Janakpur is home to more than 70 Hindu temples, the most important of them being the majestic, towering edifice of Janaki Mandir, a rare model of Koiri architecture.
The city is one of the most revered places for Hindu pilgrimage, perhaps coming second only to Kathmandu which houses Pashupatinath. But Janakpur is not just about temples and monuments. The city in the country’s core Tarai boasts a rich cultural history, noted for ages for its arts, language, and literature. Janakpur is the heartland of the Mithila civilization, a melting pot of diverse cultures, religions and of opportunities.
A huge number of Hindu devotees, from Nepal, India and across the world, visit the temple to pay homage to Maryada Purush Ram (The Supreme Male) and Goddess Sita, believed to be the incarnations of Lord Bishnu and Laxmi, respectively. Though the pilgrims visit the temple round the year, it sees a huge number of devotees during major occasions for Hindus such as Ram Nawami, Basanta Panchami and Bibaha Panchami, the festivals devoted to the two deities.
Ram Roshan Das, the Mahantha (priest) at Janaki Temple, said that Hindus from all over the world should visit the Ram-Janaki temple at least once in their life. Das has seen many pilgrims come and go over the decades, but the past couple of years have been the busiest, he said. “This is because of three primary reasons—political stability, a decline in the occurrence of protests and strikes, and increasing social goodwill,” he said. “Mostly it’s the Indian tourists whose number has spiked, owing perhaps to the high-profile visits in recent years.”
According to data by the Tourism Office in Janakpur, a total of 68,137 people visited Janakpur in the last fiscal year (2018/19). Among them, the office said, 67,171 were Indians.
But the figure might not be accurate, because it takes into account only the number of visitors who registered in hotels and lodges. “We collect data from those tourists who stay in hotels and lodges. A significant number of people visit Janakpur and return the same day,” said Subas Mandal, an official at the Tourism Office in Janakpur. The city boasts a total of 46 hotels and lodges, with a total capacity of 1,380 beds.
The flow of tourists has significantly increased in Janakpur for the past 10 years, with no signs of stopping. In 2005, Janaki Temple invited a wedding procession from Ayodhya, the birthplace of Ram and the setting of Ramayana, for the first time.
Aside from visiting the temples, including Ram Janaki Temple, while in Janakpur visitors also make it a point to stop by the many holy ponds. There are around 90 ponds, the popular ones being Ganga Sagar and Dhanush Sagar located in the vicinity of Janakpur. Some of the devotees take a holy bath in the ponds before they pay homage in the temples.
Janakpur is in the heartland of Madhes. It is 25 km south from Dhalkebar along the East-West Highway. The nearest Nepal-India border point, Jatahi, is around 14 km south from Janakpur. The historic place is well connected with road network even with India. There are four Kathmandu-Janakpur flights every day.
Further, if one is interested—to observe, learn and research—in Mithila painting, Janakpur is the right place to visit. The wall painting in Janakpur Railway Station, Rangabhumi Maidan, and Ram-Janaki Bibaha Mandap are great pieces of artwork.
Food is an integral part of one’s travel, so when in Janakpur, enjoy typical Mithila food that comprises rice, lentil soup, vegetable curry, taruwa, tirauli, phulauri, fish curry, and curd. However, such a meal is not readily available in hotels in the town. One has to place a prior order for the meal.
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