JANAKPUR, the birthplace of Janaki or Sita, the consort of Lord Ram, is an important religious pilgrimage site in the Terai plains, in south central Nepal. In ancient times, Janakpur was the capital city of the Kingdom of Mithila and the centre of Maithil culture during the Treta Yug, or period, nearly 12,000 years ago.
Janakpur has held a special significance for Thai Royal families since ancient times. The Royal household of Thailand still receives mangoes from the orchards of Janakpur. These fruits which are in abundance only during the peak summer months from May to mid June are savored for their sweet taste and unique flavor.
JANAKI MANDIR: Pilgrims flock here by the thousands to pay homage at the massive and magnificent Janaki Mandir – Janaki being the other name of Sita, the daughter of King Janak. The temple was constructed in 1874 and is a blend of Mughal and local architecture. The temple is a three-storey building and has 60 rooms, making it the largest temple in Nepal. The temple houses an idol of Sita which was found near Ayodhya, the kingdom of Ram. The marriage anniversary of Lord Rama and Sita is celebrated in Janakpur every year on Vivah Panchami day which falls in December.
In the southwest corner of Janaki Mandir is the Vivah Mandap, which has been built at the site where the marriage of Ram and Sita is said to have been taken place. Another well-known temple in the vicinity is Ram Mandir, built in pagoda style, and hence is different from the other temples in Janakpur which generally bear resemblance to Mughal architecture. It houses a female statue, said to be of Yogamaya, which has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful images of female forms in Nepal. Other holy sites of interest include the Laxman Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple and Hanuman Temple.
PONDS: The Mithila region prides itself in having a large number of ponds. Janakpurdham is said to have as many as 115 ancient ponds of historical and mythological importance. Among the ponds, Ganga Sagar, Parshuram Kunda and Dhanusha Sagar are held extremely sacred.
DHANUSHADHAM: Situated 18 km north-east of Janakpurdham, Dhanushadham, is believed to be the place where the broken remains of the divine Shiva bow fell after Ram broke it to obtain Sita's hand in marriage. A fossilized fragment of the broken piece is still believed to be present here. Every Sunday in the month of Magh (January/ February), a Makar Mela (fair) takes place - a tradition that has not been broken since Vedic times - and tens of thousands devotees from Nepal and India flock here to pay homage to this place.
PARSHURAM KUNDA: It is said to be the pond where Maharishi Parshuram bathed to quell his anger after his confrontation with Ram over the breaking of the sacred bow of Shiva. It lies 4 km west of Dhanushadham. The pond is picturesque, with lotus flowers floating on it and lush trees on its southern banks.
JALESHWAR: Toward the south of Janakpur near the Indian border is Jaleshwar, famous for Shiva temple known as Jaleshwar Mahadev. The Shiva lingam here is situated about 20 feet below the surface of the temple and is reached by a narrow stone stairway. Most of the time it lies immersed in water, hence the name Jaleshwar, which literally means Lord of the Water. There are two large ponds on either side of the temple.