By Dil Bahadur Singh
Siliguri, Sept. 28:The number of domestic and foreign tourists visiting Khaptad, an important area for its natural beauty and religious atmosphere, has started to increase.
According to Gopal Ghimire, Chief Conservation Officer at Khaptad National Park, 730 Nepali, five tourists from SAARC countries and 11 foreign tourists from non-SAARC countries visited Khaptad in the fiscal year 2019/2020.
Known as Bhu-Swarga, Khaptad is considered the confluence of Achham, Bajhang, Doti and Bajura districts of Sudhurpashim Province. Khaptad has a wide variety of plants, colourful flowers and beautiful landscapes.
Khaptad region is an important destination in terms of biological diversity and religious beliefs. It is spread over 225 square kilometres. Triveni, Khaptaddaha, Sahasralinga, Nagadhunga and Khaparmandau are considered holy places of pilgrimage for Hindus. Fairs and pujas (worship) are held in these places on religious festivals like Ganga Dussehra, Janaipurnima, Bhadau Shukla Chaturdashi (Ananta Chaturdashi).
There are 22 Patans in Khaptad area. This is the only national park in Nepal where Leopard Cat (Nigale bagh, Chari bagh) can be found. Khaptad, which hides under the snow in winter, looks like a huge garden of colourful flowers from spring to monsoon.
Khaptad is also considered a sacred area where sages practised penance in the mythical period. Even in Skanda Purana, the name of Khechradi mountain refers to the Khaptad region.
A national park was established in this area in 1984. It is said that there are 567 species of plants and more than 260 species of birds found in Khaptad out of 850 species found in Nepal. Khaptad is located at an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level. The world’s rarest green lizard is found here.
Khaptad area is the holy land where Swami Satchidananda Saraswati did penance. Khaptad Baba spent about 50 years in the area. Khaptad Baba is known as a spiritual guru and philosopher.
Bhim Bahadur Khadka, Executive Director of Khaptad Region Tourism Development and Management Committee, said comfortable accommodation and food arrangements had been made for tourists visiting the area.
Khadka said: “Recently, tourists coming to Khaptad have had no problem with food or accommodation. Dilapidated guest houses in the Khaptad area have been renovated. We are still in the process of bringing in the private sector.”
The number of tourists visiting Khaptad had decreased due to the long-term effect of COVID-19. It is now increasing as the conditions have become better.