The Janakpur Fiasco

Jan 2, 2016
By Hari Bansh Jha
As locals of Janakpur are generous in welcoming guests there has never in the past been opposition to anyone visiting Janaki temple
As a resident of Janakpur and that too as someone closely linked to Janaki Temple for generations, I have special emotional attachment to this holy place. Yet I don't remember any incident in the past when the temple turned into a war-like zone as it happened recently during the visit of Nepal's President Bidya Devi Bhandari to Janakpur on the eve of Bibaha Panchami, the marriage ceremony of Goddess Sita with Sri Ram. From the videos and local media reports what I could gather was that the Madheshi political leaders showed black flags and chanted slogans against President Bhandari during her visit to Janakpur. Such embarrassing scenes were played out when the administration ignored the warning given by agitating leaders.
People opposed President Bhandari on the political ground that she was one of the signatories of the new constitution promulgated on September 20, 2015. She is not alone to be opposed for this reason. The agitating Madheshi leaders have been opposing all those members of the Constituent Assembly who had signed on the constitution, which they believe is biased against Madheshis. Even former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai was jeered when he visited Janakpur a few weeks ago solely for this reason.
Besides, the local people of Janakpur were annoyed at the way the sniffer dog was taken inside garbhgriha (womb chamber or innermost sanctum where only priests are allowed). This place is regarded as most sacred. No dogs have been allowed in this area even during the visits of high profile people. As if this was not enough, a girl was projected as Goddess Sita Mata to welcome the guest, which hurt the religious sentiment of the people.
Some of those activities might have provoked the agitating groups to enter into the garbhagriha. Nevertheless the way some of those people behaved there was not in tune with the religious traditions of the temple. Soon afterwards the security persons with their boots also entered the garbhgriha and then the conflict started. Unfortunately, even many of the devotees and pilgrims coming from India were beaten and chased away.
As it was special day of Bibah Panchami, some people took the initiative to clean up the garbhagriha with gangajal, the holy water of the river Ganga. They had a feeling that the use of sniffer dog and the presence of security persons with boots had spoiled the sanctity of the place. But a section of media gave a different twist to this story and projected as if this was intended to embarrass President Bhandari for being a widow. There was uproar in the House of Representatives in Kathmandu on this issue. Even a child knows that at the sacred place like temple there is no bar on anyone on the ground of caste, creed or marital status. Each and every person whether married, unmarried, widow or widower is equally entitled to pay homage at any temple and Janaki Temple is no exception.
However, under mounting pressure the government constituted an investigation committee to dig out the truth in the given incident at Janaki Temple. The committee has already started its work and it is likely to submit its report soon. The temple management claims that it has recording of the incident, which, if available to the investigation committee, would be of great help in revealing the truth.
The expectation is that the committee would find out the reason for taking the sniffer dog inside the garbhagriha, which resulted in such controversy. Who are the people responsible for this breach of tradition at the temple? What was the motto of the elements who engaged in damaging certain infrastructure there? Was the entrance of security personnel with boots at this sacred place of worship warranted? Was the projection of a girl as Sita Mata justified? Was it the widow factor that led to the later cleansing of the temple complex with gangajal?
Common people feel that uncalled for activities at the Janaki Temple might invite misfortune at the national level. What is known at present is that the garbahgriha of the temple happens to be somehow 'mysterious' that has no equal anywhere on the earth. Surrender to Sita Mata at this spot is rewarding, but visit to this place by any person with big ego is unfortunate. Even amid this dark cloud, there was a silver lining. The ritual pertaining to marriage ceremony of Goddess Sita and Lord Ram was not much affected due to the unpleasant behavior of those who tried to break the religious tradition at the temple. Perhaps there could have been greater misfortune if the marriage ceremony was affected.
In view of the fact that the locals of Janakpur are generous in welcoming guests, there has never been any opposition whatsoever to anyone in the past who ever came to Janaki Temple to pay homage to Sita Mata. Even in November, 2015 when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi planned to visit Janakpur for this purpose, the locals had exhibited rare enthusiasm to clear the roads, clean public places and do all that was possible for them to greet the guest from neighboring country. Certain people in Janakpur even resorted to hunger strike and were in deep when the visit of Modi to this holy place had to be aborted. In view of this past reality, the local people cannot oppose anyone coming to this temple solely for pooja.
Nevertheless it cannot be denied that the whole of episode at Janaki Temple on the eve of Bibah Panchami has been a major source of embarrassment for the Hindus all over the world. Such an incident could not have taken place without serious lapse on the part of local administration and also on the part of the temple management. Since the investigation committee has already started its work, we now expect it to produce an impartial report which should be made public in national interest. Only such a report would expose elements responsible for the sorry episode at Janaki Temple.
The author is a Kathmandu-based economist
- See more at:
My Republica, January 2, 2016

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