Janakpur is a major city of religious and historical importance in the Eastern Terai region of Nepal. It is a popular place of pilgrimage for Hindus from all around the world and a major tourist attraction in the region. It is the capital of ancient Mithila Kingdom, the land of the wise and righteous King Janak of legend, and also the legendary birthplace of the goddess Sita. The people of that place also speaks Maithili.
Janakpur Municipality is the District HQ of Dhanusha and a busy historic religious centre with an estimated population approaching 90,000 people. It is home to the historic 200-year old Janaki Temple, a major attraction for Indian Hindu pilgrims and international tourists. Janakpur is also the birthplace of the Goddess Sita and place of her marriage to the God Ram while the “city of ponds” is also home for Nepal's only railway and railhead (a tourist attraction for steam international locomotive enthusiasts), and many annual colourful festivals. Dhanusha (Janakpur in particular) is regarded as the world centre of Mithila Culture.
For tourists that want to experience Nepal's Mithila culture, Janakpur is an interesting and worthwhile one or two-day trip. In addition to many temples, it has shopping bazaars and over one hundred ponds. Janakpur has three reasonable hotels, a wide selection of Mithila handcrafts at the Janakpur Women Development Centre, and a daily flight service to Kathmandu from the local airport.
Janakpur has an airport and is connected to the country's only international airport in Kathmandu with round the year daily flights. The airport is served by a few private airlines including Buddha Air, Yeti Airline, Sita Airline with 3-4 flights daily to and from Kathmandu. The duration of flight is about 20–25 minutes. The aircraft is usually small with 17-20 and medium-sized with 45-49 passengers capacity. The airport is being expanded into a regional airport and will start operating direct flight services connecting other major cities in Nepal and neighboring Indian cities.
Airports in nearby Indian town have domestic flights to major Indian cities, and one can travel the rest of the distance via road.
Janakpur used to host the only railway service in Nepal owned by Nepal Railways, which connected Janakpur with Jainagar, a border town in India. It was a narrow gauge railway constructed by the British in 1937. The service has been halted since 2013–14.
A new broad-gauge line is under construction.
It is near to Jainagar railway station which is 32 km away and Sitamarhi railway station which is 45 km away, both in nearby Indian state of Bihar. Both stations are connected to important cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai.
Janakpur is well connected to the major cities in Nepal via road network, and also to neighbouring cities in India across the border. The nearest major highway, the Mahendra highway is 24 km from Janakpur, where as the BP Koirala highway links Kathmandu-Sindhuli-Bardibas-Dhalkebar-Janakpur. Regular local buses, Deluxe, Deluxe AC and Tourist buses connect it with other major cities in Nepal and Indian border.
From Kathmandu (Nepal) : Several day and night buses leave for Janakpur daily from the Kalanki Bus Stop. Both day and night buses are equally safe but with a day bus, you can enjoy the scenic beauty of Nepal (for free). A one way bus ticket costs around NRs. 1000 (€10 or $15) and can be bought from many bus ticket counters at the Kalanki Bus Stop, Sundhara (near GPO), and Gausala. It takes around 8 hours to reach Janakpur by bus. These buses stop at several places for lunch or dinner. However, these highway restaurants are often very expensive (and often unhygienic) and it is wise to carry your own food and water for this day long journey.
Once you reach the town, there are a number of options available locally to reach your destination, or just to tour the city. The most basic and traditional means of transportation are human-powered rickshaws, but they have been replaced, to a large extent, by the more efficient E-rickshaws (electronic rickshaws), tempo, auto-rickshaws. They are the best way to reach the heart of city, market areas, and perfect for narrow streets. Taxi and cabs are not available as yet. City buses also run on the outer edges of the town on major (wider) roads, and the ring road at cheap fares. However, when you board a rickshaw be wise to bargain and move on if they don't agree. These days E-rickshaws and autos are a better alternative to traditional rickshaws, and they are more comfortable, efficient and unscary given the condition of roads.
- Janaki Mandir is the major landmark and the centre of attraction, heart of Janakpur city. It is a 19th-century temple dedicated to the great daughter of the holy land of Mithila Kingdom and her consort Lord Ram. The temple was built by the Queen of Tikamgadh, now in Madhya Pradesh, India, as a reverence towards the birthplace of Goddess Sita, and the temple is a great example of Sikh and mougal architecture.
- Bivahmandap (Vivah Mandap)
Alongside the Janaki Temple (to the north), stands the Bivahmandap amidst a beautiful, scenic, lush green garden to symbolize the wedding spot of Lord Ram and Sita. This pagoda-styled temple exhibits the exact wedding scene of Ram and Sita with the presence of all major Hindu gods to bless the divine couple.
- Ganga sagar and Dhanush sagar
These sacred ponds of great religious and historic importance are situated just a few minutes walk from the Janaki temple to the east.
- Sankatmochan Mandir is at the northwest corner of the Barhabigha Ground. The temple is dedicated to God Hanumana, and is also one of the most important places of worship in the region, and held with great reverence by the local people.
- Bhootnath Mandir
Previously a cremation ground for Hindus, the place underwent a dramatic transformation and now hosts a beautiful garden (park) and a temple dedicated to the Hindu god of the nether world, death and reincarnation.
