Industrial city of Biratnagar, mythically, is known as the Kingdom of King Birat, one of the character of Mahabharata. Biratnagar is 70 meters above sea level and temperature ranges from 0 degree centigrade in winter to 42 degree centigrade in summer. According to National Census of 2001, population of Biratnagar is 166,674. (see http://www.biratnagarmun.org.np/ also)
After Bargachhi Chowk, we’ll reach Mahendra Chowk. Before Mahendra Chowk, there is another point called Saurachiya. Particularly, west side of highway is called Saurachiya and this area is dominated by Muslim community. On my stay in Biratnagar, I was invited for the first time in my life to celebrate Bakar Id by a local. Main market is on the eastern side of Saurachiya. Market area are – Gudri, Traffick Chowk, Hanuman Chowk, Jaljala Chowk, Ram-Janaki Chowk, Sani Mandir and so on. Back to Mahendra Chowk, this Chowk now a days is known as Ganatantra (which means Republic in English) Chowk. If you notice in the photo, there is a pillar and there used to be a statue of King Mahendra. I guess, it must have been destroyed during Peoples’ Movement II. At that time many statues in many cities of Nepal has been destroyed. This pillar without any statue is a symbol of downfall of glorious days of Panchayat period and monarchy.
On the 29 March 2008, it was reported that two men on a motorcycle threw four bombs at Choti mosque in Saurachiya. Three bomb blast inside the mosque, killing two people and injuring others. Hindu extremist group called the Nepal Defense Army claimed responsibility of bombing. This event was very sad for us. Girija Prasad Koirala, Prime Minister at that time condemned such kind of act. Sad thing is that I haven’t heard anything concrete happened to culprits. By the way, Biratnagar is home town of Girija Prasad Koirala.
This is Bus Park. From here, buses goes to different places but I have special memory attached with Bus Park. We used to go there to have our lunch. There are small resturants where they serve fresh dal-bhat-tarkari-achar in very cheap price. Sometime people gets annoyed with the dirtyness of the area but there are few places which are clean enough to eat.
This is Roadcess Chowk. According to a local friend of mine, road is road and cess means end and that’s how it got the name. The road where it gets end i.e. end of the highway. But these days, highway does not ends there – it ends at the boarder. Two roads lead to border, one is Malaya Road and other is Rani Path. Piller in this Chowk also shows the glorious days of Panchayat and this pillar was made on the 25th Aniversary of Panchayat. This is also in half destoryed situation.
When British left India, they had an trilateral (British, India and Nepal) agreement on recruitment of Nepali in their Army (Gurkha Army). Some choose to serve for India and some choose to serve for British. To take Gurkha Army from Nepal to UK, they need to go via Calcutta through ship. So, British built this road to connect Nepal with Calcutta. (I heard this story from my father.) Even through Gurkhas were serving for British, they had to go and work in Malaysia. That is why when they were asked where they worked, they used to say ‘Malaya’. And this road takes people to Malaya that is why the name of the road became Malaya Road. Malaya Road ends in Rani Bhanshar, Jogbani.
From Jogbani, Indian goods worth billion rupees are imported to Nepal from this point everyday. Eveyday weekend, women from Nepal goes there to spend their earning on saaris, salwar-kameez and household goods. Evey weekend, if I’m home I stay in the roof-top and see people going and coming back from Jogbani. At that time, I used to think, if we could make something for Indians to spent their money in our country as well.
On the way back from Jogbani, instead of taking Malaya Road we can take Rani Path. Rani Path has a lots of stories to tell. There are lot of industries in both sides of the road. Among them Biratnagar Jute Mill is the oldest industry of Nepal. I came to know from my neighbour (rickshawpuller) that Girija used to work there and he has done some kind of labour movement.
Alas, this is my favourite place in Biratnagar because my home is here. Bhattimode has both dark and light side. Few years back, in this chowk two people were killed in the clash between Madheshi and Pahade. Last year as well, almost a clash happened in this chowk between Madheshi and Pahade right after the 18 days Madhesh Movement. But in daily life, Madhishi and Pahadi are living in harmony and they help each other in their need. Their subsistence depends on each other. Local guys sing songs of love in the evening and exchange handshakes in the morning.
Photoes by : Neem Darlami . Sirjana Subba and http://www.islamonline.net (for Girija Prasad Koirila)