700-year-old ‘groom market’ in India’s Bihar state

In the scorching heat of a July afternoon in eastern India’s Bihar state, a man in his mid-thirties nervously stands in the corner of a fiel...


In the scorching heat of a July afternoon in eastern India’s Bihar state, a man in his mid-thirties nervously stands in the corner of a field. Wearing a pink shirt and black trousers, he waits in anticipation. It is a big day for him.

Nirbhay Chandra Jha, 35, has travelled more than 100km (62 miles), all the way from Begusarai to Madhubani district in the hope of finding a suitable bride for himself in Saurath, a village famous for its “sabha” or annual “groom market".

Any moment now, Jha expects a girl’s family to come to him and start negotiations for a dowry. The aspiring groom stands there on public display, with a modest dowry tag of 50,000 rupees ($630).

“Had I been younger, I could have easily asked for 2-3 lakh rupees [$2,500-3,700],” he told Al Jazeera.


Nirbhay is a Maithil Brahmin, a subgroup within Hindu Brahmins living in the Mithilanchal region of Bihar. The Brahmin community is the dominant social group in the complex Hindu caste hierarchy and has enjoyed historical privileges.

Hindu endogamy norms generally restrict marriages within the same clan but encourage alliances within the same caste group, the reason why such bonds are mostly “arranged” by the families.Nirbhay works as a manager at a factory, with a stable income, which he believes makes him a good choice for a husband.

Dowry, though illegal in India, is prevalent and has a high social acceptance, especially in Bihar and the adjoining northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Experts estimate the total value of dowry payments in a year in India is $5bn – equal to India’s annual spending on public health.


Nearby, about 20 men sit under the trees, calmly discussing the turnout of grooms in this season of “Saurath Sabha”, which they say is one of the world’s oldest matrimonial sites.

Though such traditions have largely disappeared in India, the one in Madhubani – part of Bihar’s Mithilanchal region – seems to have survived modernity.

Groom market’

In this unique 700-year-old tradition, the aspiring husbands stand in public display, and the male guardians of girls, usually the father or brother, select the groom. Generally, the bride has no say in the process.

“It is as if the bride’s family can just shop for a groom they like if they can pay the required dowry. It is like a groom market,” a man who lived in an adjoining village told Media.

For Maithil Brahmins, the event is sacred.

Locals say the prospective brides’ families visit the village without declaring their intent and observe the men secretly from afar. Once they have made their choices, they put a Mithila gamchha, a red shawl, over the selected groom to make a public statement about his selection.

“It is akin to keeping a handkerchief on a bus seat,” says Madhubani resident Jyoti Raman Jha, referring to a first-come-first-serve system on public transports.

The thin attendance at the event speaks of the waning influence of the tradition. However, the meeting place for one of the highest castes among Hindus still draws people struggling to find matches from a tiny pool of prospects.

Some say there used to be open bidding for grooms in the olden days – with varying dowry tags. The more prestigious the profession of the groom, the higher the demand for dowry. Engineers, doctors and government workers were most sought after.

By their looks, the men now mainly seem to be from villages who have taken an extraordinary interest in keeping the tradition alive. But it has not been easy.

Economic progress and migration to cities have uprooted many Indians from familial land. Parents also now have lesser control over their children’s matrimonial choices. With cheap internet access, arranged matchmaking has increasingly shifted online. India has some of the biggest matrimonial websites in the world.

The Saurath gathering, however, is a remnant of an arrange marriage system that remains unpolluted by technological advancement.

The event is held beside a pond in the village, lined with dozens of peepal, banyan and mango trees. A huge but unused well, freshly painted with an Indian flag, stands as a reminder of the olden days. An ancient Hindu temple stands next to the pond.

A bright yellow banner, with “Saurath Sabha” written in Hindi in bold red, welcomes the attendees as they trickle in. The legend goes that when 100,000 Brahmins would reach the site, the age-old peepal tree would shed all its leaves.

“In the earlier days, buses would run across the state to bring people to the sabha,” Swaraj Chaudhary, 50, told Media . “Now, hardly a few hundred grooms gather during the event.”

The dowry menace

Villager Shekhar Chandra Mishra, one of the organisers of the sabha, blames the media and politicians for its decline.

“The media painted our sabha as a market where men were sold like cattle and had open dowry tags. Terms like Brahmin ‘dulha bazaar’ [groom market] became common,” he told Media.

