Saurath Sabha of Mithila

Sabha Gachhi is at Sourath village, six kilometers from Madhubani in North Bihar and Sabha is called Sourath Sabha.

Saurath Sabha was the place where thousands of Maithil Brahmins converged annually during the month of Jyestha-Ashadh to arrange marriages.

The Sabha, part of the over-500-year-old culture of Mithila, takes place at an area comprising 22 orchards constituting dozens of peepal, banyan and mango trees, a ramshackle Shiva temple,, some largely abandoned Dharamshala and two ponds; which was gifted by a king in the 15th century.

Lakhs of Brahmins came to Suarath sabha till the 1990s. When the number crossed 1.25 lakh, the leaves of the ancient peepal fall down; which signaled sabha’s success. The legendry tree is long dead and the place desolated with the crowd of not more than a hundred.

The cause of the decline of this vibrant tradition, as said was due to a negative image painted by media calling it a ‘Brahmin dulha bazaar’ where bridegrooms were brought and sold like cattle. The “kidnapping” culture of the 1990s too led to the traditions declining. Many professionals like engineers, doctors, and civil servants were kidnapped by girl’s relatives through hired goons when their dowry negotiations reached a dead end. The boys were forcibly married to girls of lower gotras having low socioeconomic status.

Before that, the Anti-Dowry Act 1980 led to some bridegrooms being put behind bars. The very few kidnapping took place, were publicized a lot. Hence professionals stopped going there. The system of Panjikaran or registration was introduced in Mithila by its king Hari Singh Dev.

Panjikaran comprises an elaborate system of preparing and keeping genealogical records. Some panjikars even visit homes to jot down births and deaths in brahmins families to update their records. When a brahmin boy or girl approaches a panjikar, the latter looks for his/her gotra. The panjikars go back a few generations and every year at least half a dozen of them pitch their tents at the sabha Gachhi to match horoscopes and record the matches made at the Sabha Gachhi. Once it’s verified that there is no blood relationship between the prospective couples till the prohibited degree( 5 generations from mother’s side and 7 generations from father’s side), They give a certificate on palm leaves.Subsequently, the parents go ahead with marriage preparation. The panjikars receive a few hundred rupees for their services.

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