Biratnagar is the second largest city in Nepal and the industrial capital of the Terai region. With its close border to India, the city is strategically important because it is the closest to Calcutta, which serves as the main seaport for landlocked Nepal. The main export for Nepal was once the jute farmed in Biratnagar, but demand has dropped significantly over the last two decades. Instead, the city today is more about manufacturing and exports various industrial products like chemicals, oils, steel, soaps, etc. made from its many factories. The countryside around the city is also a mass cultivation ground for rice.
Like many towns in the Terai region, Biratnagar is only a dozen minutes away from India by rickshaw. The city has been influenced by communist and revolutionary sentiments over the years, thanks to its proximity to Naxalbari, an Indian hotbed of radical and violent groups from the 1960s to ’80s. Communist leaders like Bharatmohan Adhikari and Manmohan have come out of Biratnagar. The culture in Biratnagar is not surprisingly a blend of Indian and Nepalese, no more evidently seen than in the similar religious festivals celebrated in Biratnagar as those in India.
Today, Biratnagar as a tourist destination caters more to Indian travelers on their way to the Himalayan mountains and, alternatively, as a pilgrimage center for Hindus in neighboring countries and regions.
Most tourists visit Biratnagar on their way to the Himalayas. Many trekkers also enjoy hiking the mountains of Kanchenjunga near the city. There is also a wildlife reserve called the Koshi Tappu about an hour and a half drive away from Biratnagar, which rests along the plains of the Sapta Koshi river in the Terai region. The reserve is famous for its bird-watching expeditions. The habitat is not only home to some 300 different species of birds, but you’ll also get the chance to spot elephants, water buffalos, deer, mugger crocodiles, and Ganges River dolphins. The Koshi Tappu is considered the richest wildlife wetlands in Asia.
Biratnagar is also an important Hindu pilgrimage center and home to the Baraha Kshetra. This site is situated where the Sapta Koshi and Koka rivers meet. According to Hindu legend, Lord Vishnu and his fourth avatar, Lord Nrsimhadeva, came down to earth to kill the evil demon of Hiranyakashipu at Baraha Kshetra.
The city also has a popular weekly open-air market at the Biratnagar Haat Bazaar. The market sells everything from meats and vegetables to handicrafts, clothes, carpets, and other fabrics.
Biratnagar is known for its myriad lively religious festivals. The Krishna Janma Asthami is an example of one of them. It is the birthday of the Lord Krishna and on this occasion you’ll find chariot races, parades, and stands and stalls opening up to serve fruit and display statues of Lord Krishna. During Krishna Janma Asthami, the people stay up all night to celebrate.
The Ashar Pandhra is another festival of the city, popular especially among the Nepalese farmers. The event takes place in June and is dedicated to ushering in a rainy summer season in order to yield abundant crops. During the festival, people eat a lot of yogurt, rice, bananas, and mangoes and the villages transform from their quietness into lively hotspots.
The Tihar and Diwali is another significant religious festival celebrated by the city. The event lasts for five days and during this period the people of Biratnagar light their houses with little lamps called diyo that are fueled by oil fats.
“Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve.” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koshi_Tappu_Wildlife_Reserve>
Burbank, Jon, Rosha Bajracharya, and Kesang Tseten. Nepal. New York: Prentice Hall Travel, 1993. ISBN: 0671879138.
 Burbank, 182
 Burbank, 182