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Terai or Tarai
Hindi: तराई; Nepali: तराइ
Terai nepal.jpg
Aerial view of Terai plains near Biratnagar, Nepal
Realm Indomalayan realm
Animals gharial, mugger crocodile, king cobra
Bird species Bengal florican, lesser adjutant, swamp francolin, white-rumped vulture, Oriental darter, sarus crane
Mammal species Indian rhinoceros, Asian elephant, gaur, blackbuck, tiger, leopard, jungle cat, fishing cat, leopard cat, smooth-coated otter, large Indian civet, Asian palm civet, small Indian civet, hispid hare
CountriesNepal, India
Elevation67–300 m (220–984 ft)
Rivers Sharda River, Karnali River, Gandaki River, Koshi River
Climate typetropical savanna climate
Soil typesalluvial
Global 200 Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands

The Terai or Tarai is a lowland region in northern India and southern Nepal that lies south of the outer foothills of the Himalayas, the Sivalik Hills, and north of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. This lowland belt is characterised by tall grasslands, scrub savannah, sal forests and clay rich swamps. In northern India, the Terai spreads from the Yamuna River eastward across Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The Terai is part of the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion. The corresponding lowland region in West Bengal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Assam in the Brahmaputra River basin is called 'Dooars'. [1] In Nepal, the Terai stretches over 33,998.8 km2 (13,127.0 sq mi), about 23.1% of Nepal's land area, and lies at an altitude of between 67 and 300 m (220 and 984 ft). The region comprises more than 50 wetlands. North of the Terai rises the Bhabar, a narrow but continuous belt of forest about 8–12 km (5.0–7.5 mi) wide. [2]



The Urdu word ترائي तराई tarāʼī means "lands lying at the foot of a watershed" or "on the banks of a river; low ground flooded with water, valley, basin, marshy ground, marsh, swamp; meadow". [3] In Hindi, the region is called तराई 'tarāī' meaning "foot-hill". [4] In Nepali, the region is called तराइ 'tarāi' meaning "the low-lying land, plain" and especially "the low-lying land at the foot of the Himālayas". [5] [6] It has been described as "low, marshy ground". [7]


The Terai is crossed by the large perennial Himalayan rivers Yamuna, Ganges, Sarda, Karnali, Narayani and Kosi that have each built alluvial fans covering thousands of square kilometres below their exits from the hills. Medium rivers such as the Rapti rise in the Mahabharat Range. The geological structure of the region consists of old and new alluvium, both of which constitute alluvial deposits of mainly sand, clay, silt, gravels and coarse fragments. The new alluvium is renewed every year by fresh deposits brought down by active streams, which engage themselves in fluvial action. Old alluvium is found rather away from river courses, especially on uplands of the plain where silting is a rare phenomenon. [8]

A large number of small and usually seasonal rivers flow through the Terai, most of which originate in the Sivalik Hills. The soil in the Terai is alluvial and fine to medium textured. Forest cover in the Terai and hill areas has decreased at an annual rate of 1.3% between 1978 and 1979, and 2.3% between 1990 and 1991. [2] With deforestation and cultivation increasing, a permeable mixture of gravel, boulders and sand evolves, which leads to a sinking water table. But where layers consist of clay and fine sediments, the groundwater rises to the surface and heavy sediment is washed out, thus enabling frequent and massive floods during monsoon, such as the 2008 Bihar flood. [9]

The reduction in slope as rivers exit the hills and then transition from the sloping Bhabar to the nearly level Terai causes current to slow and the heavy sediment load to fall out of suspension. This deposition process creates multiple channels with shallow beds, enabling massive floods as monsoon-swollen rivers overflow their low banks and shift channels. Many areas show erosion such as gullies.[ citation needed ]


In India, the Terai extends over the states of Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. These are mostly the districts of these states that are on the India–Nepal border: [1]

Mostly the light green areas indicate the Terai in Nepal Nepal topo en.jpg
Mostly the light green areas indicate the Terai in Nepal

The Terai in Nepal is differentiated into "Inner" and "Outer" Terai and includes 20 districts.[ citation needed ]

Inner Terai

The Inner Terai consists of five elongated valleys located between the Mahabharat and Sivalik ranges. [14] From north-west to south-east these valleys are:

Most of these valleys are 5–10 km (3.1–6.2 mi) wide (north-south) and up to 100 km (62 mi) long (east-west).[ citation needed ]

