Wednesday, December 31, 2008

सौराठ Sabha

Saurath is a village situated six Kilometers north east of Madhubani town in Madhubani District of Bihar. It is famous for being the place where thousands of Maithil Brahaman converged to fix marriage during marriage season. The people gathered at Saurath Sabha Gachchhi (Sabha means congregation and Gachchhi mean orchard in Maithili). This gathering is an annual event held in the Hindu calendar months of Jyestha-Aasadh. This was an important social congregation where the marriages of Maithil boys and girls are fixed up according to the reading of horoscope by the Panjikars ( Registrars ). [2] The gathering is organised in an orchard covering 22 bighas of land that was donated by the Maharaja of Darbhanga.

History of Saurath village

Original name of the village, as mentioned in 'Tithi Nirnaya' is Saurashtra. This village was originally named Saurastra, literally a cultural and intellectual centre of sau-rastra, nations associated with Janaka, the ancient king of Mithila. Janak is mention in the Ramayana epic as father of Sita. Tradition has it that the svayambara (self-chosen form of marriage) of Janaka’s daughter, Sita, took place in this village.

The presiding God of this village is Somanath or Shiva. There is an interesting story which links Saurath to Somnath Temple In Dwarka, Gujarat. According to folk tradition, in AD 1025, Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the famous temple of Somnath, looted the fabulous wealth of the temple, and destroyed it completely. It is believed that Lord Somnath appeared in the dream of the two Maithil Brahman brothers, Bhagirathdutta Sharma and Gangadutta Sharma, and asked them to take His lingam away. The two brothers, following God’s instruction, went to Dwarka and brought the lingam to Saurath and kept the lingam in hiding for a long time. Later the lingam was duly enshrined. Somanath temple at Dwarka is situated in a region known as Saurastra. In the 18th century a Maithil king constructed here the temple of Somnath. [4]

Saurath Sabha or Sabha Gachchi

Mithila King Harisinghdeva (1310-1324) introduced Panji Prabandh in Maithila. This applied to Brahimins and Kayasthas. Panji Praband gave rise to an elaborate system of genealogical records, which is known as Panji. This was considered a major social reform at that time and was enforced through royal patronage and supervision[5].

It was proposed that to facilitate marriage and to curb evil practices associated with the fixing of marriages, the marriage people should be allowed to meet father as well as the prospective grooms so that the marriage could be fixed in front of everyone. The Maharaja of Mithila once again sanctioned this idea and accordingly 14 villages were identified to hold such sabhas: Saurath, Khamgadi, Partapur, Sheohar, Govindpur, Fattepur, Sajhaul, Sukhasaina, Akhrarhi, Hemnagar, Balua, Baruali, Samsaul, and Sahsaula. While Saurath maintains the tradition, all other villages have discontinued holding such Sabha.

Tradition of Saurath Sabha

Almost every year, during suddha or auspicious days for the settling of marriages, thousands of Maithil Brahmans gather at Sabha Gaachchi in Saurath. The Panjikaras (the person maintaining "Panji" or genealogical record) plays a very important role in fixing of marriage since it is obligatory for every person desirous of marriage to get a certificate called asvajajanapatra (non-relationship) from a panjikara, stating that there is no “blood relationship”, as per the prescribed rules of prohibited degrees of relationship, between the bride and groom. There is a fixed sitting place – dera – for every village in the sabha. The timing and number of days etc. are decided in a general meeting of the scholars and pandits of Mithila in accordance with the traditional astrological almanac– Pachanga.

Usually it is held for seven to 15 days every year or sometimes twice in a year during the auspicious period (months). After reaching at the dera the father or guardian of a bride starts searching for a suitable groom with the help of his relatives and a ghatak (middleman). The negotiation takes place in a complete democratic manner since it is held in open, in sight and hearing of everyone around. The grooms also arrive at their respective deras along with their parents. However, ladies are not allowed in Saurath Sabha.