Groom in his best attire… the face of parents wearing tense look… beeline of people at the place of Panjikars working for marriage negotiations matching horoscope of boys and girls… the hurly burly of choosing Dulha… this animated scene describes Saurath Sabha that once earned the tag of marriage made in Sabha Gachhi and became popular as Dulha Bazar but in course of time it has lost its sheen.

Surath Sabh located in Madhubani 100km away from Patna was the place where once Maithil Brahmins from all walks of life huddled together annually in the month of June-July for fixing marriages.

Going by the history in brief about the Saurath Sabha it was learnt that Sabha Gachi was started in 12th century by the then Mithila king Hari Singh Deo Rai to facilitate both brides and grooms for doing the best and carry search for their counterparts. Nevertheless, this unique tradition is fading away without any takers.
The Sabha Gachhi takes place in an area comprising 22 orchards, dozens of banyan trees, mango trees, a ramshackle Shiva temple, a few large Dharmashalas and two ponds; which were gifted by the then king at the time .

Lakhs of Brahmins came to Saurath Sabha for settling marriages till the 1990s.When the number of marriages crossed 1.25 lakhs, leaves of banyan trees bent down signaling the success of Sabha Gachhi. The cause for decline of this vibrant tradition, as said, was due to negative image created by the media calling it a ‘Brahmin Dulha Bazar’ where bridegrooms were sold like cattle.

The kidnapping culture of eligible bachelor or groom, which developed during 1990s, perished the spirit of Sabha Gachhi. Many professionals like doctors and engineers and civil servants were kidnapped by girls’ relatives through hired goons, when their dowry negotiations reached a dead end. Boys were forcibly married to girls of lower gotras in-order to get socio–economic status.

Panjikars put their tents in Sabha Gachhi to match horoscopes and genealogical records of both bride and groom families. Once it is verified that there is no blood relationship between the prospective couples till five generations from father’s family and 7 generations from mother’s side, they give a certificate on palm leaves.  Subsequently, the parents would go ahead with marriage preparations. The panjikars received a few bucks for their services.

JPN