Janakpur: Food, Color and Musings

ganga aarti

Evening prayer at the Ganga Sagar, Janakpur

I traveled to Dhanusha on the first week of December 2014. In the streets of Kathmandu, the day before, I had felt the winter chill. However, it was sunny in Janakpur initially, and as I stepped out of the airport, I thought that the week of my field work would be warm. Little had I known that winter was just setting in the terai plains, and I would be wrapping myself in layers of winter-wear very soon.

Janakpur is a bustling town with many visitors coming in from across Nepal and the neighboring Indian state of Bihar. The famous Sita temple or Janaki temple is the central attraction of Janakpur and draws tourists and pilgrims from all over. Janakpur is a religious town – there are temples at almost every block, and the central areas of the town are named after popular Hindu deities – Rama Chowk, Shiva Chowk, Bhanu Chowk, among others.

Food in Janakpur is colorful. A meal comprises of rice, vegetable curry, spinach, meat and fish. I sampled some of the dishes and found that food pattern of the Maithili and Bhojpuri communities in Dhanusha were similar to the regions of Bihar in India. There are several food shops near Janaki temple that sell sweets and snacks. The sweets tasted good, albeit a little expensive. Fish, as my research partner had mentioned, was “very tasty and popular”.

As I started travelling to the villages, I was introduced to the farmlands and agriculture. Rice harvest was on full swing and villagers were in their farmlands to cut the produce. Needless to say they were busy; however, in course of my interactions, I realized that people spoke and understood Hindi quite well, though they used Maithili, Bhojpuri, Nepali to communicate at home.

I noticed that the roads connecting the villages were not concrete – they were kaccha and had been recently rebuilt because the Indian Prime Minister was expected to be visiting Janakpur.

As I sit at my desk in Delhi compiling and consolidating field reports, I remember quite fondly the sights and sounds of Janakpur – of the very evening of my arrival there, when I put up at a hotel in Shiva Chowk, listening to the kirtans and bhajans from a nearby temple that went into the wee hours of the morning, rendering me a sleepless night and quite certainly, preparing me for my field work ahead.

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