Outer Terai

The Outer Terai begins south of the Sivalik Hills and extends to the Indo-Gangetic Plain. In the Far-Western Region, Nepal it comprises the Kanchanpur and Kailali districts, and in the Mid-Western Region, Nepal Bardiya and Banke districts. Farther east, the Outer Terai comprises the Kapilvastu, Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusa, Siraha, Saptari, Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa districts. [15]

East of Banke the Nepalese Outer Terai is interrupted where the international border swings north and follows the edge of the Sivaliks adjacent to Deukhuri Valley. Here the Outer Terai is entirely in Uttar Pradesh's Shravasti and Balrampur districts. East of Deukhuri the international border extends south again and Nepal has three more Outer Terai districts.[ citation needed ]

Protected areas

Several protected areas were established in the Terai since the late 1950s:


Based on the Köppen–Geiger climate classification system, the Nepal Terai experiences a tropical savanna climate type with dry winters and hot summers, a mean annual temperature of 20–28 °C (68–82 °F), a mean annual rainfall of 1,600–1,800 mm (63–71 in) in the west and 2,500–3,000 mm (98–118 in) in the east. [22]

Biratnagar, 26°N, 87°E
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: Levoyageur
Chandigarh, 30°N, 77°E
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: World Weather Information Service

Ethnic groups

Tharu and Dhimal people are the indigenous inhabitants of the Terai forests. [23] Several Tharu subgroups are scattered over most of the Nepal and Indian Terai. [12] [24] [25] They used to be semi-nomadic, practised shifting cultivation and collected wild fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs. [26] They have been living in the Terai for many centuries and reputedly had an innate resistance to malaria. [27] Dhimal reside in the eastern Nepal Terai, viz Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa districts. In the past, they lived in the fringes of the forest and conducted a semi-nomadic life to evade outbreaks of diseases. Today, they are subsistence farmers. [23]

The Bhoksa people are indigenous to the western Terai in the Indian Kumaon division. [11]

Maithils inhabit the Indian Terai in Bihar and the eastern Terai in Nepal. Bhojpuris reside in the central and eastern Terai, and Awadhis live in the central and western Terai. Bantawa people reside foremost in two districts of the eastern Terai in Nepal. [28]

Following the malaria eradication program using DDT in the 1960s, a large and heterogeneous non-Tharu population settled in the Nepal Terai. [27] Pahari people from the mid-hills including Bahun, Chhetri and Newar moved to the plains in search of arable land. In the rural parts of the Nepal Terai, distribution and value of land determine economic hierarchy to a large extent. High caste migrants from the hills and traditional Tharu landlords who own agriculturally productive land constitute the upper level of the economic hierarchy. The poor are the landless or near landless Terai Dalits, including the Musahar, Chamar and Mallah. [29] Several Chepang people also live in Nepal's central and eastern Terai districts. [30] [31]

As of June 2011, the human population in the Nepal Terai totalled 13,318,705 people in 2,527,558 households comprising more than 120 different ethnic groups and castes such as Badi, Chamling, Ghale, Kumal, Limbu, Magar, Muslim, Rajbanshi, Teli, Thakuri, Yadav and Majhi speaking people. [32]


Jungle in Uttarakhand Nainital, Uttarakhand, India - panoramio - Vipin Vasudeva (7).jpg
Jungle in Uttarakhand

The Muslim invasion of northern India during the 14th century caused Hindu and Buddhist people to seek refuge from religious persecution. Rajput nobles and their entourage migrated to the Himalayan foothills and gained control over the region from Kashmir to the eastern Terai during the next three centuries. [33]

Until the mid 18th century, the Nepal Terai was divided into several smaller kingdoms, and the forests were little disturbed. [34] By the 16th century, the rulers of Palpa and Makwanpur controlled the mid-western Terai and extended this control to the eastern Terai by the 17th century. [35] They controlled the area of today's districts of Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusa, Mahottari and Sarlahi. [36] The rulers of Makwanpur controlled the central Terai region of present-day Nepal, and the rulers of Vijayapur controlled today's Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa Districts. [37] The Shah rulers conquered the eastern Nepal Terai in the 1770s. [38] They also conquered land in the eastern Terai that belonged to the Kingdom of Sikkim. [39] The Tulsipur State in the Dang Valley of Nepal's western Terai was also an independent kingdom, until it was conquered in 1785 by Bahadur Shah of Nepal during the unification of Nepal. [40] Since the late 18th century, the Shah rulers encouraged Indian people to settle in the Terai and supported famine-stricken Bihari farmers to convert and cultivate land in the eastern Nepal Terai. [41] From at least 1786 onward, they appointed government officers in the eastern Terai districts of Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Mahottari, Saptari and Morang to levy taxes, collect revenues, and capture Indian elephants and Indian rhinoceros. [42] [43] At the end of the 18th century, between 200 and 300 elephants were caught annually using snares or nooses. [44]

