Saurath : A Cultural Seat of Mithila

November 15, 2022 History Ripunjay Kumar Thakur
Saurath : A Cultural Seat of Mithila

Saurath(सौराठ) is a historic-cultural village in Madhubani district of North Bihar or Mithila. It is one of the villages of Mithila, which is known for its immense contribution in the cultural history of Mithila. It is an ancient place containing some excavated mounds, probably hiding immense information of its historical importance. Alexander Cunningham, archaeological surveyor to the government of India, visited this village in the 8th decade of 19th c. CE. to take an inked impression or photography of an inscription of Raja Shiva Singh, which belongs to the 14th c. CE. The information about this copper plate inscription was shared with him by a local pandit named Babu Lal at the heart of Mithila, Darbhanga. Cunningham writes that pandit was very intelligent and learned, and it was from him that important information about Saurath was obtained. After his visit in 1880-81 he wrote the following in praise of the place: “There can be little doubt of the antiquity of this Brahmanical village, and though seriously disappointed at not securing an impression of some kind from the original copper inscribed tablet, I was not sorry for having visited Sawrath.”

He has mentioned that the inscription was in the possession of Nanhu Thakur and he had presented the copper-plate inscription to the Government about 20 years ago. Thakur with other village pandits helped him in collecting more information. At that time Cunningham could see two Dihs in Saurath, which were separated by almost a mile. He could find no archaeological remains on its surface, therefore it was difficult to decide for any excavation. Cunningham writes that the villagers believe them to be the remains of an ancient city or habitation. and he also agreed with them. He did some superficial excavations in the larger Dih and found some bricks and also a number of clay balls with holes in the center, which may have been used for spinning weights.

The original Sanskrit name of this village is called “Saurashtra”. In the folk tradition, the origin of this name is described in two ways. The first story suggests that this village is of the pre-Ramayana period and in the Ramayana period it was the headquarters of a group of hundred small nations. It is important to note that some events of Ramayana are also connected with some places around the village of Saurath, such as Satalkha, Mangrauni and Kanail. On the basis of this janushruti, historian Izhar Ahmad has identified the village Jagatpur, located in the east of Saurath asMithilapuri, the capital of Videha Kingdom. This is where Yajnavalkya defeated many scholars in the debate at the assembly of Raja Janaka. There is a possibility of finding Ramayana artifacts from the excavation of the mounds in this region, which may highlight the historical and cultural significance of Mithila.

According to the second anecdote related to the nomenclature of Saurashtra/Saurath, when Mahmud Ghazni in 1025 CE looted the Somnath temple and broke its Jyotirlinga in Saurashtra region of Gujarat, then two Brahmin brothers from Sauratha Village, Bhagiratadatta and Gangadatta dreamed of Mahadeva/Shiva who asked them to provide Jyotirlinga a safe place somewhere else and they took it to this village. It is important to note that when King Harisinhadeva in the first phase of the fourteenth century CE (1309-24) started the registration of the Maithil Brahmins and Karna Kayasthas, at that time there was no origin or any branch of origin in the name of Saurath. This suggests that the village was not inhabited by Brahmins and Kayasthas at that time.

The village Saurath has been famous for its matrimonial gathering of Maithil Brahmins which is popularly known as Saurath sabha, the Sabha-gachi marriage became an important aspect of Mithila’s social life no parallel elsewhere in the country. It seems that the institution of Saurath-sabha at the cultural village Saurath gained momentum in the pre modern Mithila. Such gatherings used to be organized on the outskirts of this village. The place where people gather is surrounded by trees of Pipal, Bargad, Pakad and Mango etc. that provided protection from the sun, which is called Sabha Gachhi in Maithili. In the last phase of the twentieth century the relevance of this matrimonial gathering declined with the advent of westernization and the event changed from practical use to the form of a cultural anniversary of a social tradition.

The Sabha or gathering was an annual event held in the Hindu calendar months of Jyestha-Aashaadh. It is said that lakhs of Brahmins used to congregate here. Both the bride and groom parties used to gather here along with the constituents, Panjikars, relatives or acquaintances. Though it was an open matrimonial gathering but caste status was maintained. The order of organizing this gathering was given by the Khandwala kings to the Panjikars who duly organized and conducted it. The registrars/ Panjikars of various villages used to sit with their own books in the Saurath Sabha. Gradually many famous Panjikar/genealogist families must have decided to settle in the village and some of them still there. Prior to the origin of the Saurath Sabha such meetings were held in Samoul and often in Pilkhwad (both in the Madhubani district). At some stage such meetings are said to be held in fourteen places including Saurath and Samoul.

According to Maha Mahopadhyaya Parmeshwar Jha, Khandwala Raja Raghav Singh (1703- 1739 CE) started organizing the assembly near the village of Samoul. The sabha used to have a Panjikar as he had to give a Siddhant Patra written on palm leaves(ताड़पत्र) to the parties concerned when the marriage used to get fixed(without dowry). Siddhant is the approval for marriage which was released after checking that there had been no blood-relation between bride and groom sides for seven generations.The appointed registrars for the assembly in Samoul are said to have been tortured once by the villagers for some reason and they decided to migrate from that village and got settled in Saurath where the registrars received the assistance of Horai Jha of Tarauni (Darbhanga district) to choose the destination of the assembly/ Sabha. Raja Madhav Singh started the construction of a temple, dharamshala and tank for the convenience of the people who used to come from from outside to attend this Sabha. The construction got completed in 1832-33 CE during the time of Chhatra Singh.

Thus, Saurath is a cultural seat of Mithila. Many temples are there in the village including Somnath Temple with a modern architecture where people go to worship with great faith. There is a big Shiva temple named Madhaveshwara Temple in Sabhagaachi(assembly under tress/ Mango orchard ) built by the ruler of Mithila. The temple has a large green campus with a building for Shradhalus-stands in a court-yard (now it has been ruined), to the right direction of which, as one enters, is a large Pokhar or Tank. Now, it is not maintained, no one wants to take a bath in this Pokhar after looking its ruined condition. Some Panjikars are still there, who maintain the long genealogical history of the members of the community.

Bibliography :
Ahmad, Izhar, Madhubani Through the Ages: A Regional History of Madhubani, Delhi: Image Impressions, 2007.
Choudhary, Radha Krishna, Select Inscriptions of Bihar, Saharsa: Shanti Devi, 1958.
Cunningham, Alexander, Archaeological Survey of India Report, Vol. XVI, 1880-1881.
Jayaswal, K. P. and A. Banerji Shastri, Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in Mithila, Patna: Bihar Research Society, 1927.
Jha, Parmeshwar, Mithila-Tattva-Vimarsh, Patna: Maithili Akademi, 2013(edition).
Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society, Patna, Vol. III.
Thakur, Upendra, History of Mithila, Darbhanga: Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning, 1988(edition).
Thakur, Vijay Kumar, Mithila-Maithili : A Historical Analysis, Patna: Maithili Akademi, 2016(edition).
Thakur, Manindra Nath, Savita, Ripunjay Kumar Thakur, Madba(मड़बा), New Delhi: Indica Infomedia, 2020.

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