You Can Buy a Husband at India’s 700-Year-Old Groom Market
For over 700 years, the Indian state of Bihar has been hosting a unique groom market where women and their families come to shop for husbands.
Every year, thousands of men gather under the Pipal trees in the local market area of Madhubani district, India’s Bihar state, and wait to be chosen by prospective brides. Called Saurath Mela or Sabhagachhi, the 9-day groom market was allegedly started by Raja Hari Singh of the Karnat dynasty over seven centuries ago to make it easier for women to find the right husband from a diverse group of men. Each groom is priced based on their capability, including their educational qualifications and family background.
Imagine going to a market to pick up your life partner. That sounds crazy, especially in this day in age, but it’s exactly how some Maithili women in Bihar choose their husbands. Accompanied by their families, they browse the available offers, ask for proof such as birth certificates and school certificates, and if they find someone they like (and they can afford), they start discussing the details.
Al Jazeera recently documented Bihar’s traditional groom market, reporting that engineers, doctors and government employees are most sought after, with the young ones being the most popular. Even though dowries are officially illegal in India, and that one of the main goals of the groom market was to eliminate the dowry, it’s still common practice for young, eligible bachelors to demand considerable dowries from the family of the bride.
Apparently, the brides themselves hardly have a say in choosing the groom. It’s their families who have the last word, ultimately choosing the bachelor that strikes a good balance between affordability and an impressive resumé.
Although the groom market of Bihar isn’t nearly as popular as it was only a few decades ago – mainly because of more convenient options, like online dating apps – it still draws thousands of bachelors, some of whom travel hundreds of kilometers in the hopes of being selected.
Interestingly, India also has a bride market. In Haudati, brides are available for various prices, depending on their qualifications and homemaking skills.