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Champaran District was created in 1866. On 1 December 1901 it was split into two districts: Paschim Champaran and Purbi Champaran. The headquarters of Paschim Champaran district is at Bettiah. The headquarters of Purbi Champaran district is at Motihari. Purbi Champaran consists of six subdivisions and twenty seven blocks.
The name Champaran derives from Champa-aranya or Champkatanys. Champa or champaka means magnolia and aranya means forest. Hence, Champaranya means forest of magnolia trees. It is believed that the forest was named while its western portion was inhabited by solitary ascetics.
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