The far-western and mid-western regions of the Nepal Terai called 'Naya Muluk' (new country) lay on the northern periphery of the Awadh dynasty. After Nepal lost the Anglo–Nepalese War in 1816, the British annexed these regions in the Terai when the Sugauli Treaty was ratified. But as reward for Nepal's military aid in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, they returned some of this region in 1860, namely today's districts Kanchanpur, Kailali, Banke and Bardiya. [15] To promote economic development of the Nepal Terai, people from the hills were invited to settle in the region. Since only a few moved to the Terai, Indian people were encouraged to settle. [45] Immigration of Indian people increased between 1846 and 1950. [41] They settled in the eastern Nepal Terai together with native Terai peoples. [15]

The Indian Terai remained largely uninhabited until the end of the 19th century, as it was arduous and dangerous to penetrate the dense and marshy malarial jungle. [46] Dacoit gangs retreated to the Terai jungles, and the area was considered lawless and primitive by the British, who sought control of the region's valuable timber reserves. [47] The region was densely forested with stands of foremost Sal. [15]

Heavy logging began in the 1920s. Extracted timber was exported to India to collect revenues. Cleared areas were subsequently used for agriculture. [34] But still, the Terai jungles were teaming with wildlife. [48]

Inner Terai valleys historically were agriculturally productive but extremely malarial. Some parts were left forested by official decree during the Rana dynasty as a defensive perimeter called Char Kose Jhadi, meaning 'four kos forest'; one kos equals about 3 km (1.9 mi). A British observer noted, "Plainsmen and paharis generally die if they sleep in the Terai before November 1 or after June 1." British travelers to Kathmandu went as fast as possible from the border at Raxaul to reach the hills before nightfall. [15]

Malaria was eradicated using DDT in the mid-1950s. Subsequently, people from the hills migrated to the Terai. [49] About 16,000 Tibetan refugees settled in the Nepal Terai in 1959–1960, followed by refugees of Nepali origin from Burma in 1964, from Nagaland and Mizoram in the late 1960s, and about 10,000 Bihari Muslims from Bangladesh in the 1970s. [50] Timber export continued until 1969. In 1970, the king granted land to loyal ex-army personnel in the districts of Jhapa, Sunsari, Rupandehi and Banke, where seven colonies were developed for resettling about 7,000 people. They acquired property rights over uncultivated forest and 'waste' land, thus accelerating the deforestation process in the Terai. [49] Between 1961 and 1991, the annual population growth in the Terai was higher than the national average, which indicates that migration from abroad occurred at a large scale. Deforestation continued, and forest products from state-owned forest were partly smuggled to India. Community forestry was introduced in 1995. [51] Since the 1990s, migration from the Terai to urban centres is increasing and causing sociocultural changes in the region. [52]


Since the early 1950s, several political parties advocated for autonomy and independence of the Nepal Terai, such as the Nepal Terai Congress and Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha. [53] [54] Several armed groups were formed, which pursued this aim using violent means. [55] In 2013, more than 24 Madheshi political parties were registered for the Constituent Assembly of Nepal election. [56]

Border disputes

The most significant border dispute of the Indo-Nepal boundary in the Terai region is the Susta area. In the Susta region, 14,500 hectares of land is generally dominated by Indian side with support of Sashastra Seema Bal (Indian border patrol) forces. [57] [58]

Indian influence in Nepal Terai

After the 2008 Nepalese Constituent Assembly election, Indian politicians kept on trying to secure strategic interests in the Nepal Terai, such as over hydropower energy, development projects, business and trade. [59] The government of Nepal has accused India of imposing an undeclared blockade in 2015. [60] The Indian government denied allegations of any involvement in the blockade.[ citation needed ]

Humanitarian works

Dhurmus Suntali Foundation handed over an integrated community containing 50 houses to Musahar community of Bardibas at a cost of Rs. 63 million. [61]


Economy in Indian Terai

Tea cultivation was introduced in the Darjeeling Terai in 1862. [13]

