Sitamarhi is situated on the banks of the Lakhandei River in the Mithila region in northern Bihar. It lies in the fertile middle Ganges plain in the district of Sitamarhi, bordering Nepal at the foothill of Himalayas.
Apart from Lakhandei, rivers such as Baghmati, Aghwara, and Manusmara also flow through the District, making the areas fertile, the hazard of flooding notwithstanding.
Sitamarhi district was created in 1972, detaching some parts of Muzaffarpur district. Dumra, which lies 5km south of Sitamarhi city is the district headquarter.
Part of Muzaffarpur
The pre-historic period and the antiquity of earliest origins of the Sitamarhi and its culture, based on the general beliefs and tales, refer to the Kingdom known as Videha. It is believed that the region including eastern Nepal and northern Bihar was once ruled by the Videha King Janak.
The recorded history of Sitamarhi dates back to the time of the Vrijjan Republic estimated to be around 520BCE when the place was part of Muzaffarpur district. The region including the Tirhut was under the rule of various dynasties in different periods of time.
This includes the Pala dynasty, the Sena dynasty, the rulers of Bengal, the Simraon dynasty, local chieftains, the Nawab of Bengal and the Mughal Empire .
In 1764, the British East India Company took control over whole of Bihar after defeating the Mughal emperor Shah Alam ll and his allies in the battle of Buxar.
Sitamarhi city is located about 140km north east of the state capital Patna. It is a commercial centre mainly catering to the markets in the nearby Nepal frontier for rice, timber, oilseeds etc. Basically, the Sitamarhi economy is agrarian and backward, and therefore is supported by the central government’s Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme (BRGF).
Some of the local industries include those engaged in cotton textiles, tanned leather, milled rice, hydrogenated vegetable oil, wood carvings, and metal ware. The Kanti thermal power station in Muzaffarpur district is around 46km from Sitamarhi.
The district has various spots of religious, historic and other tourist attractions. Sitamarhi is believed to be the birthplace of Mata Sita.
It is also the spiritual centre for many sages and saints. The region is full of centers connected with different incidents depicted in the epic Ramayana. Hindu devotees flock these places regularly with deep faith and devotion.
Sitamarhi is located at 26.6°N 85.48°E with an average elevation of 184ft above the sea level. The entire district is spread across an area of 2,294 sq.km. It is bordered by Nepal in the North, Muzaffarpur district in the south, Champaran and Sheohar districts in the west and Darbhanga and Madhubani districts in the east.
People, language, culture
Sitamarhi district has a population of 3,419,622 , mostly Hindus (78%). Muslims account for more than 21%, while other religions, like Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists form a tiny minority.
People live mainly on agriculture and the products include rice, wheat, bajra (pearl millet), pulses (legumes), corn (maize), sugarcane, and oilseeds.
Maithili is the popular language, which was used in the ancient Mithila region. Other languages spoken in the region include Hindi, Urdu and Bajjika.
Sitamarhi’s culture is reflective of the nature of the multilinguistic groups, their indulgence in everyday activities, festivals, arts and crafts among other things. The famous Madhubani painting is a popular art in nearby Madhubani.
The bangles made in the region particularly lac bangles of Sitamarhi are very famous. People engage in folk dances and songs such as Jat-Jatni, Jhinjhari etc., during festival times.
Sitamarhi experiences a moderate climate with an average annual temperature of 24.6 °C. The area gets an average annual rainfall of 1, 295mm, with less rainfall in winter compared to summer. January is the coldest month in Sitamarhi with the day’s temperature reaching up to 22 °C and night temperature at 9 °C.
May is the hottest month in Sitamarhi. Temperature ranges between 38 C° in the day and 25°C in the night. Humidity becomes high in the rainy season due to the region’s proximity to Himalayas.
October to March is the best time to visit Sitamarhi as the weather is mostly pleasant during this period.
How to Reach Sitamarhi
Sitamarhi is connected by road with other cities in Bihar, including Muzaffarpur, Madhubani and Sheohar. The adjacent Muzaffarpur district is linked with major Bihar cities by National Highways NH 77 and NH 104. Muzaffarpur is within the reach of 55km from Sitamarhi. There are regular bus services by the state transport corporation from different cities in Bihar, including Patna to Sitamarhi.
Sitamarhi is connected with other cities by rail, the railway station is in the heart of the city. Direct train services are available from Sitamarhi railway junction to places, including New Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Kanpur and Mumbai.
The nearest airport to Sitamarhi is the Jay Prakash Narayan International Airport Patna (140km) and Bodhgaya International Airport (236km).
According to the Ramayana, Punaura Dham near Sitamarhi is the place where Mata Sita sprang to life from the Mother Earth. It is believed that she was found when still an infant in an earthen pot beneath the surface of the soil by Raja Janak while ploughing the field. The Raja was offering a yagna to please the rain God Indra to rain the areas long struggling in a drought.