Mishra, however, does not shy away from acknowledging that the event has been propagating an open dowry culture for centuries.

“Nowadays, dowry is not looked at kindly but still happens under the table,” he says. “If parents have invested money in making their son an engineer or a doctor, they would want a return on the investment, and dowry is seen as one of the ways to do it.”

Dowry is a huge menace in Bihar and dowry deaths and killings are common despite various governments launching anti-dowry campaigns. According to the National Crime Records Bureau data from 2020, Bihar recorded more than 1,000 dowry deaths, the second highest in the country.

A recent campaign by the Bihar government urged people to make an anti-dowry declaration on their wedding cards. It is not uncommon to see walls of homes, businesses and government offices painted with graffiti asking people to shun dowry.

The menace even gave birth to a curious trend in the region, called “pakadwa vivah” or captive marriage, which saw men being kidnapped by a bride’s family to be married at gunpoint to avoid dowry. Such kidnappings are still being reported.People at the event recall the days when thousands of grooms would come wearing red clothes, ready to be married off after a dowry negotiation was reached. “Without dowry, grooms would not agree to get married,” says a man.

Another man intervenes. “One shouldn’t be shocked to hear about the prevalence of dowry in the sabha. Dowry is normal in India and the sabha is just reflective of that,” he says.


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Election,1,L.G.Polls,1,Labaik,1,Labbaik,1,labour,14,Labour laws,1,Labourers,6,Laddakh,1,Laid to rest,2,land,1,Land Mafia,2,Land dispute,1,land record,1,Land Scam,5,Landing,5,Landmine,3,Landmines,1,Landslide,35,language,3,Lanslide,1,Latin America,2,Lava,3,Law,1,Law Officer,1,Law Makers,1,Law Minister,2,Law officer,1,Lawyers,92,Lay Off,2,Laylat-Al-Qadr,1,leader of opposition,1,Leaders,1,Lebanon,3,Legal Opinion,1,Legislation,6,Legislators,5,Leisure,1,Lettergate,1,LG election,1,Libya,7,Libyan Govt,1,Lifestyle,1,Lift Chair,1,lightning,2,Line of Control,3,Liquor,3,literature,26,Litigation,1,Livestock,1,LNG,1,Loan,2,loans,3,Local,12,Local Council Election,2,Local Govt,3,Local Jury,1,Lockdown,4,Locust Swarm,2,Lodges,1,London,1,London Plan,1,Losses,1,Love to Land,1,Lynching,8,Mail,2,Main culprit,1,Makkah,1,Malala,1,Mali,2,Mali killing,1,Malnutrition,1,Mango,1,Mango Orchards,1,Manifesto,1,Maoist,1,March,1,March against hate,1,Marco Junior,1,mariners,1,Marriage,5,Marriages,1,Martial 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Women,2,Mogadishu,1,Mohsin Dawar,1,molestation,1,Molten,1,Monarchy,2,Monetary,1,monetary policy,2,Money Laundering,25,Money Transfer,2,Monument,2,Monuments,1,Moon,4,Morocco,1,Moscow,1,Mosque,8,mosques,1,Mountaineer,10,Mourners,2,Moustache,1,movie,3,MQM-London,1,Mud Sliding,2,Mud-sliding,1,Mufti Qavi,1,Mughal,1,Muharram,1,Murder,54,Murder Case,3,Murder for Samosa,1,Murder Plot,1,Murdered,2,Murderous Attempt,1,Murders,2,Muslim Activist,1,Muslim Brotherhood,1,Muslim girl burnt,1,Muslim