Dhankuta - History & Climate

Dhankuta is a hill town with about 20,000 inh. Dhankuta District in the eastern part of Nepal. Until about 1963 Dhankuta Bazaar (the town) was the administrative headquarters for the whole of north-eastern Nepal. Located a half mile above the town were the buildings of the Bada Hakim, the feudal district governor of the whole north-eastern region, a man with enormous power. The town also had the regional jail and army post. Because of Dhankutas isolation from the lowland Terai and from Kathamandu, it was in many ways a self-governing area.

Income to purchase items (cloth, kerosene, batteries, medicines, etc.) that could not be produced locally came from a combination of sales of hill produce (tangerines, potatoes, etc.) and funds repatriated back into the hills by Ghurka soldiers serving first in the British and then more-often in the Indian armiies.

The first four (2 male; 2 female) American Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Dhankuta Bazaar in Fall, 1962 to work as teachers in the two high schools. In October, 1963 three male PCVs arrived to help establish the new Panchayat development program.

From 1963 Nepal was divided into 75 Panchayat Districts, and the traditional Dhankuta administrative region was divided up into about six of the panchayat districts. The power of the Bada Hakim was transferred to the central governments appointed Panchayat Development Officer and each districts elected Panchayat President.

During the pre-panchayat period Dhankuta Bazaar prided itself as being in the cultural vanguard, a relatively progressive community with its own intellectual elite. Dhankuta Bazaar, already in the 1930s, had the only high school in Nepal to be located outside of the Kathmandu Valley. Early on it added a girls high school and a two-year college.

Then and now there is a sharp contrast between Dhankuta Bazaar and the surrounding rural villages. The town is a commercial center and has a population that is primarily Newar. The surrounding area is agricultural and the population is made up of many caste/tribal groups, notably Rais and Limbus with increasing numbers of Tibetans.

Dhankuta Bazaar, on the North-South Koshi Highway, is now the administrative headquarters for the Eastern Development Region, and is home to a number of offices for NGOs and aid agencies serving in the area. The large bazaar of Hile further up the road, is an important trading centre and major road head, serving the remote hinterlands of the Arun valley and Bhojpur. Villagers walk for many days from surrounding districts to trade in Hile and Dhankuta bazaars, although road building in the district may reduce the importance of these centres.

The vegetation zones in the district range from sub-tropical Sal forest along the Tamur and Arun rivers, and cooler temperate forests on some of the high ridges that mark the watershed between the two catchments. The altitude ranges from around 300m to 2500m. The majority of the population are involved in agriculture and crops include maize, rice and millet. Important cash crops include citrus fruits, cauliflower, cabbage, ginger, and in recent years, tea. A well-preserved forest (Rani Bhan - Queens Forest) spreads along a ridge line on the northwest side of the village, with well-developed mature stands of rhododendron and sal (pine) trees.

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