With plenty of vacation days during the festive season, I was with my best friend (Gopal Dev) to visit Eastern Terai. For the very first time we visited Janakpur. And after that we planned our trip to city Rajbiraj, one of the first planned urban township of Nepal. Rajbiraj which is the first municipality of saptari district and also the administrative headquarter, it lies 10 KM south of east-west highway from Rupani.
Rajbiraj was my friend’s local hometown. But due to migration of his father’s tenure period at teaching government school, his whole family settled at Hetauda. And we were introduced for the first time during our schooling (class 7). He belongs to Vetenary (Chitwan) and I am with my architecture studies. Till now also we are connected with strong bond of friendship although we live far apart but often we meet more than twice a year and we travel once.
With a local bus from Janakpur with frequent play and pause action, we nearly arrived Rajbiraj city junction at dark 7 pm. I could see nothing except the lights coming from bus and bike perhaps of loadshedding (power shortage). All thing only I could do is to have a meal and sound sleep. Directly I woke up at 9 AM morning as whole bus ride made my body too tired.
First day started with short walk around the Rajdevi tole where my friend’s home was located. With my Nokia cell phone and Canon series I started documenting the architecture and its surrounding atmosphere there. Majority of water bodies to create cool micro climate as per the design criteria, and use of local building material like thatches, bamboo, timber were the primary observation I observed during my whole first day excursion at Rajdevi tole.
I could see maximum use of horizontal and vertical shading devices with high ornamentation in projection and ceiling (called butta in Nepali). With day temperature of around 34 degree celcius, I was unable to continue my walk. So taking a bicycle at evening time we headed towards Chandra nahar, one of the oldest irrigation project of Nepal located in Rajbiraj.
I knew nothing about this irrigation project during the visit, but doing more and more google research on it, I hardly found some small detail information on Chandra nahar. Chandra nahar was the first of its modern system of irrigation project in Nepal (1922 AD) which originates from Triyuga river and gets mix with koshi irrigation canal. I am not totally sure but internet source states that Chandra nahar was designed by Deep narsingh rana who was sent to Japan for education during the rana period. But due to heavy power outage and lack of maintenance and repair currently the Chandra nahar irrigation project has stopped functioning now. Some news source mentions that farmers also used to padlock the irrigation house to demand water supply for paddy fields.
Second day was quite boring for me due to heavy raining in early morning. But at 3 pm afternoon the sky was heated up and we went to Gajendra chowk (previously called Mahendra chowk). Gajendra singh was founder of Nepal sadvawana party and a famous politician who raised the voice regarding the issue of people living at Terai region.
Early morning we went to Chinnamasta temple at Sakhada which lies 10 KM away from Rajbiraj city. And in the afternoon we observed the temple architecture here at the city area and village area. The temple architecture is almost like a pyramid form multi tiered roof with some force pressing the top part. I think some part of the temple architecture here at Rajbiraj has been influenced from Indian temple architecture as Rajbiraj lies close to the indian borders.
My visit to Rajbiraj was a milestone for me to study and observe the temple architecture, house form, residential space, local building material and urban planning that has flourished at city of Terai. I was only limited in text book and lecture notes as per given in college about the architectural design criteria and the methodology of architecture that people of Terai practice. But seeing it live in front of my eyes, the human behavior and settlement, and obviously the architectural surrounding made me feel the sense of place that the Terai city region offers.