Janakpur Tourist Attractions
Janakpur (pop. 72,000) is situated in the south of the Tarai 22 km (131/2 mi.) from the Indian border. The town is the heartland of the ancient Maithili culture which gave birth to its own language and script. Janakpur is also a popular pilgrim center; it was here that Sita (also known as Janaki), the heroine of the Ramayana, was born and where Rama was married.Maithili is still spoken by sections of the population in both the Tarai and the adjacent Indian state of Bihar. Maithili women also keep up their traditional folk art, principally in the form of elaborate paintings on the mud walls of the houses and courtyard floors. Recently they have started to paint on paper.The town is centered around the large Janaki Temple adjoining which, to the south and east, lies an area of narrow, bazaar-filled streets where traditional merchandise is traded (in the more southerly part especially). The Ram Mandir, a temple in the Nepalese pagoda style, is located there too.
Dhanush Sagar & Ganga Sagar
Near the Ram Mandir are the two most sacred of Janakpur's several ancient water tanks, Dhanush Sagar and Ganga Sagar, where, in the early morning, ritual ablutions are performed. During festivals the tanks become the focus of a fascinating ceremony. The unusual number of such cisterns in Janakpur is explained by a legend: they were built by King Janak in anticipation of the gods' arrival for Sita's and Rama's wedding. They (the gods) would naturally wish to wash away the dust of their long journey from the Himalayan peaks, and equally naturally could not be expected to share a bath.
Dedicated to Sita the Janaki Mandir is traditionally held to stand on the spot where King Janak came across the baby in a furrow in a field. Despite its imposing size the temple comes into view somewhat unexpectedly, being approached via a narrow, twisting alleyway.The mandir was built in 1911 by a local princess at the cost, it is said, of nine lakhs (Rs 900,000). Both the overall appearance and architectural detail of the temple are Islamic in influence, the dome in particular being reminiscent of a Rajasthani palace.The silver doors to the interior of the shrine are opened daily from 5-7am and 6-8pm when the flower-bedecked statue of Sita, reputed to have been found in the River Sarya near Ayodyha, can be viewed. Beside her are figures of Rama and his half-brothers Lakshman, Bharat and Satrughna.During these hours the otherwise peaceful temple, largely abandoned by sadhus, priests and musicians during the day, springs to life as crowds of worshippers arrive to honor Sita.
Ram Sita Bibaha Mandir
The Nepalese-style pagoda of the Ram Sita Bibaha Temple makes an interesting contrast with the domed Janaki Mandir. It was built to celebrate the mythical wedding of Rama and Sita, life-size statues of whom, together with Rama's half-brothers (they also took local princesses for their brides) can be glimpsed through the glass windows. On the anniversary of the wedding the figures are adorned with gaudy make-up and magnificent clothes.
Festivals of Bibaha Panchami and Rama Navami
Held on the fifth day of the new moon at the end of November or beginning of January, the festival of Bibaha Panchami is a celebration of the wedding of Sita and Rama. Thousands of pilgrims flock to Janakpur for the occasion.Rama Navami, honoring Rama's birthday, is another highpoint in the town's festive calendar. It takes place at the end of March/beginning of April to the accompaniment of huge processions.
Numerous other cisterns and small temples are found in the immediate vicinity of Janakpur. The cultivated area surrounding the town quickly gives way to a luxuriant tropical landscape. Outstanding are the villages of Kuwa and Rampur, which still belong to Janakpur.Outside Kuwa, the Mahila Bikas Kendra is a Women's Development Center, where the women of the area foster and revive local crafts. Maithili ceramics, painting and craft work can be seen and purchased here.
The spot where Rama successfully met King Janak's challenge is called Dhanusa and lies about 15 km (91/4 mi.) north of Janakpur.