quick note of thanks to everyone who made this letter possible:

1. Shalini Ghosh on Instagram, for sharing her wonderful stories
2. "Finding Mithila Between India’s Centre And Periphery", an article by Pravin Narayan Chaudhury for Mithila Zindabaad
3. Avishek Shaw's answer to "Does the Maithili language share some similarities with the Bengali language?"
4. Several answers to the question, "Do West Bengal and Bihar share the same culture?" on Quora

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