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July 27, 2015

Flatlands of Nepal: the Terai

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≥≤ Sagarmatha Dispatch-Gazette ≥≤

Dharan, second largest city in eastern Nepal, channel of trade and hub of tourism, sits where the mountains meet the plains, gateway between Mountain and Village.

South of Dharan, the Mahabharat foothills flatten out into the lowlands, and become hot, humid alluvial flats. Here is the most fertile agricultural region in Nepal, the Terai.

Amid the rich deposits of the rivers Kosi, Narayani and Karnali, the land is cultivated for rice, jute, sugar, mustard, tobacco, herbs and spices.

More than half of Nepal’s people live here. Dense population and intense cultivation is diminishing the old tropical forests.

The Terai is also called Madhes, depending on point of view in Nepal’s historically complex cultural  context.

Chitwan National Park on the Terai floodplains, home to Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinoceroses, and Asian elephants, is Nepal’s “Heart of the Jungle,” and a World Heritage site.

Janakpur, birthplace of Janaki, Lord Rama’s consort, is a pilgrimage site in the Terai plains. It was the ancient capital city and cultural center of the Mithila Kingdom 12,000 years ago.

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Outside Janakpur are sugar-cane fields and villages. Many villages are built in the ancient style, mud walls adorned with paintings, and raised engravings of people and animals.

In nearby Kuwa village, people are friendly. The Janakpur Women’s Development Centre is there.

A little farther away (15km NE of Janakpur) is Dhanushadham, where Rama met the test of drawing Shiva’s bow.

There is more wall art in Phulgama village, thirty minutes south of Janakpur by bus.

Crucially, the Terai feeds most of Nepal. If Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) is the flowering tip of living Nepal, its roots are in the humus of the Terai.

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Landforms of Nepal

Traditional villages

Dharan