- Ram Mandir is the oldest temple in the town, build by the mighty Gurkha warrior Amar Singh Thapa in the 17th century, dedicated to Lord Rama. It is situated south of the Janaki Temple and is just a few minutes away.
- Rajdevi Mandir lies just adjacent to the Ram Mandir on the north side. The temple is dedicated to the female patron Goddess Durga or kali. The temple is specially a highlight during the 10 days long most important Hindu festival of Dashain, with thousands of devotees worshipping daily, and offering different sacrifices to Goddess Durga. A fair is held here during Dashain and is well worth a visit at this time.
- Ponds and kutis
Also known as the city of ponds and hermitages, there are 72 ponds of historic and religious value scattered in the city. Among them the notable ones are Gangasagar, Dhanushsagar, Argaja, Maharajsagar aka Dashrathsagar, Agnikund, Viharkund, suryakund, etc.
- Janakpur Cigarette Factory is one of the oldest multi-national large scale industry in Nepal established by the Russian Government, as an aid to Nepal to utilize locally produced agricultural raw materials and provide mass employment to local people, which once was the largest industry in the country and also the largest provider of employment to the local workers and skilled manpower from all over the country. But it has been closed due to political corruption and intervention. It has a place as a distinct landmark in this region and it is worthwhile to visit inside the factory.
- Ram Nawami Festival
- Vivaha Panchami
- Falgun Purnima Janakpur Parikarma
- Holi Festival
- Chhath Festival
- Dashain Festival
- Sama Chakewa
- Ghijiya Dance
- Mithila Chitra Kaala
Being a religious and historical city, it is primarily a place of pilgrimage and religious tourism. And as the centre of the distinct Mithila Culture, it acts as an open university for people and scholars interested in culture, anthropology, religion and social sciences. The Hindu tourists and pilgrims come here to worship in the numerous temples and to take holy dip/bath in one of the numerous sacred ponds. Particularly, there is a huge gathering of devotees and pilgrims on festivals and purnima (Full Moon Day). Special puja is done on such days, fairs are also held.
For art enthusiasts, getting to know and learning Mithila art can be a unique experience. For those interested in language, culture and traditions, getting to know the local Maithali language, local costumes, lifestyles, cultural and traditional practices can be a wholesome experience.
Mithila chitra kala aka Mithila Painting, is the cultural identity of this region, and this can be the best souvenir of your visit to Janakpur. Besides that you can also choose from a range of handmade domestic products and crafts work like clay pottery, clay statues and decorative items, handmade clothes and dolls from locally woven fabric, paintings, wooden and cloth engravings, bamboo baskets and a range of other domestic products and decorative items woven/crafted out of bamboo by the locals. All these items are produced locally by house or family based small scale business people and cheaply available. For many of the low class people these skills are the sole means if their livelihoods and the products the sole source of income.
- Rooftop Restaurant
- Shiva Chowk
- Skymily Restaurant
Dahi lassi at Shiva Chowk and Mills Area.
Since Janakpur is mainly a place of pilgrimage and religious tourism, the majority of arrivals are Hindu pilgrims and devotees from Nepal and India, and they often flock-in in large numbers round the year with upsurge during festivals and religious fairs, and the majority of these visitors often range from middle to low class income level people, with a few high class and often foreign tourists. There is a whole range of accommodation facility of all level.
There are many Dharmasala and Yatri Niwas that can accommodate a large number of pilgrims and visitors/tourists at a very cheap cost. The dharmasala that fall in this category are:
- Gopal Dharmasala
- Pagal Baba Dharmasala
- Janakpur Yatri Niwas
- Marwari Sewa Samiti Yatri Niwas
- Gangasagar Dharnasala
- Hanumanmandir Dharmasala, Devi Chowk
Apart from these there are many Kutis aka Hermitages owned by the Guthi Sansthan and taken care of by Sadhus which offer accommodation free of cost but are uncomfortable and old fashioned.
There are many privately owned guesthouses and hotels scattered throughout the town but mainly in the market areas and city centre area, and near the Bus Park that offer accommodation at mid-range prices.
- Hotel Rama, Mills Area
- Janaki lodge, Shiv Chowk
- Namaskar lodge
- Manakamana lodge
- Hotel Sita Palace, Ramananda Chowk
- Welcome Hotel, ZeroMile,
- Mithila Guesthouse
- Anand Guesthouse
- Hotel Manaki, Shiv Chowk
- Hotel Sita Palace, Ramananda Chowk
- Hotel Vrindavan Palace, Kadam Chowk
- Hotel Sitasaran, Bus Park
- Welcome Hotel, Shiv Chowk
- Jaleshwor: A border (Nepal-India) town about 14 km southwest from Janakpur. Famous for the Jaleshwar Mahadev temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and a major pilgrimage site. There is a regular local bus service from Janakpur Bus Terminal every 20 minutes.
- Dhanusha Dham: A small holy town of great religious and historic importance, situated about 16 km northeast of Janakpur. It is believed that one half of God Shiva's bow, that Lord Ram broke in the contest (swoyambar) to win Sita's hand in marriage, fell here, and there is a temple built at the very spot, and a protected forest area nearby. The town is a popular pilgrimage destination among Hindus. This small town has been a place of meditation and nirvana for sages and sanyasis for hundred of years. There is regular local bus services available from Janakpur every 30 minutes.