Economy in Nepal Terai

The Terai is the most productive region in Nepal with the majority of the country's industries. Agriculture is the basis of the economy. [62] Major crops include rice, wheat, maize, potato, peas, lentil, mustard, sugar cane, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, garlic and chili. Fruits comprise mango, lychee, guava, papaya, banana and jackfruit. [63] The Terai is also known for beekeeping and honey production, with about 120,000 colonies of Apis cerana . [64]

In the Jhapa district, tea has been cultivated since 1960; the annual production of 2005 was estimated at 10.1 million kg. [65]

The Mahendra Highway crosses the Nepal Terai from Kankarbhitta on the eastern border in Jhapa District, Mechi Zone to Mahendranagar near the western border in Kanchanpur District, Mahakali Zone. It is the only motor road spanning the country from east to west.[ citation needed ]


Tourist attractions in the Terai include:

Related Research Articles

Geography of Nepal

Nepal measures about 880 kilometers (547 mi) along its Himalayan axis by 150 to 250 kilometers across. It has an area of 147,516 km2 (56,956 sq mi), of which 335 km2 (129 sq mi) is disputed with India.

Nepal Country in South Asia

Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a sovereign country in South Asia. It is mainly in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is the 49th largest country by population and 93rd largest country by area. It is landlocked and borders Tibet in the north and India in the south, east and west, while Bangladesh is located only 27 km (17 mi) from its southeastern tip and Bhutan is separated from it by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city. Nepal is a multiethnic country, with Nepali as the official language.

Tharu people An ethnic group, indigenous native of Nepal

The Tharu people are an ethnic group indigenous to the Terai in southern Nepal and northern India. They are recognized as an official nationality by the Government of Nepal.

Bardiya District District in Lumbini Province, Nepal

Bardiya District, one of the seventy-seven Districts of Nepal, is part of Lumbini Province of Nepal. The district, with Gulariya as its headquarters, covers an area of 2,025 km2 (782 sq mi) and according to the 2001 census the population was 382,649 in 2011 it has 426,576.

Chitwan District District in Bagmati Pradesh, Nepal

Chitwan District is one of 77 districts of Nepal, and takes up the southwestern corner of Bagmati Province. Bharatpur, largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu, is its administrative centre. It covers 2,238.39 km2 (864.25 sq mi), and in 2011 had a population of 579,984 people. Bharatpur is the commercial and service centre of South Central Nepal and a major destination for higher education, health care and transportation in the region. Chitwan lies in the Terai region of Nepal. It is in the drainage basin of the Gandaki River and is roughly triangular, taking that river as its meandering northwestern border, and a modest watershed border, with India, as the basis of its southern limit.

Dang District, Nepal District in Lumbini Province, Nepal

Dang District is a district of Lumbini Province located in the Inner Terai of midwestern Nepal. Deukhuri valley of the district is the capital of the province and is the second largest valley of Asia surrounded by Sivalik Hills and Mahabharata Range. The district headquarter Ghorahi is the seventh largest city and the largest sub-metropolitan city of Nepal. Tulsipur sub-metropolitan city, the second largest city of Dang, is a major transportation hub with an extensive road and air networks. The district covers an area of 2,955 km² and has a population of 548,141.

Jhapa District A district in eastern Nepal

Jhapa is a district of Province No. 1 in eastern Nepal named after a Rajbanshi word "Jhapa" meaning "cover" (verb). The latest official data, the 2011 Nepal Census, puts the total population of the district at 812,650. Jhapa is one of the most ethnically diverse districts of the country, and is home to 110 ethnic groups. The total area of the district is 1606 square kilometres.

Morang District District in Nepal

Morang District is located in Province No. 1 in eastern Nepal. It is an Outer Terai district. It borders with Bihar, India to the South, Jhapa to the East, Dhankuta and Panchthar to the North, and Sunsari to the west. Morang has one metropolitan city (Biratnagar), eight municipalities and eight rural municipalities. The total area of Morang is 1,855 km2 (716 sq mi). The lowest elevation point is 60 meters and the highest is 2410 meters above sea level. The headquarters of Morang is connected by Koshi National Highway to the east–west Mahendra National Highway at Itahari, Sunsari, and Morang is also connected to the Hill parts of the eastern region of Nepal. Morang is the core industrial sector for the eastern region of Nepal.

Udayapur District District in Province No. 1, Nepal

Udayapur District (Nepali: उदयपुर जिल्लाListen , is one of 14 districts of Province No. 1 of eastern Nepal. The district, with Triyuga as its district headquarters, covers an area of 2,063 km2 and in 2001 had a population of 287,689, in 2011 of 317,532.

