Know about Saran district

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Saran: There are tow different views on the etymological origin of Saran: While renowned British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham ascribes it to the fact that Asylum, which means sharan in Hindi, is the name of an Ashokan pillar in the area, popular perception considers Saran to be a derivative of Saranga-Aranya, or a deer forest. Excavation at Chirand, at the confluence of quite a good number of Neolithic tools cut from antler bones. The latter view is based on the fact that the area contained forest expanses in ancient times.

Mythology is as much a part of Saran as its trail of sites dating back to pre-historic days. Excavation at Chirand have revealed life in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic ages, and that makes Saran an exciting venue to go hunting for the ways of life the earliest ancestors lived.

A copper plate dating to 898 CE, suggesting its origin to the village of Dighwara-Dubauli, site of the ancient Ami temple, and issued in the reign of Pratihara King Mahendra Paladeva, is perhaps the oldest temple record from Saran. Though, there is a hoard of literary references to the area which once formed a part of Kosala Mahajanapada as ‘Uttara Kosala’.

Mythology too abounds in Saran which is popularly believed to have been sage Dronacharya’s abode. Even Gautama’s ashram is believed to have belonged to the place.
The famous Gaj-Grah (elephant-crocodile) duel commencing from the Himalayan foothills, where the Gandak flows into India, is also said to have indecisively concluded near the confluence of the Gandak and Ganga near Sonepur in Saran.

The bank where the gods intervened to stop the fight is located outside Hajipur. Konhara Ghat, in fact, has an interesting etymology. Legend has it that when the warring elephant and crocodile carried their duel downstream to the confluence, all bloodied with neither willing to give in, the gods were asked to give their verdict.

Sugarcane and indigo cultivation was brought into vogue in 1920 as’ Cawnpore Sugar Factory’ by the British in Saran. The sugar mill at Marhaura in Saran was one of the country’s first sugar mills and the place is still remembered for its Morton toffees for the sweet factory established in 1929 by C. C. E. Morton (India) Ltd.
Saran was exploited to the hilt for saltpetre, first by the Duch who had established a factory at Chhapra by 1666, and later by the English who too set up their own ‘Peter Godowns’, as they liked to call them.

Even in the 19th century, saltpetre was in great demand as the long-drawn French war required gunpowder in plenty. A great part of the British requirement was met from Saran and Hajipur in Bihar’s Vaishali distric.

A little known fact of the great saltpetre industry of Saran is that one of its byproducts – sulphate of soda – too had a burgeoning market in Patna and north India for curing fattening cattle. In parts of Bengal, this byproduct was even used as artificial manure.

While remains of the antiquated saltpetre industry have become part of folklore, Sarans rich array of monuments described in the following chapters on the districts of Saran, Siwan and Gopalganj will transport you into a world of its own.