Now Playing: The Saraks: Jains of Eastern India
I have some pen friends from Sarak community and I have collected some first hand information on them from my friends. I would like to mention their names: Ritesh Kumar Sarak from Giridih, Dr. Badal Mandal from Burdwan, Sudhakar Manjhi from Chokahatu (Ranchi), Ajit Kumar Sarak from Dhanbad, Purnchandra Sarak from Raghunathpur
(Purulia) and Ramakant Manjhi from Keshibadiya.Whatever I know about the Saraks, here it is:
The word Sarak is a derivative of the word Shravak. They are found in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. The most famous surname of Saraks is Majhi/Manjhi, followed by Mandal. Saraks are concentrated in Purlia district of West Bengal and Ranchi, Dumka and Giridih district of Jharkhand. Saraks of Jharkhand and West Bengal are Bengali speakers. There are many villages where 50 to 400 Sarak families are found.
Sarak is a tribal community and most of them live in remote villages. They look just like Santhals. They are listed as Scheduled Tribe by Governments and they get facilities of STs.
Saraks are worshippers of Parshwanth and they know Namokar Mantra. They visit Shikharji and other teerthkshetras in this region.
Most of Saraks are farmers engaged in rice cultivation. Some of them have shops related to agriculture. Many are well educated. There are some teachers, doctors, professors in this community. Dr. Badal Mandal of Burdwan district of West Bengal, who is a Sarak, has done
Ph.D. on `Bangala Sahitya mein Ahimsa'. A nephew of Badal Mandal was in Pune and I was glad to meet him
Upadhyay Gyansagarji Maharaj was in Ranchi, Dumka and Giridih districts one decade ago and he found these people everywhere. He had one rainy season in Sarak area. He made awareness about Jainism in this community. A `Sarak Welfare Association' was formed with help of Jains from Uttar Pradesh. SWA (Sarak Welfare Association) has conducted a survey in all the districts of above states where Saraks are found. Then SWA started a missionary work in Sarak dominated villages. SWA opened Schools, Clinics, Pathshalas and built Jain
temples in many villages. SWA distributed Suing Machines to needy and poor Sarak women. It also trains Pathshala teachers form Sarak community. It offers scholarships and admissions in Jain hostels to Sarak students. As Saraks are Bengali speakers, Jain literature in Bengali is published by SWA.
The main centre of SWA is at Raghunathpur, district Purulia. Many activists of Uttar Pradesh give time for SWA and work in remote areas for months. When another branch of activists come there, they return to home. Mr. Pramod Kumar Jain is President of SWA,
A Hindi monthly magazine called Sarak Sopan is published by SWA from Merath, UP.
Remember that Sarak villages have no Cable TV, Roads, Regular Electricity and hotels. Cell Phones do not work their. Even then if you are interested in this missionary work, and if you can give one or two months of your life, please let me know. Jain Friends is planning to send some volunteers to Sarak area. Your help for upliftment of downtrodden Jains is necessity of time.If you are going to visit Shikharji, and if your dare, consider visiting Sarak villages.