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Indian Temples in Foriegn Lands : Janaki Mandir, Nepal – The Birth Place of Sita

Indian Temples in Foriegn Lands : Janaki Mandir, Nepal – The Birth Place of Sita

The recent visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal brought into light many unknown or lesser known Hindu temples in the foreign land. In a two-day visit to the Hindu nation, Modi virtually went on a temple run. The criticis claim that it was only to influence the voters in Karnataka, while many say he always wished to visit those temples. Whatever be the reason, thanks to Modi many temples that we may not consider to give a look got prominence. Among them is Janaki Mandir in Janakpur. Many say that this is also the birth place of Sita, but very few evidences prove it though.

The beautiful Janaki Mandir is a Hindu temple at the heart of Janakpur. Fully built in bright white, the temple is an example of perfect artistry. Constructed in an area of 4,860 sq. feet in a mixed style of Islamic and Rajput domes, the temple is 50 meters high. It is a three storied structure made entirely of stone and marble. All its 60 rooms are decorated with colored glass, engravings and paintings, with beautiful lattice windows and turrets.

At the heart of Janakpur lies the marble Janaki Mandir, one of the grander pieces of architecture in Nepal, and the city’s must-see sight. Built in extravagant baroque Mughal style, the temple is dedicated to Sita, the wife of Rama and heroine of the Ramayana. It’s believed to stand on the spot where King Janak found the infant Sita lying in the furrow of a ploughed field.

A steady stream of pilgrims file in through the gatehouse to worship the Sita statue in the inner sanctum. The temple is particularly popular with women, who wear their best and most colourful saris for the occasion. Early evening is the most atmospheric time to visit, as the temple is draped with colourful lights and pilgrims arrive en masse. You never know what you might see here!

History of the temple

The temple was built in dedication to Goddess Sita. In 1657, a golden statue of the Goddess Sita was found at the very spot, and Goddess Sita is also said to have lived there. The temple stands on the exact spot where the statue was found.

Goddess Sita was born to the King Janak of the Mithila Kingdom, and was later married to the Lord Rama of Ayodhya, according to the Ramayana. The reference of the town in the holy scripture brings thousands of visitors every year from Nepal and India to this ancient temple.

The temple is popularly known as the Naulakha Mandir (meaning Nine Lakhs). The cost for the construction of the temple was about the same amount of money: Rupees Nine Lakhs or Nine Hundred Thousands and hence the name. Queen Vrisha Bhanu – of the Indian state of Tikamgarhm built the temple in 1910.

Thousands of pilgrims visit the temple during November and December for Vivah Panchami, the town’s major annual festival, when the marriage of Sita and Rama is celebrated with various re-enactments. It is an equally popular time too for modern day weddings.

Legend behind the temple

During Treta Yuga, in the Epic-Ramayana King Janaka, was the ruler of Ancient Mithilla, who was also known as Mithilanaresh, father of Sita. Mithila is also mentioned as the capital of the Videha Dynasty. King Janaka had a wife named Sunaina from Ayodhya and two daughters namely Sita and Urmila. It is well mentioned in late Vedic literature about King Janaka, that he was a great philosopher-king of Videha, who was renowned for his patronage of Vedic culture and philosophy, whose court was an intellectual centre for Rishi (sages) such as Yajnavalkya, such as the Brahmanas and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Modern History

The Janaki Temple was bulid in AD 1911, by Queen Brisabhanu Kunwari of Tikamgarh from central india who provided aid to Gurkha Soldier General Amar Singh Thapa to build this temple at a cost of rupees 900,000 (ie, nine hundred thousand rupees) as a three-storied temple, completely built with stone and marble. Today in local parlance, the temple is thus known as Nau Lakha Mandir or Temple of Nine Lakh Rupees. This being a Hindu religious temple is mostly visited by Hindu people from all parts of the country.

There are two major birthplaces of Goddess Sita

One in Janakpur of Nepal known as Ram Janaki Temple and the other in Bihar as Sithamarhi Temple.

 Legend says, in Treta Yuga King Janaka (Seeradhwaj) performed worship to Shiva-Dhanush which was found by King Devaraatha, the ancestor of King Janaka on this same site during Ramayana period, and ruled this area called Videha (now Janakpur). According to Hindu Mythology, King Janaka got Sita when he was ploughing the fields in search of water at this place, Goddess Sita was born out of a field whom he raised up as his daughter. At the age of 7 upon her mothers instructions while Sita was worshipping Lord Shiva, she came across a holy Dhanush which was kept on a table, in their temple complex. King Janaka got surprised when Sita lifted the Shiva Dhanush, at the same time he got to know about her strength, that she is not an ordinary girl. He then decided to organise Swayamwara (an act of choosing a husband for self) of Sita by calling all the kings from various parts of the country and whoever would lift the dhanush would marry Sita. Many Kings, demons and others participated in this Swayamwara but failed to lift this holy Shiva Dhanush.

Origin of Dhanushadham

When Lord Rama, the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu strings a bow that originally belonged to Lord Shiva the Destroyer and in the process, the bow breaks into three pieces.

First piece : It flies up to heaven and fell at Dhanushkodi or “end of the bow” (dhanush meaning bow and kodi meaning end) in Rameswaram.

Second piece : It  falls down into the depths of the underworld. Today, one can view a huge pond called Dhanush Sagar above this very spot.

Third centre piece : It flies to present day Dhanushadham, about 40 Kms from Janakpur. Upon visiting here, one can see huge rocks taking shape like a bow.

Thus, after Rama’s successful act of stringing this bow, Janaka gives Sita’s hand to Rama and then Sita got married to Him and became the queen of Ayodha.

A Golden statue of Goddess Sita was found in 1657, exactly on the place where this temple is stood now and it is believed that Goddess Sita has lived here. The legend says that this temple was built on the holy site where Sannyasi ‘Shurkishordas Nepali’ had found the images or some sculptures of Goddess Sita. Thus, Shurkishordas is said to be the founder of modern Janakpur who was a great saint and poet who preached about the Sita Upasana (also called Sita Upanishad) philosophy.

Festivals at the temple

There are two big festivals celebrated in Janaki Temple are: The Rama Navami (birthday of Lord Rama in March-April) and the Vivah Panchami (the wedding festival of Lord Rama to Sita) are celebrated with great fervour.

Every year, thousands of pilgrims from far of places like Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and other countries visit Rama Janaki Temple to worship Lord Rama and Goddess Sita, on the day of Vivah Panchami during November and December to celebrate the marriage anniversary ceremony of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita. This occasion is organised in a near by temple called as Vivah Mandap, which is on the same site where the real marriage of Lord Rama to Goddess Sita took place. Every year on this particular day, the statues of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita gets married again. The whole temple is decorated like a wedding hall on this day. Several Oil lamps are lit to decor this temple and other monuments of this area on whole day. The other festivals celebrated include Deepawali (the festival of lights, celebrated in November), Dashain, Holi (the festival of colors), and Chhath.

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