#Nepal is more than just Everest and Kathmandu. A quick guide to the Terai

(my photo) Rush hour in Sauraha, next to Chitwan National Park. This is what the tourists see. Most cities do not actually have these.

22 reviews(my photo) Rush hour in Sauraha, next to Chitwan National Park. This is what the tourists see. Most cities do not actually have these.

This entry is not about current events, though I will reiterate my  plea to stop the violence. It’s to educate people as to The Terai of Nepal. (note; I am publishing it now but that does not mean it’s finished. send me links to videos and articles – anything on the internets…. and I will update this. The intent is to serve as a resource for this region. send to joeniemczura@gmail.com or make a comment below)

Sept 25 2018 update: Nepali Times article about urbanization of Terai: https://www.nepalitimes.com/banner/east-west-city/

August 15th,2017 Update: Eastern Terai is subject to periodic floods, and this monsoon season is providing more rain than usual. Click here.

The Kosi Barrage is a major infrastructure of eastern Terai, built in the 1950s. here is a thirty minute documentary on the issues of flood control.


May 30 2017 update: a thirty-minute video by a USA college student as part of the S.I.T. program, about the Terai:

Food for thought: this took place in Hetauda, Nepal on March 30 2015

Food for thought #2;

In Saptari of eastern Terai a rogue elephant killed two people in April 2017 and terrorized the town. Here is a photo:

rogue elephant

I think this is from Kathmandu Post. Usually these are young males experiencing “musth”

While you are here: be advised that CCNEPal has a bold audacious plan to improve medical care throughout the entire Terai for 2017. We usually don’t do fundraising, but this time? yes. click here. http://wp.me/p1pDBL-18N

Aug 27th 2016 Update: I just spent seven weeks in Terai. I will supplement this entry with more specific info – look for it. In the meantime, click  http://www.myrepublica.com/news/4408 to read a piece that tries to describe the ethnic politics of the Terai.


from Republika showing aerial view of Janakpur Nepal in August 2016. The monsoon-related flooding in eastern Terai is a defining climate feature.

November 3rd update I just learned of an excellent monograph dated from the 1960’s titled “Regionalism and National Unity in Nepal” by Fredrick H Gaige. It is 235 pages. 1975 University of California Press.  It seems excellent. the link leads to a pdf of the entire book. I wish the title had used the word “Terai” – it would have been easier to find. But no matter – Highly recommended!

from: http://www.forestsmonitor.org/fr/reports/549391/549395 Fig 2. Map of Nepal showing the position of the Mountains, Mid-hills and Terai (Source: www.southalabama.edu/nepal/map.htm) The Terai is tan.

from: http://www.forestsmonitor.org/fr/reports/549391/549395 Fig 2. Map of Nepal showing the position of the Mountains, Mid-hills and Terai
(Source: http://www.southalabama.edu/nepal/map.htm) The Terai is tan.

“Birgunj, My Home Town”

In March 2016 the above-named book was published by Girish Giri. Click here for a review in Nepali Times. It’s in Nepali. sounds good though!

birgunj book cover

First, a couple of my very own videos

Chick Pea roaster in Bhairawaha. I was told that this guy has been plying the exact same craft for at least ten years on a street in Bhairawaha. he is using superhot sand to roast chick peas. the roasted peas are then filtered out through a mesh of just the right size. Click here.

One essential fact

Hijra. In Bhairawaha, I was walking in the evening, drawn by the irresistibly loud music of what could only be a wedding band. The dancer was – not what I expected. Click here.

Rickshaw. In Bharatpur I like to take a rickshaw to the Medical College.

Large areas of Terai are not to be found in Lonely Planet or other tourist guidebooks. Lonely Planet lists the Top Things To Do in Nepal, and only Lumbini and Chitwan (see elephant photo above) are on the list to represent the Terai.

western tourist: “I’m going to all the top places from Lonely Planet. they are cool.”

me: “I’m going to a bunch of places that are not in Lonely Planet. I’m beyond “cool” – I’m bindass!”

In 2014-2015, the year of my longest trip to South Asia, I made “Road Trips”  to Terai, teaching at medical schools and hospitals there. I myself was in a cocoon, these were not sight seeing trips. When not teaching, I was headed to the next place  on the schedule.


some of the best dahi (yogurt) in all of Nepal is made in Janakpur, a stone’s throw from Janaki Mandir


The Terai is a fine place for rice cultivation. This video shows many of the steps.


There is an online magazine named Vice, and Nov 2nd 2015 issue included a piece about the fissures in Nepal society opened by the constitutional process. The link is: http://www.vice.com/read/the-silent-majority-v22n11

Start with three YouTube videos

I am making a YouTube playlist. (send me some suggestions!) and the first thing, is to chill out and watch some beautiful things. These tend to focus on timeless scenes of pastoral life, and agricultural activity. Eye candy, in other words.

