Art & Culture, History

Historical Significance of Janakpur

Janakpur (Nepali pronunciation: [dʒəŋɑkpʊr] Nepali: जनकपुर) is a sub-metropolitan city in Dhanusa District of Province No. 2 of Nepal. The city is a centre for religious and cultural tourism. It has been declared as the temporary capital for Province no. 2 until Province Assembly votes for a permanent capital.[1]

This city, also known as Janakpurdham, was founded in the early 18th century. According to oral tradition, an earlier city existed in the area, also known as Janakpurdham, which was the capital of the Videha dynasty that ruled Mithila region in the ancient times.[2]

The city is located about 225 km (140 mi) south-east of Kathmandu.[3] As of 2015, the city had a population of 173,924 making it the largest Sub-Metropolitan city of Nepal.[4] Janakpur is currently the third largest city in the Terai (after Biratnagar and Birgunj) and the seventh largest in Nepal.

Nepal Railways used to operate between Janakpur and India.

Accounts of ascetics, pandits and bards indicate that Janakpur was founded in the early 18th century. The earliest description of Janakpur as a pilgrimage site dates to 1805. Earlier archaeological evidence of the presence of an ancient city has not been found. King Janaka’s palace is thought to have been located in ancient Janakpur as it is thought to be the capital of the Kingdom of the Videhas. According to the Hindu Epic Ramayana, he found a baby girl in a furrow, named her Sita and raised her as his daughter. When she was older, he offered her in marriage to anyone who was able to lift the bow of Shiva, left near Janakpur a thousand years earlier. Many royal suitors tried, but only Rama, prince of Ayodhya, could lift the bow. According to an old song, this bow was found northeast of Janakpur.[2]

Until the 1950s, Janakpur was a cluster of rural hamlets inhabited by farmers, artisans, priests and clerks who worked for the monasteries that controlled the land. After independence in India, Janakpur expanded to a commercial centre and became the capital of the Dhanusa District in the 1960s.[5]

Ram-Sita Marriage place
As Asmit and Sita are major figures in Hinduism, Janakpur is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus all over the world. According to the first millennium text Shatapatha Brahmana, the Maithil king Videgha Māthava crossed the Sadānirā (Gandaki River), led by his priest Gotama Rahugana, and founded the Kingdom of Videha with Janakpur as capital city. As Gotama Rahugana composed many hymns of the Rigveda, these events must date to the Regvedic period.[6]

Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and Vardhamana Mahavira, the 24th and final Tirthankara of the Jain religion, are said to have lived in Janakpur. The region was an important centre for the history of Mithila during the first millennium.[7]