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Janakpur

Janakpur

 

Arriving in Janakpur from Kathmandu is rather like leaving Nepal for India, while the town comes as a welcome change from the more dreary surroundings of Birgunj or Biratnagar if you have been traveling through the Terai. It is certainly one of the Terai's more interesting places, though some tourist literature does tend to overdo the hype. As the only major town between Birgunj (106 kms along the Mahendra Highway) and Biratnagar (169 kms) it is ideally suited for a short stay to break the numbing journey between Kathmandu and Kakarbhitta.
 

The town is a feast of temples: there are more than 100, dominated by the spectacular Janaki Mandir. It also has a sizeable Muslim minority, mostly long term migrants from Bihar, and a small mosque stands beside the Janaki Mandir. Economically it relies mainly on agriculture although there is some light industry including cigarette manufacture.

 

Janaki Mandir: known locally as Naulakha, this temple is dedicated to Sita and houses a large image of Sita said to have been found in a river near Ayodhya and brought here by Sura Kishore. It is built of white marble and its design resembles a Mughal fort, with an arched main gate and windows and octagonal parapets set into the towers on both sides. The temple was commissioned by Brishbhana Kunwar, the Maharani of the princely state of Tikamgarh in present day Madhya Pradesh, central India. Construction was completed in 1911. the huge building contains 600 rooms and dominates the center of Janakpur. Non-Hindu visitors are not allowed into the shrine room but can walk around the outer courtyard where you can see the magnificent marble tracery and other art work.


Viraha Mandap : the name of his modern addition to the Janaki Mandir complex means 'marriage pavilion'. It has a pagoda roof and, uniquely, glass walls. The large images of Rama and Sita sit on a raised platform inside and commemorate their fabled wedding in full colour.
 

Ram Mandir : this is Janakpur's oldest temple and was built in 1882 by Amar Singh Thapa, who was also responsible for Tansen's Amar Narayan Mandir. It lies at the heart of the old part of the Janakpur, 200 meter southeast of the Janaki Mandir. A shrine stands in the center of the courtyard. Non-Hindu visitors are allowed in, but shoes and leather items should be removed and left outside. Just to east is Danush sagar, one of the town's holiest pokharis where pilgrims take a ritual cleansing bath before puja.


Ganga Sagar: this large Pokhari to the southeast of the town's main chowk is considered to be the holiest of Janakpur's many ponds. On its western side is a dharamshala and ghat, now used mostly for washing.


Hanuman Mandir : out on the western bypass, 200 meters south of Ramanand Chowk, this small temple attracts a steady stream of visitors. They come either to worship Hanuman or simply to see his image: in this case, a live monkey who is kept in a small cage and is fed with sweets, milk bananas and other assorted fruits, all offerings to the deity, throughout the day. The continuous feeding and lack of space have resulted in an obscenely authenticated certificate. The temple was the gift of a local high profile philanthropist in 1984. The exact age of the monkey is unknown, but it is believed to have replaced the temple's original monkey which died. It is washed daily and has its own fan to keep cool.


Dhanukha : about 20 kms northeast of Janakpur, Dhanukha is a quiet temple site and, according to the Ramayana, is the place where Rama claimed Sita as his own by bending Shiva's bow. A peepul tree stands beside the small temple, and the spot is surrounded by forest with some delightful walking opportunities, which add to its local popularity as a romantic destination for courting couples.
 

Jaleshwar : an old temple dedicated to Shiva is the focus for a visit by many pilgrims here. Located some 15 kms southwest of Janakpur, the Jaleshwarnath temple contains an image of the lingam and is situated beside a deep well, whose waters are held as especially sacred by the devout. Many pilgrims visit Jaleshwar as part of an all day fast.