Saturday, 4 January 2014

Eight reasons to visit Rajbiraj

Rajdevi Temple (c) Swapnil Acharya
Colourful dresses, warm hospitality and tasty food. This sums up your experience in Rajbiraj. In spite of the sweltering heat (currently the chilly cold wave), dusty and bumpy roads, encroached alleyways, open drains and stray pigs there are multitude reasons to visit Rajbiraj, the first planned city of Nepal. As claimed by the locals. Rajbiraj derives its name from the famous temple Rajdevi Mandir.

People here dress in bright colours like in many other Terai districts. It’s a photographer’s delight to capture a melange of colours passing through the narrow alleyways. The dots of red, yellow and blue in a near perfect green field that turns into a sea of yellow in the month of November, is another rare sight to be captured.

Highly influenced by the egalitarian Mithila culture, people here speak in soft tones. They respect people from outside and make them feel at home. Even people speaking other dialects and languages imitate the softness of Maithili language.

The food tastes best here. Be it the morning time poori jalebi (wheat flour circular chapati-like bread fried in oil and circular coil like syrupy sweet) or the evening time jalkhai, snacks comprising puffed rice, chickpea, pakoda, kachodi (resembling vegetable tempura), amadike chutney (turmeric-like spice with raw mango’s taste and smell) and fried green chillies – both are mouth-watering.

An old man enjoying jalkhai (c) Swapnil Acharya
The sweets especially laddoos are the best. Peda, small sweets made from milk from nearby Barmajhiya is famous throughout Nepal. But beware to locate the real Budhoko Pasal (old man's shop). There are hordes of shops selling pedas with huge hoarding boards claiming to be the genuine shop. The original shop lies adjacent to the Armed Police Force centre. 
 
If you are a pan connoisseur, then you must taste the pan in Rajbiraj. Owing to its taste and the skill of the pan makers, Saptary Pan Bhandar and Sagarmatha Pan Bhandar are famous throughout Nepal including the capital.



Rajbiraj is also famous for fish. Once you eat Jalkapoor from Koshi River, you won't feel like eating other fishes. But beware of the Jalkapoor being sold at NRs 300 plus in Kathmandu and other metros. You can imagine – the fish sells at NRs 500 plus in Koshi Barrage itself, the place of origin. As far as I know the fishes sold in name of the famous fish from Koshi is imported from Andhra Pradesh and other states of India, and they are obviously not the Jalkapoor.

Other famous fishes from Rajbiraj are Rohu, Bhakur, Naini, common carp, silver carp, bighead and grass carp. I don't know the trade name or scientific name of one of the local varieties called Kotri, but it is really tasty. If you are in Saptary, try eating the fish. It's finger licking good.

Saptary is turning into Nepal's mango basket. The foothills of Churia, once considered useless, is adorned with mango orchards. Not even a single strip is vacant – most places in the Churia foothills are already bearing orchards while few patches are fast catching up with the rest. Maldah, Bombay, Dashhari all varieties from Saptary has its own peculiar taste. In the future it's going to be the mango district, if One District One Product (ODOP) concept is well promoted.

If you are a religious buff, then Chinnamasta, Kankalini and Sambhunath are the places to visit. Chhinnamasta, the Goddess sans head, is one of the major attractions. Hordes of Hindu pilgrims from neighbouring India and all parts of Nepal visit the temple, one of the Shakti Peeths, to pay obeisance to the Goddess. Nearby is the famous Kankalini Temple near the Koshi Barrage. On the Ashtami and Nawami (eighth and ninth days of Dashami festival), the temple witnesses innumerable sacrifices of buffaloes and goats. Sambhunath is situated around 12 kilometres north-west of Rajbiraj. The temple sees pilgrims from Nepal and India throughout the month of Baishakh (April-May).   

It’s easy and super cheap to get to Rajbiraj. Magic (small van), with people packed like sardines, will take you to the city at NRs 20 per passenger from Rupani, the roundabout on the East-West Highway.

So, when are you visiting Rajbiraj? 

All photos by (c) Swapnil Acharya.
Video on Paan from Saptari by Story Cycle.

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