Once it was wildest dream for common Nepalis to fly on helicopter as it is too costly to charter it. Helicopter had been prerogative of the exclusive class of royals, militaries, politicians and foreigners.
But now people can enjoy such privilege. Ratnanagar Mahotsab (exhibition) has provided the opportunity for people to fulfill their dream. The first event of this kind in Chitwan, helicopter program allowed people to fly sky high to have aerial view of important sites: Devghat, Chitwan National Park and Siraichuli. They also landed on Upardang Gadi (alt: 1275 m.), the first district headquarters of Chitwan, to observe ancient fort, know its archaeological importance and get the first-hand information of rich cultural diversity of the region.
The fort was built in early 1800 AD by Shatrubhanjan Shah (son of Bahadur Shah and grandson of Prithvi Narayan Shah) in this strategic location to defend the country from invasion from south. The architectural design is remarkable as it was built with giant stones to make impenetrable fort. Upardang Gadi had been the district headquarters till B.S. 2014 before it was shifted to Bharatpur.
The fort overlooks panoramic view of the Chitwan Valley on south and breathtaking scenery of hills and mountains on north. There is mix communities of Chepang, Gurung and Magar but the majority are Chepang. Their traditional practices and culture are still intact.
Many people came all the way from Chandibhanjyang (some 3 hours walk from Gadi), Kape, Saltana, Darsing, Gairibari, Sherbas, Kolar and Bayadada to see helicopter. With hundredth of people gathering, there was mohotsab of its kind in Gadi. However it is not the first time Gadi has witnessed the helicopter. In B.S. 2043, the first helicopter landed inside the fort. Ganesh Thapa, local resident of Gadi said, "There were six people on board and they did some measurement of the area of the fort." They informed villagers that they came to see the place.
But the purpose of second flight was obvious as the helicopter was landed near Ganesh shrine just below the fort during the Maiost insurgency. Some 900 armies had been deployed during the extensive search operation in Upardang Gadi and its surrounding areas. The helicopter brought rations for the armies. Huge influx of armies with sophistical weapons made local people nervous and intimidated. Ammar Gurung asked himself trouble when he helped his son flown through returning army helicopter to Bharatpur. The Maoists took him in control and marched him all the way to Kanda for 2 days as the punishment for being the complicit of armies. "I was lucky that I was not killed." Ammar said.
The oldest man of the village welcomed the guests offering flowers. President of Upardang Gadi Tourism Promotion Committee and local people escorted visitors inside the fort and informed them about the archeological importance of the fort.
Many visitors amazed to see the sturdy fort, enjoyed the scenic beauty and happy to know the rich cultural and natural diversity of the region with taste of Nepali real coffee. They also purchased the local honey, theki and other handicrafts made by Chepang people.
Devendra Shrestha who had been to Europe recently said, "Mountain seems so close that it is stunningly alluring and more spectacular than that of Switzerland." This program has provided the opportunity for those who could not walk uphill but have desire to visit this historic place. Ram Bahadur Ranamagar brought his mother and brother who had been native to Gadi. They had migrated from Gadi to Bharatpur in B.S. 2013. They used to have big house at Tudikhel where is school now. The octogenarian woman showed their previous lands that evoked her past memories.
Some foreigners also landed with bags of clothes for children. They distributed some clothes to children and remaining ones were left to local people to be distributed later. Many dignitaries including chief district officer, local development officer, president of Ratnanagar Chamber Commerce also visited Gadi and enquired about the ongoing development activities. Deepak Karmacharya, coordinator of Ratnanagar Mahotsab, said that the helicopter program is especially designed to promote tourism in Upardang Gadi and Siraichuli by exploring the resources that it possesses. Total 198 guests visited this historic place via helicopter.
Ratnanagar Mahotsab, jointly organized by Ratnanagar Chamber of Commerce and Ratnanagar Municipality, was held in Tikauli ground from January 11 to 19, 2012 with intention to promote local products, tourism and cultural heritage for economic development.
Helicopter program would be instrumental in promoting tourism in Chitwan hills. Surely local people would get the economic incentives with development of tourism in Chitwan hills.