Nepal’s Southern belt of lowlands is called the Terai. This mostly flat area is stretched over crossing the Nepal-India border, where it is called the Indian Terai. The typical vegetation on this belt for thousands of years were uninterrupted lush dense jungles which had been “cut through “only by very wild and strong temporary monsoon rivers running from the North to South, and a few permanent rivers which became usually very big after collecting the waters of other tributaries on their flow down from the Himalayas. The combination of fertile planes with direct sunlight and abundance of waters created a unique environment which is exceptionally suitable for a wide range of plants, animals, birds and insects. The jungles had been rarely inhabited by biggest human settlements, because of the mosquitoes which were causing Malaria. Thus practically only the Tharu nation, who are genetically immune against Malaria, were able to settle there. When the British armies tried to only cross these dangerous jungles, many of them dies on the way due to the conditions of heat, insects and wild animals.
The Terai Jungle‘s end started when humanity invented DDT and malaria was extinguished in the flat-lands. Large groups of previously hillside nations resettled here, cutting forests and high grass to create villages. Hunting was an obviously easy way to survive, due to the abundance of animals in these rich jungles. Nature provides people here with many delicious wild fruits, tens of types of green vegetables (“saag”) to cook as spinach, he best types of grass and leaves for cattle, fire-wood, and after the Nepalese stopped to build clay-houses but focused on “cement” (concrete) houses, and asphalt and gravel roads for vehicles, the stones of riverbeds became also a target. Yet, for centuries these villages lived in harmony with the jungles around them. Until the natural resources had been used only by the villagers themselves, the harm to the nature was negligible.
When I asked locals when was the first village built in the area of Halkhoria Jungle, they typically could not tell me exact years, but for example Piluwa, which is 6 km from the Halkhoria Jungle (usually identified with the immediate area of Devdaha lake), was settled approximately 50 years ago, I was told. A village in the North, at the foothills called sometimes Churia, Damarpur, was older, as well as Ratanpur and Nijgadh. But the overall resettling to these villages around Halkhoria was maybe an issue of a hundred years at most.
Interestingly, I was told, there had always been people who were living in this area in lonely settlements, or visited it from the much older Simara town which is a half-an-hour drive from Halkhoria. As the jungle lies on ways to the North from India, it is also probable that people had been crossing it and knowing about it in ancient times, because the temporary monsoon rivers are transformed to wide dry pathways when the rains stop, with high savannah-type grass as the only obstacle to tackle.
The first legend I was told by Ganga Jeet, Ram Bomjon’s eldest brother, but later others, even Simara residents, confirmed me that his is the story. Yet it is difficult to get any number of years from locals about the legend, and the only guess I have from Ganga, that the story happened about 300 years ago.
According to many current old-time settlers, in the place where now is a bigger lake (unfortunately currently drying out), Devdaha, there had been a big and very rich ancient city. Due to the fertile land of the Terai which yields 4 times a year (!), this is not so difficult to believe. The inhabitants of that city, enjoying their luxurious life, but became proud after a time. And one day a poor begging Sadhu arrived there, and asked for shelter for a single night, and some food. He went from house to house, but the rich householders all rejected him. Finally he arrived to the house at the edge of the city, where a poor widow live with her daughter. As the area was for thousands of years influenced by a Hindu life-style, the widow answered that it is against the tradition that a lonely woman allowed a lonely man to enter her house and stay overnight, but she felt sorry for him and welcome him inside. Now, the Sadhu told her that he did not want food and that he was also not poor. He only disguised himself, to test the inhabitants of the big city, who deserves to be saved, because a great flood is going to sweep the whole city entirely, and no one would be spared, let the only person who had shown compassion. And that was this widow. So he instructed the widow to pack all she had and take her daughter, and climb the nearby hills before 3 am, still in the dark. She believed what he told and did accordingly. And a great rain arrived and a huge flood covered the whole city. These waters did not recede, but formed a big lake called Devdaha (home of gods). It is told by some locals that pottery pieces could be seen in the earth in the area.
After the Devdaha Lake was formed, it became a home for fish, and many years ago for Nepali crocodiles and well. Although the Devdaha Lake is currently very poor, peacocks had been visiting it in the recent years. Every water source in a jungle attracts mammals and birds as well, and so the area of Devdaha was for long years a meeting point of deer types, tigers, leopards, monkeys and many types of smaller mammals, wild boars, snakes, frogs, and even water-birds. This was partly true in 2011, but till the end of 2011 the water sources of Halkhoria became depleted by the residents and crowds of visitors of Ram Bahadur Bomjon (Buddha Boy), who had overtaken the jungle as his residency, and moved there big groups of his followers, allegedly to care for him (“guard him”). A smaller lake with originally deep and pure water, East from Devdaha, had been depleted by his followers building a 3-floor concrete villa at its bank in 2011 so much, that in early 2012 there was no more water in the whole lake, remaining just a bubbling swamp with rotting plants, and construction rubble and wires thrown to it.
Yet the incredible irony is, that Ram Bomjon and his Sangha (followers) are blaming the distant locals -villagers, plant-pickers, shepherds etc. – on devastating Halkhoria. Their argument has no logic, because it is clearly seen in Google Earth images (see the below videos) that the jungle and lake stared to be destroyed only after Bomjon had settled there (2007), and especially after he started to organize crowded preaching programs there (2008). And villagers had lived there for about 50-100 years, while the jungle was never so much depleted and the lakes were always preserved!
Unfortunately Ram Bomjon and his Sangha had never acted or spoke according to logic. Even their unethical deeds like kidnapping, violence, torture, sexual perversity, had harmed the sacred energy of this jungle. The construction activity, hedonist lifestyle of some Khenpos (lama teachers) and foreign devotees who surround Bomjon (even if he himself has still a habit to be rather modest), had repeatedly harmed Halkhoria. I created a series of video presentations to show this direct connection between Bomjon’s stay in Halkhoria and the destruction of the nature around him.
Halkhoria’s known history
While the legends circulated among the devotees of Ram Bahadur Bomjon (Buddha Boy), who had occupied the Government Protected Forest of Halkhoria in Nepal’s Bara District from 2006 till 2012, speak about the forest being visited by the Hindu Ramayana‘s divine beings in ancient times, a more down-to-earth and recent history had been published in an article of The Kathmandu Post (below). As the article had been trimmed to nearly unusable length during the years, I had requested the Indian library to retrieve the text for me, and they kindly did.
Halkhoria ecology videos:
The Word file with the same article: