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Madhesh is a politicized term for a region in the eastern Terai belt of Nepal. Madhesh identity is primarily associated with the Hindu caste groups of Maithali and Bhojpuri speaking people living in the Nepal Terai who share language, lifestyle, dress, food habits and culture with people across the Indian border in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The idea of an autonomous Madhesh province stretching all over the Nepal Terai has been advocated by a few Nepali political parties since 2007, which also organised violent demonstrations to enforce their demands.
The term Madhesh refers in particular to five districts in the eastern Nepal Terai, namely the Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Siraha and Saptari districts. This area, along with modern-day northern and eastern Bihar of India, has historically been part of the cultural Mithila region that stretched between the Gandaki and the Mahananda Rivers, and was bordered by the Shiwalik Hills in the north and the Ganges in the south. It extends into the eastern Terai of Nepal.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Climate
- 3 History
- 4 Ethnic groups
- 5 Economy
- 6 Cuisine
- 7 Cultural sites
- 8 Politics
- 9 Humanitarian Works
- 10 Notable people from Madhesh
- 11 References
- 12 See Also
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
The word madhesh is thought to be derived from the Sanskrit मध्य देश madhya desh meaning middle country, which refers to "the central region, the country lying between the Himalayas and the Vindhya mountains" of India.
The Urdu word ترائي 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". The Nepali word तराइ tarāi means "the low-lying land, plain" and especially "the low-lying land at the foot of the Himālayas". The Hindi word तराई tarāī means "foot-hill".
|Biratnagar, 26°N, 87°E|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
|Janakpur, 31°N, 77°E|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Before the Unification of Nepal, Kingdom of Chaudandi was ruled by scion of Palpa Kingdom and controlled the Nepal Terai districts of Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusa, Mahottari and Sarlahi. The Makwanpur Kingdom controlled the central Terai region. The Bijayapur Kingdom ruled Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa districts. From at least 1786 onwards, the Shah rulers appointed government officers in the eastern Terai districts of Morang, Saptari, Mahottari, Bara, Parsa and Rautahat to levy taxes, collect revenues and capture elephants and rhinos. They also conquered land in the eastern Terai that belonged to the Kingdom of Sikkim. Since the late 18th century, they encouraged Indian people to settle in the eastern Terai and supported famine-stricken Bihari farmers to convert and cultivate land.
The Terai and the Siwalik Hills were heavily forested with sal before heavy logging began in the 19th century, particularly for use as railroad sleepers of Indian railway by the British Raj. The Inner Terai valleys historically were agriculturally productive but endemic to malaria. Some parts were left forested by official decree during the Rana dynasty as a defensive perimeter. The British thought that plainsmen generally die if they stay in the malaria-infested region between June and November. British travellers to Kathmandu went as fast as possible from the border at Raxaul in order to reach the hills before nightfall.
Since the late 1940s, the term 'Madhesh' was used by politicians in the Nepal Terai to differentiate between interests of the people of the Terai and of the hills. In the 1950s, the regional political party Nepal Terai Congress advocated more autonomy for the Terai, recognition of Hindi as a national language and increasing employment opportunities for Madhesi people.
Acquisition of land assets was linked to citizenship issues. After the fall of the Shah Dynasty and promulgation of the Interim Constitution of 2006, many Nepali Madheshi as well as Indian Madheshi people received citizenship. Due to loose regulations, it is said that thousands of Indian nationals were able to get citizenship. 
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- 1951: Nepal Terai Congress party formed
- 1952: Nepal Citizenship Act promulgated
- 1956: Nepalese government started malaria eradication
- 1957: Imposition of Nepali as sole language for education sparked protests
- 1960s: Terai Liberation Front established
- 1963: Nepalese police killed Ramji Mishra, the leader of Terai Liberation Front
- 1964: New Citizenship Act entitled immigrants to receive Nepali citizenship if they were engaged in business and could read and write Nepali language
- 1964: ”Land Reformation Act” promulgated; massive land seized from Madheshis
- 1967: Royal Nepalese Army killed Raghunath Raya Yadav, the leader of Terai Liberation Front
- 1969: Chairman of Terai Liberation Front Satyadev Mani Tripathi killed
- 1983: Nepal Sadbhavana Council formed under Gajendra Narayan Singh to raise Madheshi issues
- 1989: Nepal failed to renegotiate trade and transit treaties with India; India imposes sanction across “open border”
- 1990: New constitution promulgated
- 1994: Dhanapati Upadhyay Commission found 4 million people without citizenship
- 1996: Maoists launched insurgency
- 2000: Madheshi Liberation Front formed 
- 2007 Jan–Feb: Madhesh agitation
- 2011 January: UN peace monitoring mission ended
- 2015: Promulgation of new constitution of Nepal
Tharu people and Dhimals are the traditional inhabitants of the Terai forests. They used to be semi-nomadic, practised shifting cultivation and collected wild fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs. Several Tharu subgroups are scattered over most of the Terai. A large Tharu populations resides in the central Terai. Kochila Tharus and Dhimal live foremost in the eastern Terai. They have been living in this region for many centuries and reputedly had an innate resistance to malaria. Following the malaria eradication program using DDT in the 1960s, a large and heterogeneous non-Tharu population from Nepalese hills, Bhutan and India settled in the region.
Maithils, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Kisan people, Danuwar, Satar also reside in the region. Maithils inhabit eastern Madhesh, Bhojpuris are found in the centre and Awadhis inhabit the western part. Bantawa people reside foremost in two districts of eastern Terai, and several migrant Chepang people also live in the central and eastern Terai. People from the mid-hills moved to the Terai plains including Brahmin, Chhetri and Newar during King Mahendra's rule. High caste migrants from the hills have purchased or otherwise got hold of large landholdings. Together with traditional Tharu landlords, they constitute the upper level of the economic hierarchy, which in the rural parts of the Terai is determined to a large extent by the distribution and the value of agriculturally productive land. The poor are the landless, or near landless, Madheshi Dalits, including the Musahar and Chamar, as well as the traditional fishermen, the Mallaah, and some of the Hill Dalits. In particular the Musahars rarely get other work than hard farm labor.
The Terai is the most productive region in Nepal, with the majority of the country's industries. Agriculture is the basis of the economy. Major crops include rice, wheat, pulses, sugarcane, jute, tobacco, and maize. In the eastern districts from Parsa to Jhapa they support agro-based industries: jute factories, sugar mills, rice mills and tobacco factories.
Madhesh is to food what the mountains are to snow. It is the most agriculturally productive region of Nepal – flat and fertile land, coupled with hot and humid weather – this region is perfect for farming. A surplus of rice, wheat, sugarcane, lentils and various other crops are produced in the Madhesh and transported to other parts of the country – the majority of what is eaten in the Valley comes from the Madhesh, the food granary of Nepal.
The veggie delight
The price of seasonal vegetables can be exceptionally low in the Madhesh. People in the Madhesh are blessed with vegetables; even the less fortunate families prepare three or four varieties as part of their meal. Perhaps this is the reason why gundruk (fermented vegetables) and Mashyauras (dried veggies), the beloved Nepali favorite, are less eaten in the Madhesh. Since vegetables are incredibly cheap and readily available in the Madhesh, deep-fried vegetable fritters called pakoras are commonly eaten; this crispy fritter is offered to guests, eaten as a snack or even with meals. In this region, people go beyond the regular onion and eggplant pakoras found elsewhere; Madheshis make an assortment of pakoras and pretty much any vegetable is cooked into a pakora, even green leaves.