Again, according to the Ramayana, it was by this place only that Lord Ram brought Mata Sita to Ayodhya after marrying her in Janakpur, now in Nepal. It was near this region that the famed Maharishi Valmiki had his Ashram, where Mata Sita gave birth to her twin sons.
Hindus recognise these places with reverence and do pilgrimage to numerous temples built over the region, commemorating the events in the Ramayana.
The place is also important for Muslims. The famous Muslim pilgrim center, the tomb of Hajrat Daata Shah is situated in Harpurwa village, around 26km from Sitamarhi.
Places of Interest in Sitamarhi
There are several temples built over different points of time to honour the sites and events involving Lord Ram and Mata Sita as depicted in the Ramayana. Some of the popular places of interest in Sitamarhi are the following:
Janki Mandir in Sitamarhi is located around 2km from the Sitamarhi Railway station. This is fairly a large temple with a spacious courtyard. The temple is dedicated to Janki, another name of Mata Sita.
The main deities of the shrine are Mata Sita, Lord Ram and Hanuman. The temple is believed to be built at a place where infant Sita was nursed after she was found in the field under the soil. There is a pond nearby called as Sita Kund. The pond is believed to be where the infant Sita was given bath.
Lakhs of devotees visit the temple particularly during the festival of Rama Navami every year.
Punaura Dham Temple
Punaura Dham Temple is situated on the banks of Lakhandei river , about 3km from Sitamarhi city. This was an old temple dedicated to Mata Sita, reconstructed in recent years.
The temple has a beautiful garden in the front and a large tank with concrete staircase around its four sides. This place is used by devotees to offer the ritual of panchkarma.
This temple is believed to be built at the place where Mata Sita descended to the Mother earth and was found as an infant by Raja Janak. He was ploughing the field as part of a yagna, and his shovel accidently unearthed the pot containing the baby from beneath the surface.
Devotees celebrate Mata Sita’s birthday, i.e., Janki Navami as Vivah Panchami with lot of enthusiasm. The event falls due a month after the festival of Ram Navami every year. Ram Navami is also celebrated at this temple as Vivah Panchami.
According to recent reports, the state government is planning to restore this old temple at Punaura Dham and turn it into a grand temple. The government has sanctioned ₹48.50 crore and earmarked 20 acres of land in Punaura Dham for this purpose. The annual festival of ‘Sitamarhi festival is held at Punaura Dham.
The Haleshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is in Haleshwar Sthan about 3km from Sitamarhi city. It is in the vicinity of the Punaura Dham Temple.
The ancient temple is believed to be built by Raja Janak on the occasion of Putra Yeshti and reconstructed in recent years. It was named as the Haleshwarnath temple. The idol in the sanctum is a stone Shivling.
Devotees visit this sacred shrine from far and wide and bring water from the river Bagmati or the Punaura Dham tank to pour on the idol as part of the temple rites.
Panth Pakar, about 7km from Sitamarhi city is famous for an old banyan tree of great religious significance for Hindus. The age-old huge tree stands majestically at this place occupying a vast area of land in a serene, lush background .
The place is surrounded by a collection of trees of the same breed, with their branches and roots extended and entangled with one another.
The place is believed to be where Mata Sita rested while on her way to Ayodhya accompanied by Lord Ram and other guests after marriage. There are a few temples nearby, dedicated to Lord Ram, Mata Sita, Lord Hanuman and Lord Shiva.
Valmiki Ashram was believed to be in the present-day Valmiki Nagar, located in the border of Nepal about 160km north west of Sitamarhi . It is a place of tremendous significance for Hindus’ age-old beliefs in the events influencing the lives of Lord Ram and Mata Sita.
It was at Valmiki Ashram that Mata Sita took shelter when abandoned by Lord Ram honouring the suspicion of his subjects about her chastity. It was here that the two sons of Lord Ram and Sita, Lav and Kush were born and brought up according to the Ramayana.
Apart from the above centers, there are several holy places around Sitamarhi you would want to visit. This includes the Baba Nageshwarnath temple in Pipri, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Shri Bauddhi Mata Mandir in Bairgania, dedicated to the goddess Bauddhi. Some of these temples are visited by devotees from Nepal and adjoining areas during Ramanavami.
Other ancient temples in Bairgania are the Shivalya Mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva and Manohar Baba Mandir dedicated to Lord Radha Krishna.
Other places of interest include Baghi Math, Goraul Sharif, Shukeshwar Sthan, Bodhayan-Sar and Sabhagachhi Sasaula.
Festivals of Sitamarhi
Rama Navami is the prominent festival celebrated in the region with pomp and gaiety as elsewhere in the country. During the occasion of Ram Navami, Sitamarhi is a venue for a trade fair mostly for items such as pottery, spices, brassware, and cotton cloth. The fair is attended by large crowds.
Other local festivals include the Sitamarhi festival and Sama Chakeva. The latter is a prominent winter festival dedicated to celebrating brother-sister relationships.