Have you ever heard of Saurath Sabha or Sabhagachhi? This is a unique shrine for fixing marriages under the shade of trees. Eligible bachelors with their parents sit down with the guardians of marriageable brides, gathering at the place from different locations. Sabhagachhi spread over 22 acres of lush green land falling in the district of Madhubani is 175 km away from state capital Patna in north-east.
The age-old congregation is identified with Mithila and its surrounding landscape for systematically maintaining a marriage tradition which has been playing a quintessential role in what can be described as Shrishti Nirman (Creation of Mankind).
Though the cases of divorces have become a normal practice in the Western societies and even in many parts of India, yet the institution of marriage in Mithila – the birthplace of Goddess Sita – continue to be as strong as in the olden days with negligible divorces even today.
Match-making and adherence to the principles of successful married life are so meticulous and socially bound that there is hardly any scope for the proverb- marry in haste, repent at leisure- हड़बड़ी ब्याह, कनपटी सिंदूर. Hence, there does not exist any system of ex-husband or ex-wife what we find in the west with a prenuptial agreements. With traditional rituals to follow, love life in the region is very pure and strong. Conjugal rights are granted post wedlock. In a nutshell, matrimony is sanctimonious in Mithila lifestyles.
The foundation behind such a strong, institution of marriage is owing to the ingrained ethical values, social ethos, family obligation and uncompromising attitude to adhere to high principles of a successful life and soul-matching.
What’s more, the system of marriage registry, colloquially called panjikar and genealogical records, panji in Maithili has been cautiously but scientifically maintained to avoid marriage between the same gotra (clan). However, Saurath Sabha does not permit intermarriage. An approval for wedlock is sought from the system. What the social marriage registrar issues a sidhant is a kind of marriage approval in itself.
Bounded on the north by the Himalayas, the south by the river Ganga, the east by the river Mahananda, and west by the river Gandaki, Mithila was able to develop the system of marriage-negotiation congregation as back as 700 years ago. However, many marriage bureaus online and offline have come up in today’s Indian towns.
Moreover, the first svayambara, a self-chosen form of marriage took place at Saurath known as Sitasvayambara in treta era, one of the four epochs. Noticeably, during the 60th Republic Day in 2009, the Bihar tableau had presented this unique and lively glimpse of Saurath Congregation.
Earlier, such match-making assemblies were held in 14 villages, namely Saurath, Khamgadi, Partapur, Sheohar, Govindpur, Fattepur, Sajhaul, Sukhasaina, Akhrarhi, Hemanagar, Balua, Barauli, Samaul, and Sahsaula in North Bihar. While Saurath maintains the tradition, all other villages have discontinued holding such a congregation.
In 2017, this writer launched Paag Bachao Abhiyan (Save the Paag Campaign) under the banner of Mithilalok Foundation and appealed Maithils across the world to attend the Global Saurath Congregation beginning from June 25 concluded on July 3 at Saurath in the year.
The holy place having a temple is merely six kilometers from Madhubani district headquarters in Bihar. The congregation takes place every year in the month of Ashadha according to the Hindu calendar.
Earlier in that year, in a letter to Chief Minister of Bihar, Mithilalok Foundation requested to develop a Multi-purpose Community Hall at Saurath Sabha to hold intellectual activities and discourses besides organising the marriage ceremonies in the conventional ways.
Saurath has all potentialities to emerge as a centre of intellectual gatherings in the state of Bihar. It can connect Maithils from across the globe and take them to their roots. It stands to reason that Saurath’s development will also curb the unabated migration of Maithils and they will return to their roots and enthusiastically, add and accelerate the region’s growth.
Mithilalok Foundation has also put in a strong demand to the concerned agency to accord Saurath Sabha as a national heritage for its unique tradition and cultural values. The legendary place of congregation fulfils all characteristics as per the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s definition as a heritage.
Dr Birbal Jha is a noted author, social entrepreneur and the Managing Director of Lingua Multiservices Pvt Ltd having a popular trademark ‘British Lingua’. He is credited as having created a revolution in English training In India with the slogan ‘English for all’. Moreover, he is regarded as the Youngest Living Legend of Mithila.