I spent the summer of 2016 teaching the CCNEPal course in Nepal, mostly in Terai. I was invited to teach in Janakpur, in eastern Terai for two weeks. It turned out to be a highlight of the summer. I am proud of what I was able to help them accomplish there. I am writing two blogs about Janakpur. The first one will just tell about the town and the second will focus on the medical scene there.
The Janiki Mandir celebrates the Ramayana, a famous Vedic epic from ancient times.
Janakpur is in an out-of-the-way section of Nepal, and it is a miniature version of Benares in many ways. The main language is Maithili, not Nepali or Hindi.
Hanuman figures in the tale of Ram and Sita, and so there is a temple for him. The woman in the picture offers puja at a bo tree on the ground of the Hanuman Mandir
This is still in progress but I thought I would publish the rough version.
To learn about the town, there still is no better place to start than the BBC series on railways in India, that features the last railway in Nepal:
The tracks are being completely redone, and the railway station is not serving any travelers. I was told that during monsoon, the only way to get to the villages along the rail line is by the train – none of the roads are passable. People living there need to have all their supplies in, before the rain starts.
Next is a fourteen-minute English-language travelogue touting a packaged tour for Hindu pilgrims. (not my video, obviously)
Here is another English-language video, four minutes. The narrator decided to highlight parts of Nepal that were *not* Pokhara or Chitwan. Bravo!
Here is a ten-minute video that shows daily life in a village. It’s in Maithili; Note the wattle-and-daub construction – typical of this region of Nepal.
Summer monsoon 2016
aerial view of Janakpur’s summer monsoon flood, August 2016. From Republika.
I left the eastern Terai one day before the serious rains started. Above is an aerial view of the floods as they impacted Janakpur. This is no joke!
The bus stop
yes folks, this is how I roll in Terai. This one was going to Itahari, from Itahari I transferred to the Biratnagar bus. On the Biratnagar bus I received a marriage proposal. I declined.
the main truck route through Janakpur. You’ll know you have arrived when you see the fanciful gateway. directly east of the gateway about five blocks, is the Janaki Mandir. the highway itself at this point, is not scenic.
helpful guy at the ticket shop
There are few English speakers likely to be found at the bus stop. Look for this shop on the western side of the road, and this guy. He speaks English and is very friendly and helpful.
on the west side of the highway this guy in the white t-shirt speaks English and was friendly.
here is a better shot of the guy, his name is Ram.
out front of the JHCRC hospital one morning. they are taking the bamboo to a construction site.
the local dalits keep pigs and eat pork – something no Hindu or Muslim would do. A squad of pigs roams the town. In public health, there is a movement known as “One Planet” which acknowledges that when humans live in close proximity to animals, both domestic and wild, the health of all must be considered, not just homo sapiens
wi fi was available at the hospital, but I found the one and only cyber café in town. reasonable rates. not far from Janiki Mandir, on the road to the zonal hospital.
I stayed on the premises of the host hospital, but most foreigners go to one particular hotel downtown:
my hosts offered to put me up here, it’s where most westerners stay. But I was fine with the accommodations at JHCRC. I never did eat at this restaurant either.
While we are at it, in the vicinity of the hotel is the one and only “Department Store” of Janakpur. I always check to see if they have a) “organic coffee” and b) peanut butter. They did not stock either item. They did carry many other western items though.
the main drag of Janakpur goes from Ganga Taal to the railway station. at the back of this alleyway is the department store. They did not yet carry “organic coffee”
inside the department store n the main drag of Janakpur
Saturday evening Hindu worship at Ganga Taal. This is popular. There are thirty lakes in the city limits. On the far of this one is the funeral ghats of the town.
in front of the Mandir is a plaza. They were televising a tent meeting the week I was there.
The centerpiece of the town is the Janaki Mandir. Here’s a short video showing how it’s decorated with lights:
A sacred cow
my cousin read this blog and she asked as to the significance of the pink cow. My reply? *what* pink cow? I don’t see a pink cow!”
a portable shop for textile puja items.
More puja supplies
these are inexpensive.a staple of home puja altars in South Asia.
pujas supplies on the plaza of Janiki Mandir
Because of Ram and Sita, a love story, the temple is popular for weddings, and something that astounded me was the number of processions, usually at night, and always with – a brass band. Sometimes two or three parades converged on the plaza at the same time – glorious chaos!
The Ram mandir is a stone’s throw away. The backside of the Ram Mandir is under construction:
the backside of the Ram Mandir was under construction. There is an interior courtyard for Kali at this site, I’m told it’s quite a scene during Dasain. to the right, out of the picture, is a lassi shop and pan shop, well worth the visit.
Front of the Rama Mandir
much more imposing, don’t you think?
the main entrance to the Rama Mandir. Much grander than the back!
Dahi is yogurt. I eat a lot of it as a preventive measure, but none of the shops carried any.
here is where reading devanagari comes in handy. I would have walked past if I had not been able to read the sign advertising “dahi” – fresh yogurt. This shop is near the mandir, headed towrd the water storage tower.
I had some, and it was creamy and wonderful. I thought it rivaled the yogurt of Bhaktapur.
I asked to take a photo and the shopkeeper got a new vat of yogurt out of the fridge. the yogurt here is every bit as good as the fabled yogurt of Bhaktapur!
I found the lassi place on my own accord, then I was told this is considered to be the best in the district. Mitho 6! The guy behind the steel counter is the pan saudji – i.e., betel nut. In my experience, betel nut is more popular in Terai.
Leaves for Pan
Basket of leaves in the marketplace, arranged just so. I learned that this is how the pan sellers like them. When you buy pan, there is a ritual of how it is prepared at point of sale.
a panoramic shot of the front of the temple, showing the plaza.
I was in Janakpur to teach critical care skills, and taught five sessions with about 125 participants. (the pic shows just one of the groups…) I’ll do a separate blog on the actual teaching. Together we worked to strengthen critical care practice in a town serving about 600,000 people.
My”token of Love” from Janakpur was a silk screen done in Maithili style (note the iconic eyes) depicting a wedding. I shall cherish this!