states,1,Muslims,10,Mutilated,1,Myanmar,20,n,1,N.A.B,1,NAB,55,NAB chairman,1,NAB court,2,Nacotics,1,NADRA,1,Nagaland/India,1,Narcotics,58,Narrow Escape,1,National,1603,National Day,1,National Elections,1,National Savings,1,NATO,1,Nature,3,Naval Officers,1,Nawaz,1,Nawaz Sharif,3,NCHR,1,NCOC,1,Negligence,1,Negotiations,1,Neighbourhood,1,Neo-Natal,1,Nepal,1,network,1,Neutrality,1,New City,1,New Delhi,1,New Govt,1,New Plan,1,New York,1,newspaper,2,NFC,1,NGO,2,Nicaeagua,1,Niger,4,Nigeria,17,NightClub,1,No Confidence,1,No-Confidence,1,Nomination,2,Non Muslims,1,North Korea,5,North Waziristan,1,Notice,1,Notification,1,Nuclear,13,Nuclear Power Plant,1,Nusic,1,O.I.C,1,Oath Taking ceremony,1,Oath-Taking,1,obituary,64,Occupation,1,occurred at a facility owned by the Ruiqi Daily Necessities Company.,1,Ocean,1,Oceans,1,ODIs,1,Off loaded,3,Officer,2,OIC MOOT,3,OIC Summit,2,oil,2,Oil & Gas,4,oil Mills,1,Oil Scarcity,1,Oil Tanker catch fire,1,Oil tankers caught fire,1,Oil Vessel,1,Oil-Well,2,Old Traditions,1,Ombudsman,1,Omicrone,1,One Dayer,1,Onlinegame,1,Operation,20,Opposition,5,Oppotunity,1,Orange line,1,Organisations,1,Orphans,1,OSCAR AWARD,1,Outage,2,Outcome,1,Overseas pakistani,8,Overturned,1,Oxygen,1,P.O.Ws,1,Pak Afghan,1,Pak Army,1,Pak Television,1,Pak- China,1,Pak-Afghan,2,Pak-Afghan Border,2,Pak-Afghan-Iran,1,Pakistan,3,Pakistan Day,1,Pakistani,1,Palace,1,Palentinians,4,Palestine,27,Paliament,1,Panama,1,Panama Leaks,1,Pandemic,4,Pandits,1,Pandora leaks,3,Panjshir,3,Papal visit to Iraq,2,parade,1,Pardon,3,Parents,2,Paris,1,Parliament,26,Partiality,1,Partition,2,Passed away,3,Passenger,1,Passengers,4,Passport,4,Pastimes,1,Patients killed,1,Patroleum,1,PDM Rally,1,PDMA disbanded,1,Peace Indo-Pak,1,peace keeper,1,Peace Moot,1,Peacekeepers,1,PEMRA,2,Pendemic,1,Pensioners,1,Pervez Elahi,2,Peshawar,2,pest,1,Petroleum,29,pharoa,1,philippine,7,Phone Scam,1,Photos,1,Picnic,1,Pilgrims,15,Pilot killed,1,pilots,6,pipeline,1,PIR,1,Pirates,2,plane,8,Plane caught fire,2,Plane Crash,13,Plane Shot down,1,Planning & Development,1,plant,1,player,3,Player of Basket ball,1,Players,1,Plough into crowd,1,Plunge into river,1,PM Tour to KSA,1,Poet,1,Poinsonous Food,1,Police,204,Police Officer,1,Policy rate,1,Polio,1,Political,1,Politician,8,POLITICS,914,Politics of AJK,1,polling,2,pollution,13,Poly gamy,1,pope,2,Pope'sVisit to Iraq,1,Population,4,Pornography,5,Porters,1,Post,1,Post Mortem,1,Post-Coup,1,Posting,1,poverty,3,power,4,Power Tariff,1,prayer,2,Pregnancies,1,pregnant,1,President,5,President fled,1,President Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqi criticised the development and said that the meeting couldn’t help the peace process.,1,President of India,1,Presidential,1,Presidential Candidates,1,Press,2,Press Club,1,Press Talk,1,price hike,2,Priest,1,Prime Minister,10,Princess,3,Prison,120,prison break,2,prisoner,16,prisoners,43,prisoners freed,2,prisoners swap,1,Prisoners-swap,3,prisons,4,prize,1,Prnography,1,Probe,2,proceedings,2,Procession,1,Productivity,1,Products,1,Professor,1,Professor killed,1,Profest,1,Prohibit,1,project,1,Promotions,4,Propaganda,3,Properties,2,property,1,Prophet,1,Proscribed,5,prosecution,2,prostitution,1,Protest,269,Protest /War Crime,1,Protest against Law,1,protest in HK,1,Protest March,1,Protest rally,4,Protest/Arrest,1,Protestors,1,Protests,1,Prtoest,1,PTA,1,PTI,2,PTI Rally,1,ptisoner,1,PTV officials,1,Pullout,3,Punishment,6,Punjab,1,Punjab Assembly,5,Punjab Cabinet,1,Punjab Politics,3,Qadiani,1,Qandeel Case,1,Qatar,1,Qul Khawani,1,Qureshi,1,R.Congo,1,Radicals,1,Radio Pakistan,1,Rahul Gandhi,1,Raid,1,Raid on Newspaper,1,Raided,1,Rail Link,1,Railway,42,Railway Workers,1,Rains,1,Rainstorm,2,Rallies,1,Rally,8,Rally in Bangkok,1,Ramadan,1,Rangers,4,Ranjit Singh,1,Ransom,1,Rape by Father,1,Rape by Police,1,Rape Cases,1,raped,1,raping,1,rapist,1,Rasism,1,RCD Route,1,Reaction,3,Reaction on Blasphemy,1,Real Estate,1,Reappearance,1,Rebellion,2,Rebels,3,Rebels/CAR,1,Rebuttal,1,Reconstruction,1,Recover,1,Recovered,1,Recovery,1,Red Sea Port,1,Redcross,1,Refinery,2,Refuge,1,Refugees,15,Rejoinder,1,Reko Dik,1,Release,23,Released,6,Relief Package,1,Religion,177,Religious Harmony,1,Religious Tourism,1,relion,1,Remand,1,Remittance,2,Removal,2,Repatriates,6,Repatriation,4,Republic day,1,Rescue,12,Rescued,3,Reservoir,6,Reservoirs,1,Residency,1,Resignation,6,Response,1,Restaurant,1,Restrictions,1,Retaliation,1,Retook,1,Retrenchment,1,Reunion,8,Revenge,1,Revenue,4,Reward,2,Rickshaw,1,Rift in PML-N,1,Riot,3,Riots,1,Ritual,1,Rivalry,2,River,2,Road accident,1,Road accidents,1,Roads,3,Robbery,4,Rocket Attack,7,Rockslide,1,Rocksliding,1,Rohingya,4,Royal,3,Royal Family,2,Russia,9,Russia-China,1,Russia-China-US,1,Russia/Ukraine,3,Russia/US,1,Russian,1,Russian Army,1,Russian Generals,1,Russian View,1,Russian Warning,1,Rwanda,2,Rwandan refugees,1,SAARC,2,Sacked,2,Sacrifice,1,Safe Landing,1,Safe Passage,1,Salaries,2,Salesman,1,Samadhi,1,Sanaa,1,Sanctions,5,Sand Storm,1,Sandstorm,2,SAPM,1,Saraiki Naujawan,1,Satellite,3,Saudi Arabia,19,Saudia,1,scam,3,Scammers,1,Scandal,1,scholar,1,Scholarship,1,Scholarships,2,School,1,School Children,1,Science,14,Scientist,1,Scorpions,1,Seafood,1,Searches at Airport,1,Seashore,1,Secretriat,1,Security,9,Security 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Court,5,Surgery,1,Survey,2,Suspect,1,Swap,1,Swiss Bank,1,Synagogue,1,syria,16,Syria/Pakistan,1,Syrian prison,2,T-20 Match,2,Taiwan,2,Taj Mahal,2,Taj Mahal Replica,1,Tajikstan,1,Talent,1,Talented GIrl,1,Taliban,45,Taliban -India,1,Taliban & ISIK,1,Taliban Commander,1,Taliban Groups,1,Taliban Leader,1,Taliban Tehrik,1,Taliban-Poppy,1,Taliban/Women,1,Talk,1,Tanker explosion,1,Tanvir AJK,1,Tariff,1,Tax,1,Tax Directory,1,Tax evader,2,Tax Returns,1,Tax-Evasion,1,Taxation,23,Teachers,3,Technology,27,Tehreek Labbaik,1,Tehreek Taliban,1,Tehrik,1,Tel Aviv,1,telecom,11,Television,2,Temperature,1,Temple,7,Termination,2,Territory,1,Terror Attack,1,terror financing,1,Terror Group,2,Terrorism,45,terrorist,8,Terrorists,6,test,2,Textile,1,Thailand,3,Thailand Protest,1,The Biggest Family,1,The incident,1,Theft,2,Theft in Plane,1,Theft/Murder,1,Thirst to death,1,Thrash,1,Threat,2,Three balsts,1,Three explosion,1,Tik Tok,4,Tobacco,1,Top Brass,1,Torch a bus,1,Tornado,4,Torrential