A few miles west of the bustling Nepali city of Biratnagar and just north of the Indian border is this small lake system that teems with birds and wildlife.
Barju Taal, sometimes called Chimdi Taal, is comprised of just over 250 acres of wetlands but hosts more than 500 bird species, and at peak festival times hosts up to 150,000 picnickers. The lake is partially handcrafted and undergoes periodic improvements to accommodate the ever-burgeoning collection of visitors. While birding is a popular activity, there are also miles of trails worth hiking that lead into nearby villages where one can visit with the local Tharu population.
No trip to Barju is complete without scoping out the regional farmlands that the lake supports and learning about Tharu culture. Boating is also a popular activity on the lake, although signs warn would-be mariners against “alcoholic paddling.” Swimming likewise is not permitted, but signs are unnecessary given the prevalence of water snakes.
The lake has a broader influence beyond recreation and conservation as it is a prominent location mentioned in the Mahabharata, the epic tale about the Kurukshetra War and the world’s longest poem. It was here that the five Pandava princes are said to have stopped for water and engaged in a long philosophical dialogue known as the “Legend of the Virtuous Crane.”
Know Before You Go
As of November 2021, parts of the lake are undergoing restoration and are dominated more by earthmovers than by birds. Visitors can still enjoy the south end of the lake system.