The term Madheshi people is used by academics for people of Indian ancestry residing in the Terai of Nepal and comprising various cultural groups such as Hindu caste groups, Muslims, Marwaris and indigenous people of the Terai. Since the late 1940s, the term 'Madhes' was used by politicians in the Nepal Terai to differentiate between the interests of the people of the Terai and of the hills. In recent times, some politicians and journalists use the term for all Nepali citizens of the Terai.

The Inner Terai Valleys of Nepal comprise several elongated river valleys in the southern lowland Terai part of the country. These tropical valleys are enclosed by the Himalayan foothills, viz the Mahabharat Range and the Sivalik Hills farther south. The Inner Terai is called "bhitri Terai " in Nepali language.

Terai or Tarāī are plains south of the outermost Siwalik foothills of the Himalayas spanning India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Shuklaphanta National Park

Shuklaphanta National Park is a protected area in the Terai of the Far-Western Region, Nepal, covering 305 km2 (118 sq mi) of open grassland, forests, riverbeds and tropical wetlands at an altitude of 174 to 1,386 m. It was gazetted in 1976 as Royal Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. A small part of the reserve extends north of the East-West Highway to create a corridor for seasonal migration of wildlife into the Sivalik Hills. The Syali River forms the eastern boundary southward to the international border with India, which demarcates the reserve’s southern and western boundary.

West Rapti River River in Nepal

West Rapti drains Rapti Zone in Mid-Western Region, Nepal, then Awadh and Purvanchal regions of Uttar Pradesh state, India before joining the Ghaghara—a major left bank tributary of the Ganges known as the Karnali inside Nepal.

The Dundwa Range is a subrange of the Sivalik Hills in western Nepal and northern Uttar Pradesh, India. It separates the Outer Terai of Balarampur and Shravasti districts in Uttar Pradesh from Deukhuri Valley in Nepal's Dang-Deukhuri and eastern Banke districts. The international border follows the southern edge of this range, leaving a zone of forested Bhabar inside Uttar Pradesh.

Nepalese Muslims are people residing in Nepal who follow the religion of Islam. Their ancestors arrived in Nepal from different parts of South Asia, Central Asia and Tibet during different epochs, and have since lived amidst the numerically dominant Hindus and Buddhists. About 97% of the Muslim community live in the Terai region, while the other 4% are found mainly in the city of Kathmandu and Gorkha and the western hills. The community numbers 971,056, about 5% of the total population of Nepal. Districts with large Muslim population include Sarlahi (9.9%), Rautahat (17.2%), Bara (11.9%), and Parsa (17.3%) in the central Terai region bordering the Indian state of Bihar, Kapilbastu (16.8%) and Banke (16%) in the western Terai and Siraha (7%) and Sunsari (10%) and Saptari (10%) eastern Terai Gorkha (2.8%) hill.

Lampucchwa Tharu or Morangiya Tharu and Rajghariya Tharu is one of the endogamous subgroups of Tharu people which are an ethnic group indigenous to the Terai, the southern foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal and India. Likewise Morangiya Tharu dwells in the Eastern plain or Terai of Nepal. They can be found mainly in the districts of Morang and Sunsari. Though found in two districts, they are called by Morangiya Tharu as those two districts were one district before 1962. Within the group, they refer to themselves as Morangiya Tharu, but people from other regions would call them Lampucchwa.

Province No. 1 Province of Nepal

Province No. 1 is the easternmost of the seven provinces established by the new constitution of Nepal which was adopted on 20 September 2015. The province covers an area of 25,905 km2, about 17.5% of the country's total area. With the industrial city of Biratnagar as its headquarter, the province covers other major eastern towns including Damak, Dharan, Itahari, Inarua and Birtamod and includes several mountains including the Everest, Kanchenjunga, and Ama Dablam. Koshi – the largest river of the nation, circumvents the province's western boundary. Adhering to the first-past-the-post voting system issued by the Constituency Delimitation Commission, the province hosts 28 parliamentary seats and 56 provincial seats.

India–Nepal border

The India–Nepal border is an open international border running between India and Nepal. The 1,770 km (1,099.83 mi) long border includes the Himalayan territories as well as Indo-Gangetic Plain. The current border was delimited after the Sugauli treaty of 1816 between Nepal and the British Raj. Following Indian independence, the current border was recognised as the border between Nepal and the Republic of India.

Rajputs of Nepal or anciently Rajputras are Rajput community of Nepal. As per the 2011 Nepal census, the population of Rajputs is reported at 41,972.


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Further reading