Deliciously India Influenced
It is no surprise that the culinary culture in Madhesh is influenced by the adjacent regions of India, such as Bihar and Bhojpur, where roti (unleavened flatbread) is a staple food item. Likewise, everyday food in Madhesh encompasses a variety of whole grain flatbreads such as wheat roti, corn roti, all kinds of parathas (flatbread with stuffing), maduwa (barley flatbread) and litti (gram flour flatbread). Furthermore, special varieties of bread are prepared during festivals and feasts – for example, thekuwa (bread cum cookie made out of wheat flour and other ingredients) and bhusuwa (flatbread made out of rice flour as the main ingredient) are the two special festival treats prepared during Chaat, the biggest festival of Madhesh. Some other India-influenced dishes include malpuwa (sweet wheat fritter), dahi bara (lentil dumpling topped with a savory gravy of yoghurt, tamarind and spices) and mithais (sweets).
Madheshis are also known to prepare their food using relatively more spices and oil. Regardless of the excruciating heat, they like their food spicy. Ironically, Madheshis also seem to have a sweet tooth, as they consume a lot of mithais and sugarcane (which is extensively grown in the Madhesh). Mithais are an essential part of the culture and almost all families make it at home. Madhesis have a tradition of offering them to their guests – they are the symbol of their hospitality. In Madhesh, it seems like everything has a season, including mithais – for example, teel ko laddu (sesame seed ball cake) is specially prepared during the festival of Maghe Sankranti. The consumption of this laddu during Sankranti also has a scientific rationale. This festival falls in the winter and sesame seeds are believed to generate heat in the body. Similarly, kasar (rice flour laddu/ball cake) and lai (laddu made with puffed rice called muri) are a must for Chaat. These festival treats are offered to the gods and then eaten as prashad (god’s blessing). Since agriculture and animal farming are intimately linked to each other (at least in the traditional methods of farming) there is an ample amount of dairy products available in the Madhesh Region. Yoghurt is consumed every day for its digestive properties and cooling effects. On the other hand, Madheshis consume less animal meat as compared to people from the hills, the Himalayas and even the inner Terai. In village, people rarely eat chicken or buffalo meat. On the other hand, people consume atypical meat of pigeon and duck. Similarly, meat is a rare indulgence in Madheshi cuisine.
No Feast without Fish
While meat is not a favorite indulgence in Madhesh, inhabitants of both inner and outer Madhesh have a special affinity for fish. They eat a lot of fresh fish curries in the Madhesh. The topic of fish cannot be completed without the mention of Tharus, one of the indigenous ethnic groups of inner Madhesh, whose main food is fish and rice. Considering that most Tharu settlements are close to the river, this tribe has a special connection with fish. In Tharu culture, fish is quintessential – it is a must for weddings, ceremonies, festivals and other special occasions. Tharus live very close to nature and our food items are also derived from nature; it keeps an ecological balance. This eco-friendly tribe has a fascinating food culture. Most of Madheshi-Tharu dishes are rice based. Rice is molded into various shapes and steamed to make dhikari, an essential festival treat. Moreover, a special kind of sticky rice called anadi is steamed and served. Tharu food can be divided into two categories – ordinary everyday food consisting of rice, lentils, vegetables and fish, and special food items that are mostly prepared and consumed during feasts, festivals and other special occasions. Furthermore, some other special Tharu food items on the menu include pakuwa (barbecued meat), gughi (dried shrimp) and an assortment of tina (vegetables). But it is unfortunate that they are gradually disappearing from the diet of the original inhabitants. The younger generation are more inclined towards industrial food – primarily due to advertisements and the need for fast\convenient food. On the brighter side, the older generation still seems to be attached to their traditional cuisines. People has an emotional attachment with her traditional food – even when they are living abroad, they cook the same dishes that they would eat in the Madhesh. Madhesh cuisine has its own charm – the food is interesting, colorful and simply delicious.
- Janakpur is a centre for religious and cultural tourism.
- Salhesh Garden – The garden of King Salhesh is located in Siraha district of Nepal near Lahan. The most interesting feature of the garden is a plant that flowers only once a year, during the time a great festival occurs here.
