This paper is an attempt to locate the region Mithila through the Varnaratnakāra, a text of curious subject matter. To begin with, at the request of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and through the authorisation of the Bengal Government, Pandit Haraprasand Sastri conducted a search for Sanskrit manuscripts during the years 1895 to 1900 with the assistance of Pandita Rakhala candra kavyatirtha and Pandita Vinoda-Vihari Kavyatirtha.
It was Pandita Vinoda-Vihari Kavyatirtha who discovered the Varnaratnakāra of Jyotirīsvara -Kavisekharacraya during his travel to all over Bengal (including Bihar, Chota Nagpur and Orissa). Thus it was Pandit haraprasad Sastri who brought the text to the academic platform. It is the oldest prose work of Maithili language (North Bihar) preserved in a unique MS. On palm leaf now in the library of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, in its Government Collection of MSS (48/34).
Suniti Kumar Chatterjee and Babua Misra edited the text and was first published in 1940 printed by the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee in the introduction to the texts attests to the its Maithili origin and Maithili characters and also the fact that no other Bengali or Maithili manuscript of that age (14th century) has yet been discovered.
Written in 1324 CE by the Maithili scholar, priest and poet Jyotirīsvara Thākkura, It is in a nature of a compendium but it is descriptive and contains graphic and detailed sketches of many important aspects of the social economic life of its time. The subject matter of the text in the words of Pandit Haraprasad Sastri is:
The subject matter of the book is very curious. It gives the poetic conventions. It is a sort of vernacular and Sanskrit terms, a repository of literary similes and conventions dealing with the various things in the world and ideas, which are usually treated, in poetry. We have in it either bare list of terms, or the similes and conventions are set in the framework of a number of ‘descriptions1.
The text is divided into seven or apparently eight chapters called the kallolas. The work is in prose.
The chapters are suitably called Kallolas’ (streams or waves) as the work is a Ratnakāra, i.e., Sea.
In each kallola, there are a number of these lists of terms and conventional similes; each of these lists, or descriptions, is preceded by the formula- atha Varnana. Each kallola has at its end its name, together with the name of the author and the title of the work.
The Kallolas are as follows: