At the heart of Janakpur lies the marble Janaki Mandir, one of the finest pieces of architecture in Nepal. Built in extravagant baroque Mughal style that leaves it looking like a palace made of sweets, the Janaki Mandir is Janakpur’s most important temple and 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. Cracks appeared in the temple walls after the 2015 earthquake, but the structure has been stabilised and is once again mobbed by pilgrims.
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.
The temple only dates from 1912, but with its white marble arches, domes, turrets and screens, it feels much older.
At the back of the complex is a small museum (admission Rs 15) with some amusingly naff moving statues telling the story of Rama and Sita.