- Kankalini Temple
- Gadhi Mai Temple
The Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha is a separatist organisation founded in 2004 by Jay Krishna Goit with the aim of gaining independence for the Terai (Madhesh) region from Nepal. Organisation members have been responsible for various acts of Terrorism including bombings and murders. Other armed outfits have appeared that also demand secession through violent means including the "Terai Army", "Madhesh Mukti Tigers" and the "Tharuwan National Liberation Front".
Indian influence in Nepal Terai
After the Nepalese Constituent Assembly election, 2008, Indian politicians kept on trying to secure strategic interests in the Nepal Terai, such as over hydropower energy, development projects, business and trade. The government of Nepal has accused India of imposing an undeclared blockade in 2015. India has denied the allegations, stating the supply shortages have been imposed by Madheshi protesters within Nepal, and that India has no role in it. There is an ongoing movement for a "Free Mithila state" in Nepal. The Alliance for Independent Madhesh is an organisation led by CK Raut that aims to gain secession for the region from Republic of Nepal.
The most significant border dispute of the Indo-Nepal boundary in the Terai region is the Susta area. In the Susta region, about 14,500 hectares of land is generally dominated by Indian side with support of Seema Shashatra Bal (SSB) forces.
Notable people from Madhesh
- Matrika Prasad Koirala, Prime Minister of Nepal from Biratnagar
- B.P. Koirala, Prime Minister of Nepal from Biratnagar
- Girija Prasad Koirala, Prime Minister of Nepal from Biratnagar
- Man Mohan Adhikari, Prime Minister of Nepal from Biratnagar
- Madhav Kumar Nepal, Prime Minister of Nepal from Rautahat district
- Ram Baran Yadav – First President of Nepal
- Yuvaraj Adhikari, Politician from Biratnagar jute mill strike
- Shailaja Acharya, Nepali politician
- Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, Nepali politician
- Upendra Yadav, Nepali politician
- Lal Babu Pandit, Nepali politician
- Mahesh Acharya, Nepali politician
- Upendra Mahato, NRN from Siraha
- Aditya Jha, NRN from Madhesh
- Gagan Thapa, Nepali politician from Morang District
- Gajendra Narayan Singh – Nepali politician and founder of Nepal Sadbhawana Party.
- C. K. Raut – Social Activist and President of Alliance for Independent Madhesh.
Media and Entertainment
- Udit Narayan Jha – Playback singer of Bollywood.
- Ram Krishna Dhakal, Singer from Nijgadh
- Rekha Thapa, Actress from Morang District
- Nikhil Upreti, Actor from Sarlahi District
- Biraj Bhatta, Nepali/Bhojpuri Actor from Kailali District
- Sugam Pokharel, Pop singer from Morang District
- Nima Rumba, Singer from Terai
- Girish Khatiwada (NepHop), Hip-hop artist from Biratnagar
- Yama Buddha, Late Hip-hop artist from Morang District
- Deepa Shree Niraula, Actress from Biratnagar
Writer and Litterateur
- Dhruba Chandra Gautam, Nepali Writer from Birgunj
- Bhawani Bhikshu, writer from Kapilvastu district
- Vishnu Raj Atreya, writer from Kapilvastu district
- Buddhi Sagar, writer from Kailali district
- Suman Pokhrel, writer from Morang district
- Hari Khadka, Former Nepal national football team captain from Jhapa district
- Mehboob Alam – Nepal national cricket team player
- Bhola Silwal, Nepal national football team player
- Binod Das – Former captain of Nepal national cricket team.
- Basanta Regmi, Nepal national cricket team player from Rupandehi District
- Shakti Gauchan, Nepal national cricket team player from Rupandehi District
- Anil Mandal – Nepal national cricket team player.
- Ananta Tamang, Nepal national football team player
- Bimal Gharti Magar, Nepal national football team player
- Jitendra Mukhiya – Pace bowler of Nepal national cricket team.
- Siddhant Lohani, Nepal national cricket team player from Biratnagar
- Aarif Sheikh – Nepal national cricket team player.
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