By Laxmi Chaudhary Janakpurdham, Sept. 15: Janakpurdham, the ancient capital of Mithila and the temporary capital of Province 2, has been at the centre of Mithila civilization. There are a number of monasteries and ponds full of religious faiths and beliefs, and millions of religious tourists visit the area every year for a holy bath. Janakpur is also known as a place with Bawan Kuti Bahattar Kunda or 52 temples and 72 ponds.
Most of these public ponds within the Janakpur sub-metropolitan area are mythical. Some of the ponds discussed in detail in the Puranas and other religious texts have disappeared due to encroachment. Important ponds including Biharkunda, Agnikunda, Ratnasagar, Suryakunda, Papmochani Sar, Parashuramkunda, Rukminisar, Muralisar, Ramsar, Telaha-Marha, Dasharath Lake, Argajja Pond, Gangasagar, Dhanush Sagar, however, are still in existence.
According to a 2005 study conducted by the Greater Janakpur Development Area Council, the missing ponds include Janak Sarovar, Amritkunda, Gopalsar, Yaswini Sar and Baldev Sar, among others. Devotees -- from home and abroad -- have been visiting these ponds and temples to worship or to take holy dips. The water and soil of these places are considered sacred. The ancient, religious and historical significances of the pond remain intact as ever.
Devotees throng the ponds like Dhanush Sagar, Gangasagar and Angarajsar at the heart of Janakpurdham, especially on the full moon day. Apart from this, a large number of devotees visit them even during other religious festivals. And in Dasharath Lake, a fair is held on the day of Vijayadashami, celebrated in the month of June. The renovation and beautification works on these ponds have been going on for some time now.
Senior Administrative Officer at the Greater Janakpur Development Area Council, Chiranjeevi Raj Dhungana, said that there was a plan to protect the ponds by constructing walls to keep the encroachment at bay as well as to operate boats there. He added that the beautification of the pond would lure religious tourists towards the city and prolong their stay there.
Each pond in Janakpurdham has its own and unique religious significance and belief, based on which the devotees crowd the ponds to bathe during different festivals. Janakpurdham is considered a city of ponds, Dhungana said. The encroached ponds were cleared in 2015 in coordination with Guthi Sansthan, Greater Janakpur Area Development Council, Municipality, District Administration Office and District Police Office.
Among them are Kapalmochani Sar, Maharajsagar, Argajja Pokhari, Telha-Marha Pokhari, Patpachalan Sar, Chandrakoop (Dewan Pokhari), Pagdhoi Pokhari (foot washing), Ramsagar, Gangasagar, Dhanush Sagar, Papmochani Sar and Pug Pokhari have been cleared of encroachment, Dhungana said.
Even though they are free from encroachment, most of them have seen no physical infrastructure for conservation. The work of conserving the ponds could not be carried out due to lack of funds, Dhungana informed. The Council for the Protection, Promotion and Development of Religious Places, including monasteries and ponds in Janakpurdham, is an institution established by the federal legislature. When the Greater Janakpur Area Development Committee was formed, Gangasagar and Dhanush Sagar were cordoned off in 1995, and Gangasagar and Dhanush Sagar have been connected to each other for some years now. In addition, nearby some of the ponds, crematoriums have been constructed.
The Executive Director of Greater Janakpur Development Council, Balram Thakur, said that the work could not be carried out due to lack of budget even though the council act and rules mentioned to protect religious heritages. Stating that the local and state governments were working for the conservation of the ponds, he informed that a plan had been submitted to the federal government for the proper protection and care of the religious heritage. “The council’s budget is less than a ward office. Against such backdrop, we cannot do the needed work,” Thakur said.
In order to attract tourists to Janakpurdham, the council has submitted a plan to the Federal Government to make a water curtain in Dasharath Pond, display Ramayana in it and clean the water of Ganga Sagar. “If all the lakes in the religious tourist spot of Janakpur are beautified by planting trees, the temperature will also come down,” he said.
A museum should be set up to extend the stay of tourists. The infrastructure can be developed as a package by linking it with places of religious importance like Dhanushadham, Parashuram Lake and Satokhar around Janakpurdham, Thakur said.
The existence of other ponds including Gangasagar, Dhanushasagar and Aragajja ponds is in crisis for lack of protective works, including cleaning. The locals demand that conservation work be done without delay to breathe new life into the heritages in Janakpurdham.