I was in Biratnagar summer 2014. That time of year, women apply mehendi. These are nurses who took my class. I worked with

I was in Biratnagar summer 2014. That time of year, women apply mehendi. These are nurses who took my class. I worked with “CNEplanet” and enjoyed my time there, despite an auto accident on the way. I returned in 2015.

This one is titled: Nepal’s Terai : Images from the western plains. It has a nice soundtrack, and consists of wonderful photos. I think it gives a good overview of daily life in that region of Terai.  https://youtu.be/9Xt0gCIig8we

From the same channel, here is Nepal’s Terai : Images from Mithilanchal & Udayapur   it’s in eastern Terai, and in this region there are more forests video clips of a small town, and spearfishing at the Koshi Barrage, cooking over a wood fire. It shows scenes of Mahottari and  Janakpur, each the location of major protests . Short   https://youtu.be/5YwwCoGkF-M

and he also went to Nepal’s Terai : Images from the eastern plains      https://youtu.be/VSIPJq2acRg


While we’re in the eastern Terai, here’s a photo essay of Rajbiraj.

And, a fifteen-minute video of the East-West Highway in Saptari, vicinity of Koshi Barrage. Shows a farmer’s village. Narrated in Nepali. There’s a spot on that road famous for making a certain kind of sweet involving  boiled milk ( when I was passing through my driver simply had to stop and buy ten boxes for friends in Dharan. Out of curiosity I bought a box. it was not for me. I shared them with my students in Biratnagar the next day. They loved them).

Depressing video: Be advised, this following video is not suitable for children and other living things. It is a compilation of riot police actions in Terai. I include it because it is an example of the genre; turns out there are many such videos. Somebody in Terai is adept at matching the tune to the video.

Here is a textual description of the history

Shradha Ghale wrote A fertile land the victim of neglect News from 1953 about the turmoil in Nepal’s Terai still resonates today. Obviously it was not written overnight, but  by an astounding coincidence, got published around the same time that the summer 2015 protests escalated. Extremely relevant and topical.

– See more at: http://recordnepal.com/wire/fertile-land-victim-neglect#sthash.M7c1fOGs.dpuf http://recordnepal.com/wire/fertile-land-victim-neglect

The Record Monday August 24, 2015 A lot has changed in Nepal since 1953. A lot has remained the same. When the following two articles were published in the newspaper The Statesman, then published from Delhi, the country had entered a new era with the defeat of the Rana regime. People waited for Constituent Assembly elections to write Nepal’s democratic constitution. That plan was scuttled a few years later by the ambitious King Mahendra keen to centralize all power in his hands. In 1950s Nepal, there was a great churning of political activity and articulation of aspirations from peoples suppressed by a hundred years of totalitarian regime. In particular, in Nepal’s south, the Terai, the Madhesis agitated for a province of their own, and for their lingua franca, Hindi, to be recognized by the state. Sixty-two years later, as Nepal struggles to promulgate a democratic constitution written by a Constituent Assembly, the Terai is once again in turmoil. The demand today is the same as it was in 1953: a separate province for Madhesis. – See more at: http://recordnepal.com/wire/fertile-land-victim-neglect#sthash.M7c1fOGs.dpuf

Back to video?

Here is one, (twenty minutes long) titled Tharu Village Visit. He’s basically a tourist, riding an oxcart to visit a Tharu village near Sauraha in central Terai, where they ride elephants. It’s semi-touristic. (be sure to read the comments. somebody was disrespecting the tourists. My view is, at least the guy was trying to learn more. It’s human nature to gawk….). The Tharu are a tribal/ethnic group. They live all around the Terai but the largest group is in western Nepal, where they were agitating for a province where they could be in the majority. (There are people who have moved to the plains from the hills and there is friction over land). https://youtu.be/PUDVz2D_vXc


a twelve-minute video that describes dalits (“untouchables”) Madeshis. The poorest of the poor. It’s titled “The Real Story of the Madheshi Andolan” and it describes the 2007 protest. It was published in July 2015.


try this: http://www.recordnepal.com/wire/nepalgunj-diary/


How could I omit this one? It’s an hourlong  India’s Frontier Railways Episode 2 The Last Train in Nepal BBC Documentary 2015, from a BBC series. It shows many scenes from Janakpur.  https://youtu.be/00wcrIFzFsc The train itself has been discontinued.

Kamlari girls – slavery in Nepal

Subina Shrestha did a piece on Kamlari girls. This describes a system of indentured servitude that is now illegal but still practiced. It focuses on the Tharu ethnic group.


I’m not going to recap all the sad and disturbing protest videos, or the ones that feature baton charges by riot police. But, the protests had been going on for a long time, and here is one titled:  Indigenous (Mulbasi) Bishal Tharu Aandolan At Tahruhat Dhangadhi Nepal (Part One)  This one gives you an idea of the sheer size of the protests. Filmed in 2013.  They have a long history of protests.    https://youtu.be/PqY62t55nGQ

Critical Nepal – a must-see

This one is a must-see. It was posted on YouTube Nov 10th. It has articulate voices about the protests. Click here.

