Letang's Rajarani: An Orchid Capital


Birat Anupam 

When it comes to Rajarani in the provincial tourism talks of Province 1, travellers do think about Rajarani in Dhankuta district. It is mainly owing to its popularity and promotion. The Rajarani lake and its surroundings are adjacent to Rabi-Rake-Bhedetar roadways which have put this tourist spot in the mainstream tourism spotlight of the province. 

Remotely Located

There is another Rajarani tourism area in Province 1. This lies at Letang Municipality-1 of the northern Morang district. As this is remotely located from the East-West highway, not many travellers are informed about its beauty. I  did not know much about it despite reading some tourism news about this venue. 

I travelled to this place on 22 March 2022. I did stay overnight there enjoying the serene surroundings and did stroll around the two beautiful lakes namely Raja Taal (King Lake) and Rani Taal (Queen lake). There is also a dilapidated pond called Rajkumari Pokhari (Princess pond). 

 I did know about the interesting Sati-related story of this area. This story is detailed in a book titled 'Sati' which is written by Sujit Mainali. As per the book, there was a palace in a place nearby the lake named Sarpetar. 

From the palace, a king named Baise would administrate his kingdom. King and queen would bathe by the shores of the lake by riding on elephants. There is also a temple important for the indigenous Dhimal community. Dhimal considers them to have originated from this place. On the second day of the new Nepali Year, on Baisakh 2, a fare is organised there. Decimals from Morang, Sunsari and Jhapa throng to attend this fair. 

According to a legend, king Baise once went for fighting with king Birat of the Morang plans. During those times, the pigeon would be taken as a means of communication with the queen and her compatriots. 

If the king gets killed in the fighting, the pigeon would be left to fly on its journey to the palace. Interestingly, the pigeon happened to fly due to negligence. The king was alive but the pigeon reached the palace and signalled that the king was killed. King Baise won the fight with king Birat. 

He arrived in speedy travel at his palace. Unfortunately, his queen was already in the funeral pyre as the 'Sati'. This devastating incident troubled the king. Then, he put himself on the burning pyre to offer his dedication and love to his queen. Both of them charred to death. 

Other than this legend, the Rajarani area does have vibrant Magar culture. We were offered a beautiful local Magar dance called Hurra. The Hurra was so beautiful in a sense that it was attended by young children to elderly folks, not to talk about energetic youths. 

Other than beautiful lakes, beautiful temples, vibrant Magar culture, and lovely village vibes, Rajarani is also a famed place for orchids. This place is also the capital of orchids. Known as the sanctuary of orchids, many researchers have talked about its orchid attraction.

 For example, in a research journal named Selbyana, an article was published about Rajarani orchids in 2005 in volume 26 and number 1/2 which was jointly authored by Lokesh R. Shakya and Devendra M. Bajracharya. 

The research article is titled 'Orchid Sanctuary Rajarani (Morang District), East Nepal: An Effort Towards Habitat Conservation.'' According to this research article, there were 45 species of orchids available in the area. Researchers have pointed out four major threats to orchids which are habitat loss, selective logging and canopy disturbance, road construction, illegal collection and trade. When it was in the Rajarani forest area on March 22 and 23, I could not see many visitors concerned about the attraction of orchids. 

They were mainly focused on lakes, temples and the local culture. But authorities have so far overlooked appropriate tourism publicity about the orchid attraction. 

I spoke with local hotelier Arpan Rai and Ward Chairperson Bishnu Magar. They knew about the orchid sanctuary. However, they did not have a proper understanding of orchids. For this to end, locals need to be more aware of orchid availability, attraction and their protection and promotion locally, provincially and nationally. The way TMJ is branded as the capital of rhododendron, Rajarani of Letang Morang must be branded as the capital of orchids in the province. 

According to the February 2021 report titled 'Inventory of Lakes in Nepal' which is jointly prepared by the National Lake Conservation Development Committee and the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Rajarani Lake has a core area of 8.4 hectares and a basin area of 62.1 hector. The condition of the lake, according to the report, is good. This freshwater lacustrine permanent lake does have great tourism potential. A local hotelier by the shores of the lake has introduced camping. 

For Biodiversity Lovers

Located on a 12-kilometre long drive from Belbari Bazaar's cinema hall line, Rajarani can be reached after driving through Naksal, Belchauri, Budhabare, Kirat Chowk and Pokhara. Off the 12-kilometre-long road track, three-kilometres fall within the hilly topography and the rest falls within Terai plains. The road track is not black-topped in all of its sections. This is the perfect place for nature, culture, aquatic adventure and biodiversity lovers. 

Despite all these virtues, there are some vices of this touristic place. The local infrastructure is not accessible and environmentally friendly. The camping by the lake with loud music playing has visibly hampered wild birds and animals. Lakes are not properly sanitised. 

There is only one tourist standard hotel called Rajarani Durbar Inn which came into operation this year. 

Still, this place deserves your footfall not just for deep-pocketed travellers but also for frugal visitors. I do not regret spending a night and two days at this beautiful place investing around Rs. 3,000. You can also pick this place as your next destination. 

(Birat is a freelance writer) 

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