Plains (Tarai)

Janakpur in the eastern tarai is one of the historic cities of Nepal and lies 20 km south of the (East-West Highway) Mahendra Highway. Previously renowned as Mithila, it was the capital of the Videha (bodyless) spiritual rulers, the Janakas. Janaki or Sita was born to Sivadhwaga Janaka and was married to Rama, the King of Ayodhya and legendary hero of the great epic ‘Ramayana’. A famous center of learning in ancient times, Mithila once boasted hundreds of sages who contributed substantially to Hindu philosophy. One of the oldest texts produced by them is the well-known Upanishad Brihadarandyaka. 

Predominantly inhabited by Maithili people, Janakpur has its own language, script and a unique artistic tradition and rich culture. Recently, religious Mithila art has found its own niche in the art world both locally and internationally. Surprisingly, Japan has shown immense interest in this art form even dedicating a museum to Mithila art. Many hotels and restaurants in Kathmandu now feature Mithila art in their decor.

Janakpur’s landmark is no doubt the popular Janaki Temple in the middle of the bazaar which is dedicated to Sita. A simple but beautiful building nonetheless, the present structure owes its existence to King Pralapa Singh and his consort who donated 900,000 silver coins when they were blessed with a child by Sita. The construction of the temple began in 1895 and took years to evolve into its present form and was completed in 1911. Occupying an area of 4,860 sq. feet, it has a mixed style of Islamic and Rajput Domes. This three storied structure is made entirely of stone and marble rising up to 50m. All 60 rooms of the temple are decorated with stained glass, engravings and paintings, with beautiful latticed windows and turrets. 

Pilgrims have been coming to Janakpur since the 4th Century BC. Thousands of pilgrims visit the temple in November/December for Sita Vivah Panchami, the town's major annual festival, when the marriage of Sita and Rama is celebrated with various re-enactments. It is also the time many couples choose for tying the knot. Another festival related to Ram is the Ram Nawami, celebrating his birthday in March/April when huge processions are brought out to the streets.

One of the other big festivals celebrated in Janakpur is the Chhat, when people worship the Sun God (Surya). Devotees gather once at sunset and then the next day at dawn by the holy rivers, offerings fruits and setting burning lamps afloat on the river’s surface. As the sun comes up or when the sun sets, prayers are said facing the sun. Many enter the water while others stand on the shore to pay homage.

Getting there: 
There are daily flights to Janakpur from Kathmandu. Day and night buses to Janakpur leave every day from Kathmandu as well as from Kakarvitta in eastern Nepal. There are many local buses between Birgunj and Janakpur.

Being a pilgrimage center where hordes of pilgrims arrive from India, there are many hotels in Janakpur and most have restaurants attached.