Bhairawa: Gateway to Lumbini
Located in south-central Nepal close to the Nepali-Indian border, the town of Bhairawa, or Bhairahawa, is the gateway to the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. Even the local airport, Gautam Buddha Airport, is named in the Buddha’s honor. Although the town was renamed Siddharthanagar in honor of the Lord Buddha’s childhood name some time ago, it is still most commonly referred to as Bhairawa.
People from a variety of ethnic backgrounds live in Bhairawa and in addition to their local language of Bhojpuri and the national Nepali language, many of the inhabitants of the town speak English. As Bhairawa is a mere three kilometers away from the Indian border it is a convenient and popular shopping center for both Nepalese and their Indian neighbors and the town serves as a trade and commerce center for the busy Nepali-Indian import-export trade. A number of good schools are located in Bhairawa, attracting pupils from other parts of Nepal. The Lumbini District Hospital and UCMS Medical College are also located in Bhairawa. While the majority of Bhairawa’s citizens are Hindu, there are a fair number of Buddhists, Christians and Muslims, all living together in harmony.
In addition to being the economic hub of the Rupandehi District, the city is geared up for tourism, with accommodation options ranging from luxury through to budget. The most common and most convenient way for traveling through the sometimes congested streets of Bhairawa is by means of rickshaw – and rickshaws are plentiful, with drivers raucously competing for passengers.
Bhairawa’s three main streets form a triangle with the eastern side being the highway to the border, Narayanpath Street along the west and Bank Street along the south, both of which incorporate the large bazaar that is a shopaholic’s dream. The Hotel Yeti serves as a well-recognized landmark and it is from here that buses and taxi-jeeps arrive and depart, both for Sonauli in India and to other parts of Nepal, including Lumbini.
A visit to Bhairawa will give tourists insight into a number of different aspects of daily life in Nepal, as well as the opportunity get to know people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding countryside.