Analysis

Janakpurdham can connect Kathmandu and Delhi

Nityanand Mandal

Nityananda-Mandal 

Despite the lockdown of Bihar due to Covid-19, representing from Mithila of Janakpurdham, dressed in a traditional Sadhu-dhoti, Kurta and Mithila Cap, Ram Tapeswor Das, Baisanab, saint of Janaki Mandir, participated and presented 5 Silver bricks in infant deity, Ram Lalla, at the makeshift temple ”bhoomi pujan” or groundbreaking ceremony was held at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhaya of  India. Janakpurian Media and social media had highlighted more the event and created a discourse of the significance of Janakpurdhm to connect Kathamandu and Delhi. He explained the significance of the bricks laid to mark the start of the temple construction before the media.

No doubt, Nepal and India share special closeness and similarity in cultural tradition. They are so closely and strongly interlinked by social life and cultural tradition that nobody can imagine to separate them. Both have made great contributions to enriching religious and cultural heritage in this region, and beyond. Sita, the daughter of Mithila, Nepal, who was married to Ram, the crown prince of Ayodhya in India, has made special place in the hearts of Hindus living anywhere in the world. It helped evolve, develop and spread the cultural heritage.

Cultural links between Nepal and India have many facets. Religion is perhaps the most important factor, and plays a predominant role in shaping the cultural relations between these two countries. This is manifested in the large number of peoples from both countries visiting each other’s countries for pilgrimage.

Sita, born out of the womb of the Earth, is the daughter of Mithila. She is really treated and loved as daughter and sister everywhere in Mithila. The stories of Sita’s banishment and her disappearing in the Earth are not talked about in Mithila. The only reason for this is for retaining smile on Sita’s lips and for seeing her like a blooming rose.

It is to be noted that Janakpur in Dhanusa District of Nepal is mythological revered as the birthplace of Sita. In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Janakpur and had inaugurated a direct bus service to Ayodhya as part of a ‘Ramayan Circuit’. During his visit, PM Modi had also visited the 20th century Janaki temple, dedicated to Sita, in Nepal. He had also announced a Rs 100 crore package to develop Janakpur.

No doubt, Janakpur is recognized as holy city of Sadhu, it was situated by them. They believed and worshipped Janaki as a sister and mother. Similarly, people of Mithila also worshipped her as the same. So, the PM statement made them furious and they performed the rallay and organized the corner sabha against PM Oli. Thus, the saying of Oli hurt the people both India and Nepal automatically Janakpurdham and Ayodhaya. Due to lockdown, the main gate of Janaki Mandir is still not opened.

 

Janakpurdham has been a cultural center of Mithila. Janakpurdham has acquired a new identity and has recently been recognized as the capital town of Province no 2 under the new constitution of the country.  It carries a 5000 years old history. This place is the witness to many of the major and critical events of the Ramayan. In the background, it has held a profound intellectual tradition that led finally to the origination of adweta philosophy as it is reflected in the dialogues of Janak and Asttavakra. Its religious and cultural contributions to the rest of the world are remarkable. It has an old and a long tradition of written literature. The old masters of the region had substantially contributed to the cementing of Sanskrit literature but later turned to write into the vernacular that was later on recognized as Maithli literature. Maithli is one of the oldest of Indo-Aryan vernaculars. In this region, vast perceptions and deep penetrations of creative writers have generated a large number of classics that are matter of pride for the people living here. Here people still put effort to revive the glorious aura of the past and to continue the old tradition of learning through art, literature and media in interactive way.

Ponds at each step, fishes and puffed nuts

Sweet- singing voice, smiling betel-lips

Rich in scholarship, symbol of peace

This pleasant land Mithila  is

 

The above lines capture the significance of the aura of Maithili culture. The present glaring and glowing form/face of Mithila, known to impart knowledge, wisdom and preaching (Moral information), has not been formed very easily. Charities and deeds actuated by Sita have contributed a lot to highlight this land. People of Mithila, therefore, sing a song.

Thanks go to Sita, that Lord Ram was embodied as the most famous, super human being.

Thanks to Sita’s sacrifice, which made Ram God.

Among six eastern philosophies, Mimansha, Sankhya, Nyay, Vaisesik were initiated on this beautiful land of Sita. Saint Gautam, Jaimini, Kanad and Kapil respectively were the pioneers of the above mentioned philosophies. Let’s think over it. How fertile the land would have been where four out of six very important philosophies have been flourished? Astabakara, Gargi, Maitreyi, Satanand and King Janak; an amalgam of asceticism and voluptuousness were the fragrant flowers of this land which have still been making the land more aromatic. Even the first and foremost pillar of knowledge, Shankracharya had been defeated here.

Due to COVID 19, lockdown badly affected the lives of the people of Mithila/Madhesh .However, in recent years urban infrastructure is either awfully inadequate or non-existent in this newly declared sub-metropolitan city Janakpurdham. Relationship between the state and society is strained almost to the point of rupture. Economy is in shambles with absolutely no employment opportunity outside of petty trade and basic services. Some pilgrims do come, but hardly any of them stay longer than a day. Even though the transport connectivity with rest of the country is fairly dependable, the Mithila region doesn’t rank high on the destination list of domestic tourists. Outside of NGO-executives and human rights supervisors, hardly any international visitors show up as well.