Rain,1,Torture,3,Torture at home,1,Tourism,50,tourisn,2,Tourist,1,Tourist Boat,1,Tourist Bus,1,Tourists,4,Toxic Gas,2,Toxic Liquor,3,Toxicity,1,Tractors,1,Trade,85,Trade Union,8,Traders,11,Traditions,10,Traffic,3,Trafficking,2,Tragedies,1,Tragedy,4,Tragic death,1,Train,3,Train Collision,3,Train derailment,1,Train Mishap,1,Train service,1,Train/Plane,1,Training,3,Trans Gender,4,Transaction,1,Transfer,1,transgender,10,Transit Trade,1,Transport,8,Transportation,2,Travel,451,travel crimes,1,Travellers,2,traveloque,1,Trawler,1,Treason,1,Treatment,1,Tree Plantation,2,trekkers,1,Trespassers,1,Trial,1,Tribal Area,1,Tribal Clash,4,Tribal Traditions,1,Tribunal,1,Trip,1,Tripoli,2,Troops,3,Tropical storms,1,Tubisia,1,Tukey,1,Tunisia,5,Tunnel,1,Tunnel collapsed,1,Turkey,4,Turkey visit,1,Turkish Generals,1,TV Channels,2,TVChannels,1,Tweet,1,Typhoon Hagibis,2,Tyranny,4,Tyrants,1,U-Turn,1,UAE,1,UAE President,2,UAE Laws,1,UAE-AID,1,Uganda,2,Uighur,1,Uighur/China,1,UK election,1,UK Parliamentarians,1,UK PM,1,Ukrain war,2,Ukraine,23,Ukraine War,3,Ulema,1,Umra,2,Umra season,1,Underage Marriages,1,unemployment,6,UNGA,1,United Arab Emirates,1,United Kingdom,10,United Nations,18,United States,38,University,4,UNO,3,UNO mission,1,Unrest,1,UNSC,2,Uprising,2,Uproar/Israel,1,US sailor,1,US diplomat,1,US Elections,2,US fired Rocket,1,US Flight,1,US General,1,US military,1,US NAVY,1,US Policy,1,US Politics,1,US prisoner,1,US Troops,1,US vs China,1,US-Israel,1,US-KSA,1,US-Theft,1,US/Afghan,1,US/Israel,1,US/Pak,1,Usury,2,Utility Stores,2,Uzbekistan,1,Vacancies,1,Vaccination,3,Vaccine,1,Vandalise,1,Vandalism,2,Varisty,1,Vatican,1,Vatican City,1,Vegetable,1,vehicle,4,Vehicles Gutted,1,Veil,1,vendetaa,3,Vengeance,3,Verdict,2,Victory,1,Viiolations,1,villages,1,Violation,4,Violations,1,Violence,5,Virus,1,Visa,5,Visa allowed,2,Visa Policy,2,visit,2,Visit to Iran,1,Visit to KSA,1,Visitors,2,Visual Artist,1,Vital Organs,1,Voice of Azan,1,Volcano,10,volunteer,1,War Crime,5,War Crimes,1,Warship,2,water,11,Water Filtration Plant,1,Water issue,1,Water Plant,1,Water Scarcity,1,WAVES,1,Waziristan,3,Weapon,1,Weapons,14,weather,278,Webinar,1,wedding,24,Wedding Knot,1,Weddings,4,Weekly Holiday,1,Welcome,1,Western Bloc,1,wheat/agriculture,2,which is under investigation,1,WHO volunteers,1,Who will be PM of UK,1,Wikileaks,1,Wild fire,5,Wildfire,3,Wildlife,6,Will has no limits,1,wine,1,Withdrawal,1,woman,74,Women,170,Women Chamber,1,Women in Afghanistan,1,Women killing,1,Women March,1,Women Protest,1,Women Rally,1,Women test,1,Women Trafficker,1,Women Traffickers,1,Women trafficking,8,Women/ Houthis,1,Wonders,1,Worker,1,Workers,13,Working class,9,World Cup,1,World Politics,3,World War,3,World War-III,1,World War=II,1,Worship place,4,Writer,1,Writers,1,Yacht,1,Yatch,1,Yatrees,1,Yazidis,2,Yemen,35,Youngsters,1,youth,5,Yum-i-Shahadat,1,Ziarat,2,
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South Punjab News : 700-year-old ‘groom market’ in India’s Bihar state
700-year-old ‘groom market’ in India’s Bihar state
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South Punjab News
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