Marijuana and Opium cultivation, drug abuse

Want to know about illegal drugs? Al Jazeera produced this one, from Birgunj, in 2010; then this one, in 2011.

This one was a sort of an ad for a brick factory. Brick Making Process In Terai, Nepal – Full Documentary  much of labor is done by hand, here. At this particular place, all workers are adult. https://youtu.be/uRaPNw 

Text, again

Here is an article that describes the disconnect between Kathmandu and the rest  of Nepal. Subina Shrestha, an excellent Nepali journalist who does a lot of work for AL Jazeera English, tweeted “Outside the bubble called Kathmandu, there is nothing but heartbreak. A must read piece” http://recordnepal.com/perspective/heart-matter

I first traveled to Rasuwa district some ten years ago. Just a day’s drive north of Kathmandu, it seemed a different world altogether. High, rocky mountains and pine forests instead of gentle foothills and valleys; mani walls, chortens, and Buddhist prayer flags instead of Hindu shrines and temples; elderly people who spoke Tamang and greeted me with “tashi delek” instead of “namaste”; Tamang women dressed in angdung and syade and men who spoke Nepali with an accent that would invite ridicule in Kathmandu. Everything I encountered along those trails seemed new and unfamiliar, far removed from what I, with my middle class upbringing and education, had been taught to imagine as Nepal. – See more at: http://recordnepal.com/perspective/heart-matter#sthash.dYmmE6cJ.dpuf


APril 6, 2017 a terrific photo essay from a village north of Janakpur.

Dec 28th, NBC News (USA) published this.

While The Gods Were Sleeping


I have not read this book, by an American. But it is set in Terai.  And hey, it has better sales position than either of mine does! The book has 22 reviews.

Love and marriage brought American anthropologist Elizabeth Enslin to a world she never planned to make her own: a life among Brahman in-laws in a remote village in the plains of Nepal. As she faced the challenges of married life, birth, and childrearing in a foreign culture, she discovered as much about human resilience, and the capacity for courage, as she did about herself.

Then there is this  piece by a woman who is “Pahadi” and examines her family in Terai.

(excerpt) Madhesh is to me home. I grew up in its dust, in its poverty, amidst friends and foes, amidst fireflies that lit the large sheesham trees like a pulsating goblet of cool fire in September evenings. I have been loved. I had been hurt. So, when the likes of my grandfathers were reduced to the status of an “invader,” I had secretly cringed. I wasn’t ready to accept the charge.


One of the main centers of agitation was/is Birgunj. I had the opportunity to go there, but – didn’t. Too many other places on the waitlist. Turns out that an anthropologist named Amanda Snellinger had been there since summer, and a month before everything went awry, she wrote this piece http://www.amandasnellinger.com/here-down-in-birganj/

I’ve now been in the city of Birganj, in Nepal’s Parsa district for a month and half and I’ve yet to post anything.  This is in part because it has taken me a bit of time to absorb this place, I’ve been hectic with both field research and writing projects, and I’ve had an entertaining, yet distracting, adventure getting settled into my living quarters. (This adventure is not something I can elaborate on at the moment, but I’ll write a short story about it someday.)

Feb 4th, 2016, Birgunj pheri

Here is an update from Birgunj that specifically focuses on the protests at the bridge.

Agarwal and several senior government officials concur on one point: when the protestors first occupied the bridge, they had expected the situation to last a week or two at most. No one had anticipated that the protestors will be continue to occupy the bridge even after 18 weeks.

Feb 10th, post-blockade

Scroll.in is an online journal of Nepal with a high standard for writing. Here is a piece on the future of Terai, now that the blockade is over.

Drone footage of Lumbini

Lumbini is in the Terai of Nepal.

Lumbini is in the Terai of Nepal.

birthplace of Buddha. here is some drone footage.

Muslims in Biratnagar

Twenty-minute interview in Nepali language, about health issues of Muslim Community in Biratnagar, eastern Terai. https://youtu.be/tX-w1WoBJtI

This is a start. I’ll add more when I can. There is no acute time limit for this…..

About Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

These blogs, and my books, and videos are written on the principle that any person embarking on something similar to what I do will gain more preparation than I first had, by reading them. I have fifteen years of USA nursing faculty background. Add to it fifteen more devoted to adult critical care. In Nepal, I started teaching critical care skills in 2011. I figure out what they need to know in a Nepali practice setting. Then I teach it in a culturally appropriate way so that the boots-on-the-ground people will use it. One theme of my work has been collective culture and how it manifests itself in anger. Because this was a problem I incorporated elements of "situational awareness" training from the beginning, in 2011.
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2 Responses to #Nepal is more than just Everest and Kathmandu. A quick guide to the Terai

  1. Pingback: They’re Dancing today in Nepal Sept 16th | Local National News

  2. Pingback: CCNEPal planning for summer 2016 | CCNEPal 2015

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