Pilgrims pour into the town during Bibaha Panchami, Ram Navami and other auspicious occasions. The city, however, lacks the infrastructure to attract high-end tourists that come on pilgrimage but can be lured into turning their visits to short vacations. Visitors spending less than 24 hours can’t be considered tourists. Planners of the province are looking longingly for visitors other than Indians that seldom come to their part of the country. For long, the Kathmandu-Chitwan-Pokhara circuit, combining heritage, wildlife and mountainous lakes, remained the ‘golden triangle’ of Nepali tourism. Despite decades of hype, Lumbini is yet to emerge as a significant destination by itself. Tourism to the roots is likely to emerge a lucrative category as complexities of life increase. Mithila painting thrives, but more needs to be done to improve folk drama, theatre, traditional performing arts and plays. Infrastructure for rural tourism has to be created before it can be marketed. Province 2 can become a unique tourism destination. As the saying goes, the impossible requires a little more effort and lots of creativity. Tourism can thrive in Province 2, but policymakers must not be swayed by unrealistic plans. There is little, if any, controversy over the maternal home of Goddess Janaki, the consort of Lord Rama.

Even though not one among the four holiest pilgrimages, Janakpur is considered to be a significant dham. Little wonder, the potential of religious tourism excites policymakers so much. What has flourished instead is the ‘manpower’ industry. Madhesh sends more able-bodied youngsters in the labour markets of West Asia and Malaysia than any other district in the country. Agriculture has been hit hard by the incessant shortage of labour. Production of food grains has remained stagnant if not actually declined. Fish ponds are being dug in rice-fields while vegetable patches have made way for fast-growing trees. Fisheries and commercial forestry don’t create many jobs. The only option for youths that have failed to migrate is to be bag-carriers of political operators. They routinely lineup at the airport to see off or receive politicos with garlands of marigold in hand.

With  Dhanusha and Mahottari being two of the top exporters of manpower from the country for several years in a row, the countryside wears a desolate look. But despite all the gloom and doom in Tarai-Madhesh, a sense of optimism seems to persist in the region. The general mood in Mithila is in stark contrast to Kathmandu where pessimism hangs thick like smog among its inhabitants.

There could be several reasons behind the sense of hope and expectation. Unpredictable consequences of exodus of youths towards 3D (Dirty, Difficult and Dangerous, not necessarily in that order) jobs in West Asia and Malaysia notwithstanding, remittances have substantially reduced absolute poverty. Wage rates have gone up, which means that even day-labour can now afford to buy school uniforms for their children. Hope comes from the possibility of remittance continuing for an indefinite period. In addition to remittances, agricultural development holds immense potential.

Expectations are a little more difficult to justify. Federalism has promised to create a moth-eaten Madhesh completely disconnected with the east and the west. People keep questioning whether there is any justification for keeping plains between Mechi and Koshi in Madhesh. In fact, no explanation is necessary for what is natural: the settlers have every right to stay where they are and enjoy everything they have, but it’s a Madheshi land and restoration of its rightful identity is crucial for the psychological healing of the entire community excluded from the ambit of Nepali nationalism.

Developmental dream is even more of a chimera. Growth without dignity is meaningless. For one thing, centuries of investment lag—surplus of the region were carted away by the Ranas, the Shahs and the incumbent multi-party rulers  with little concern for local requirements—requires huge sums that the government in Kathmandu will be either unable or unwilling to spare. Secondly, absorptive capacity of the locality in terms of human resource, technology and capital is so low that any major project will bring in a flood of internal immigrants from elsewhere in Nepal, thereby further aggravating inter-community relations.

A little hope perhaps comes from the expectation of renewal of cross-border ties that had almost broken since the 1990s when Bihar had turned into a no-go under Laloo Prasad Yadav. In almost quarter of a century, things have changed considerably. There is energy and enthusiasm in Bihar—a positive wind also lashing the Terai-Madesh. So, it is going to be required to sell the cross-border region of Videhas, Karanats and Maithils to the world.

Despite attempts by Kathmandu to clip the wings of the vibrant region, its rich cultural traditions of religious philosophies and literary flourishes still survive in good health in its rich folk culture. Despite apathetic attitude on the part of Kathmandu which patronizes mainly Gorkhali literature and culture, Maithili life and letters—Mithila art and literature—have been able to draw both national and international attention. Janakpurdham, which get its nurturance from the pulsating Maithili life-world—have been thriving well.

The nation’s diversity is its strength. Mithila/Madhesh respect diversity and inclusiveness. People take pride into Maithali culture. It will help enhance and foster religious and cultural tourism. It will also contribute to the integration with the Ramayan circuit as well as the Buddha circuit.

In the context of changed political and federal structure, people will become aware of the province and its capital. It will go a long way in strengthening the federal spirit as it will make the Nepali people as a whole, particularly the Kathmanduites, remove stereotypical notion in their mind of Janakpur as a place of dirt and filth.

The province is not still declared the name of the province and the languages. The family of languages in the region includes, but isn’t limited to, Angika, Bajjika, Bhojpuri, Magahi and Maithili. Tirhuta and Kaithi scripts are on the verge of extinction and the family of languages has largely adopted Devanagari. Except for Maithili, most other languages of the family has fallen into the lap of either Hindi or Nepali in everyday use. But when it comes to folktales and songs of rites of passage, all these tongues are still vibrant. Thus, it is needed to declare the name of the province, capital and language .

Nevertheless, it helps maintain traditional friendly relations between the countries of but will also greatly contribute to promoting mutual understanding, appreciating each other’s aspirations and cementing the existing ties of warm and cooperative neighborhood. It also helps in strengthening the democratic culture and harmony, fraternity among the people of Nepal and the neighboring countries.

The writer is a freelancer.

Published on 12 August 2020

 

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