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Janakpur Travel Guide

Janakpur is a large city in the southern Terai region of Nepal, located only 16 miles from the Indian border. The city is the center of the ancient Maithili culture.[1] Janakpur is hands-down the most interesting and tourist-friendly town in the region of Terai. It is a religiously and historically important city for Hindus. It is said to be the home of Sita, who is the wife of Ram. The two are looked up to as a model of a perfect marriage; Ram, the hero of the Ramayana, is a virtuous husband while Sita is a chaste wife. Indian tourists visit Janakpur regularly as a pilgrimage center, shouting chants of “Sita Ram, Sita Ram”, but it is rare to see any western tourists.[2]

The Janaki Mandir temple is unique in Nepal. It features gilded spires and domes and a wedding-cake façade. Built in 1911 by India’s Queen of Tikagarh[3], it is the biggest temple in the country and gets crowded by Hindu[4] worshippers in the mornings and evenings. Upstairs, government offices occupy the spaces. The temple’s architecture resembles the Islamic style. Around the temple, you’ll find a conventional old bazaar where merchants hawk their goods and women wearing saris to cover their faces move bullock carts at a snail-like pace. Large markets are held at the bazaar two times a week.[5]

The markets and bazaars are also the setting for numerous festivals. The main event ever year is the Bivaha-Panchami, which is the festival re-enactment of Ram and Sita’s wedding;[6] the streets are filled with the beat of drums and paraded with elephants, horses, and chariots. Also notable is the festival of Rama Navami, which is Rama's birthday. This festival is celebrated in March/April. The annual mass of Parikrama (circumambulation) is another big event. It is celebrated on the full moon day in late February.[7]

Besides being a place of temples and pilgrimage centers, Janakpur is also known for its numerous hostels for sadhus and for its ponds, which are said to have been built for the gods and goddesses when they attended Ram and Sita’s wedding. The fish from these ponds are sold in Kathmandu. The ponds are also used for ritual bathing.[8] The two most important ponds, Ganga Sagar and Dhanush Sagar, are located close to the town’s center.[9]

Story of Sita
The story of the Hindu goddess, Sita, is that she was found as a baby in a field by King Janak. The king took the child home and raised her. When Sita became a young woman, the king agreed to wed her to whoever could string the divine bow of Shiva. Ram, a prince from Ayodhya, succeeded and became Sita’s virtuous husband.[10]

Maithili Culture
Maithili culture is still alive and well in Janakpur, evident in the town’s religious festivals, ritual baths at the various ponds, and the women’s crafting of pottery, paintings, and traditional art. In fact, the Maithili are known for their amazing traditional artistic skills. The Maithili language is also still widely spoken in Janakpur.[11]

Burbank, Jon, Rosha Bajracharya, and Kesang Tseten. Nepal. New York: Prentice Hall Travel, 1993. ISBN: 0671879138.

“Janaki Mandir.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janaki_Mandir>

“Janakpur.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janakpur>

[1] Janakpur
[2] Booth, 183
[3] Id.
[4] Janaki
[5] Booth, 183
[6] Id.
[7] Janakpur
[8] Booth, 183
[9] Janakpur
[10] Id.
[11] Id.

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