The journey to eastern Nepal was an amazing experience as the area is full of places where many things happened in the past. Walking through the land was like going inside all the stories I had heard
By Anuska Joshi
Our spellbinding, enchanting journey to the eastern Nepal started with the winding B P Highway showing us incredible view of the road amidst hills and rivers. This highway is the largest eastbound escape from Kathmandu Valley and though the road is very winding and long, it is the fastest way to the east. The journey to the eastern Nepal was much awaited as there were many plans packed into one — visiting the famous tea gardens, historical places where revered deities were born, famous temples and beautiful villages.
Our first stop was at Jhapa, which is the easternmost district of Nepal in the Mechi zone. The landmark was full of fertile agricultural land, and many people here seemed to have farming as their major occupation, as they were in the fertile landscape of Tarai. One of the new experiences for me here was also the visit to local brick kilns, and how local turned the site excavated by brick kilns into fish ponds.
Jhapa district does have many attractions and has religious and historical sites that resonate many folklore and traditions. Some of the most noted sites in this district are Kankai Mai, Satasidham, Arjundhara, Chillagadh and Biratpokhar, to name a few. The historic fort of Chandragadhi is also here. The breakfast option of the area here is a delicacy called ‘Vakka’ which is a ball made out of rice flour and steamed. This is eaten along with chili spices.
After a day’s stay in Jhapa, we made our way to the famous tea gardens of Nepal. A drive of few hours from Jhapa took us to the beautiful tea garden of Kanyam. Because of time constraints, we could not make it to Ilam. But Kanyam, which is home to most of the best tea gardens in the country. Kanyam offered breathtaking sceneries.
Kanyam tea garden is sprawled over around 240 hectares of which tea is planted on 200 hectares. It produces around 125 tons of orthodox tea annually. The tea processing plant is located at an altitude of 5,500 ft. above sea level. The clouds moving through the road is what adds to the beauty of this place. Horse riding is a popular activity here. The tea garden is also popular among picnickers.
Not very far from Jhapa lies another famous place of Nepal – Dharan which has been serving as a trading point between the hilly region and the Tarai plains. Dharan has a specialty of its own with abundance of religious sites. While visiting Dharan, we first went for lunch in Bhedetar – a famous hill station in eastern Nepal. The place proved to justify its fame, with towering hills looking over the scenic Dharan below. The food here also had the authentic Nepali hilly taste, with the staple rice, dal, tarkari, meat and pickle.
Out of the many religious places here, we were able to visit the famous Danta Kali and Pindeshwor Mahadev temples. Religious tales in Nepal say that Sati Devi, Lord Shiva’s wife, set herself on fire and her body parts fell in different places. Danta Kali, danta which translates to teeth, is where her teeth fell. And the Mahadev temple nearby is to protect the Danta Kali temple. The feeling of walking in the sites where such stories are supposed to have taken place was another enthralling experience in itself.
Another remarkable spot we visited in Dharan is Chataradham which is also known as Baraha Kshetra. We reached the place after cutting many dried up river beds. It is a home to many Ashrams, and is a very beautiful place to take a restful abode. It is one of the four dhams or important religious sites in Nepal.
We had a few days stop at Biratnagar — the second largest city of Nepal. Biratnagar is full of many industries, and is a hub for many travelers visiting eastern Nepal. The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is nearby. Similarly, the Koshi Barrage with the gushing Koshi River was another attraction. One of the most interesting things about eastern Nepal is the ‘haat bazaar or the weekly marketplaces where farmers sell their stuffs. Some places in eastern Nepal get their names according to the days when these haat bazaar take place. Jogbeni, the India border town, is quite near from Biratnagar. When in Biratnagar, don’t miss the native ‘peda’ – a popular milk sweet.
The journey from Biratnagar to Janakpur was also interesting. The palace of the king of Janakpur is really beautiful. It has now a temple dedicated to Lord Ram and Goddess Sita. The place where they got married, locally known as Bibaha Mandap, is also there, decorated with statues of the pair getting married and other Gods being a witness to their marriage.
The Janakpur palace also has a museum where old clothes and jewelries from ancient times are showcased. The whole of the area around eastern Nepal is so full of ancient stories of all the Gods and Goddesses that you feel like you are walking in a land full of many histories and mysteries. The same jungle and land must have been the one where the Panch Pandavs walked sometimes.
With such memorable visits, our last stop before coming back to Kathmandu was in Sarlahi, which was also full of beautiful forests, rivers and cozy villages. Before leaving for Kathmandu, we went to the Gadhi Mai Temple, the temple of the goddess of power. We had to go through long stretches of forests, dried up rivulets and villages which was an astounding experience. The houses in this far-flung village have their own unique structure and are decorated by paintings of flowers and birds etc made by women.
The journey to eastern Nepal was an amazing experience as the area is full of places where many things happened in the past. Walking through the land was like going inside all the stories I heard from my grandparents.