Janakpur: Centre of ancient Maithil culture


Janakpur, historically called Mithilanchal, is the centre of the ancient Maithil culture, which has its own language and script.

The first millennium BC text Shatapatha Brahmana tells that the king Māthava Videgha, led by his priest Gotama Rahugana, first crossed the Sadānirā (Gandaka) river and founded the kingdom of Videha, whose capital city was Mithila. As Gotama Rahugana composed many hymns in the Rgveda, these events must date to the Rgvedic period.

The most important historical reference to Mithila/Janakpur is in the Hindu epic Ramayana, where Lord Rama’s wife Sita Devi (also called Janaki) is said to have been the princess of Videha. Her father, King Janak, found baby Sita in a furrow of a field and raised her as his daughter. When she grew up, the king announced that she should be wed by whoever was able to string the divine bow of Shiva. Though many royal suitors tried, Lord Rama, prince of Ayodhya, alone could even lift the bow. As Rama and Sita are major figures in Hinduism, Janakpur is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus.

In addition, both the great saints Gautama Buddha, founder of Buddhism, and Vardamana Mahavira, the 24th and final Tirthankara of the Jain religion, are said to have lived in Mithila/Janakpur. The region was an important centre of Indian history during the first millennium.

Geography and climate

Janakpur is located in the Terai, alluvial, forested and marshy terrain at the base of the Himalaya mountain range. The major rivers surrounding Janakpur are Dudhmati, Jalad, Rato, Balan and Kamala. Janakpur is famous for its temples and the numerous ponds which carry significant religious importance, but are now extremely polluted. Now, the people are becoming conscious and trying to preserve the 52 gandas, i.e, 208 ponds as a sacred place. Earlier, people used to bring the water from those ponds for cooking purposes when there were no hand-pumps and no electricity.

One can see all the six seasons in Janakpur. Basant ritu (Spring-February/March), Grisma ritu (Summer- April/May/June), Barsha ritu (Rainy – July/August), Sharad ritu (Autumn- September/October), Hemanta ritu (Autumn-winter: November/December), Shishir ritu (Winter: December/January). The best time to visit Janakpur is from September to March. The foreigner should visit Janakpur during deepawali (Laxmi pooja or Tihar in nepali or deewali in hindi). This festival lies in the month of Kartik amavashya (No moon’s day in between 15 October to 15 November) of every year. One should consult the Nepali people before planning. After six days of Deepawali, the chhath festival (worship of God Sun) is celebrated. Janakpur is famous for both festivals and one can have the opportunity of this beautiful festival only in Janakpurdham in Nepal and not in any other places either in Nepal or in India. This would be the lifetime memory for a foreigner.

Temples and festivals

Janaki Mandir, Janakpur
The centre of Janakpur is dominated by the impressive Janaki Mandir to the north and west of the bazaar. This temple, one of the biggest in Nepal, was built in 1898 (1955 in the Nepali calendar) by Queen Brisabhanu Kunwar of Tikamgarh. It is also called “Nau Lakha Mandir” after the cost of construction, said to be nine (nau) lakh. The oldest temple in Janakpur is Ram Mandir, built by the Gurkhali soldier Amar Singh Thapa. Pilgrims also visit the more than 200 sacred ponds in the city for ritual baths. The two most important, Dhanush Sagar and Ganga Sagar, are located close to the city centre. The Vivah Mandap temple is famous for its gardens.

Major religious celebrations include the major Hindu festivals such as Diwali, and Dhashara. followed by specacular Chhath Puja (worship to sun) 6 days after Diwali. On the full moon day of February/March before the festival of Holi, a one-day Parikrama (circumambulation) of the city is celebrated. Many people offer prostrated obeisances along the entire eight km route. Two other festivals honour Rama and Sita: Rama Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama, in March-April, draws over 100,000 people. And the Vivaha Panchami or Vivaha festival re-enacts the wedding of Rama and Sita in the famous Vivah Mandap temple on the fifth day of the waxing moon in November or early December(after Kartik Purnima),where Rama broke the bow of Shiva. Over 100,000 pilgrims come for a procession with elephants, horses, and decorated chariots with beating drums.

Pilgrims stay in one of the city’s five good hotels or small guest houses. There are also five fully equipped dharmashalas (free lodgings for pilgrims). Ujjwal MahatoThere was a queen named “Brisha Bhanu Maharani” who had buit this Janaki Temple in nine lakh rupees at that time which cost is much more now even it can’t be imagined to be sold.King Janak “father of goddess sita ” who used to ruled this kingdom.He was very pityful king.He was not only king but also Rishi(priest) so that he was also called “Rajarshi”.The peoplesof that kingdom were very happy with King Janak.

Maithili women are known for their traditional art, especially their paintings on pottery, walls and courtyards. These Mithila Paintings are famous internationally.

Janakpur has five cinema halls (Hanumaan hall,Nilam hall,Aasha hall,Girija hall & Ramjanki picture palace). They show current and older movies in Maithali, bhojpuri, nepali and hindi. Hollywood movies are less popular among the people of this historical traditional city of Nepal .Maximum people use to watch films in theater among these five halls. Most of them have got UFO sound system.

Janakpur has several hotels including Hotel Manaki, RAMA Hotel, SITA Palace, Welcome Hotel, Aanand Hotel. There are also several cheaper lodges and Dharmsala for pilgrims.

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