Janakpur: The Epitome of Nepal's Diversity

Text and Photo By Pat Kauba

Only a few centuries ago, Janakpur was its own kingdom, known as Mithila, and today its traditional Mithila art is famed far and wide. For Hindus, Janakpur is very important: the place where Goddess Sita was born, and married to Lord Rama—the most beloved Hindu couple. Sita’s father, Lord Janak, is considered to be one of the greatest gurus (teachers) in the universe—even Lords Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma take council from him – thus making Janakpur a place where all Hinduism’s gods visit. The countless temples, 52 sagars or ponds, the streets and smells makes one think only of India. The main Ram-Janaki Temple reflects the Rajasthani style, the streets the same, much like walking through Pushkar or Jaipur in Rajasthan. The large Muslim community of the town helps give it its feeling of being different from the norm.

What else to do here other than religion? Well, to be honest, it’s all very simple here, the accommodation is limited, and there are no fancy restaurants selling pastas, so this may well decide the time spent. The meethai or Indian sweets available are beyond compare, so tasting these delicacies can be a journey in itself. Indian style teas and foods such as thali (Indian dal-bhaat) is for others, a good reason. As well as hunting down the childlike Mithila art—classically adorning outer walls of homes. In essence, coming to Janakpur is a way to experience an almost exotic India within Nepal’s confines. Sadly though, the un-cleanliness and the mosquitoes (present year round) will probably drive you out quick enough.

Janakpur is a bit of a journey to get to from Kathmandu. If going in or out of east India this is a great reason to stop here. Or, if touring the eastern Terai, then by all means put Janakpur on your list. If you enjoy religion and festivals then the festival of Bibaha Panchami (the wedding anniversary of Sita-Ram), celebrated around December, should not be missed. The bus journey takes between 11-14 hours from Kathmandu, so night travel is best.

Nepal’s only operating train station, with a direct line to India is here, there’s also an immigration office processing visas, making one more reason to visit. If you have time, take a journey out to Dhanusha Dham, a temple 15km outside Janakpur. It is said that an arrow fired by Lord Rama, from a bow gifted to Lord Janak by mighty Lord Shiva landed here. The story goes that Rama was the only man ever able to both pull the bow’s string and discharge it—it was the way for Lord Janak to know the man who should marry his daughter. He released the arrow from the Ram-Janaki Temple; it flew 15km and left what seems to be molten earth where it landed, as if some massive high temperature explosion happened—a mighty symbol of Lord Shiva’s power. Or perhaps it was from a meteor crashing to earth. NASA’s scientists have been out to investigate, perhaps you should too.

Pat Kauba is a freelance writer and photographer who loves all things different. He can be contacted at patkauba@gmail.com