Prabha Kumari Chaudhary, 34, from Udayapur’s Triyuga Municipality-13 is currently occupied with the operation of a homestay in her village. Her days are filled with greeting and preparing meals for the guests staying at the homestay. Since the inauguration of Bahedwa Tharu Community Homestay in June 2021, Chaudhary, along with other women, has experienced a transformation in their lifestyles.
Before the establishment of the Bahedwa Tharu Community Homestay, Chaudhary’s daily routine revolved around managing household chores and her official responsibilities. Juggling both proved to be quite demanding for her. However, since the inception of the homestay in her village, there has been a notable transformation. These days, she dedicates her evenings to cooking and serving Tharu dishes for the homestay guests, working late into the night.
“Life has changed a lot. I would say it has changed for the better as I now work for myself and not for anyone else,” says Chaudhary.
Promoting Tharu culture one guest at a time
After spending years working in an office, Chaudhary decided to leave that career behind and immerse herself in social work to help others. Her involvement in social work led her to diverse locations across the country, exposing her to the concept of homestays and how they contribute to the promotion of local culture. Inspired by this, she decided to start a homestay in her own village. Since then, her life has never been the same.
According to Chaudhary, the revenue generated from the homestay has significantly eased her lifestyle. Moreover, the homestay plays a crucial role in the promotion of Tharu culture, cuisine, and overall way of life.
Operated collaboratively by 15 households, Bahedwa Tharu Community Homestay offers a diverse array of Tharu dishes, including bagiya, telpour roti, fish, crab, pakauda, and more. Chaudhary says Bahedwa Tharu Community Homestay is the first Tharu homestay in the entire district.
By and for the people
The project was built with the help of various people. While the local made the initial investments, help also came from the Triyuga Municipality Mayor’s Fund which gave the locals Rs 50,000 along with a further Rs 150,000 from the Deputy Mayor’s Fund and Rs 50,000 from the Deusi Bhailo program of 2022.
As of now, the homestay operates across 11 houses, with a capacity to accommodate 60 people. Guests are warmly welcomed with tika and flowers and are then escorted to a building constructed using locally sourced materials.
Given the reliance of the Tharu community on rice for their livelihood, guests at the homestay are initially welcomed with a spread featuring bhuja made from steamed rice, telpour roti crafted from rice flour, bagia, ghonghi, and oat pickle as a snack. Subsequently, guests are taken to their rooms.
The homestay accommodation is priced at Rs 500 per night, with an additional Rs 300 for non-vegetarian food. The non-vegetarian menu includes options such as duck meat, local chicken, various pigeon dishes, ghongi, fish, and more.
In the evenings, guests have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the vibrant ambience of traditional Tharu dance.
The homestay serves as a convenient base for exploring nearby attractions. Guests can venture to Siddheshwar Mahadev Temple, Jogi Pokhari, Sakhela Thaan, Shanti Dham, Krishna Temple, Durga Temple, Labor Park, Bisnapur Green Park, Harit Park, Chure Temple, Rautamai Pokhari, Chaudandigadhi Palace, Udayapur Palace, Udayapur Cement Factory, and View Tower, all situated approximately two kilometres from the homestay.
According to Uttim Chaudhary, Bahedwa Tharu Community Homestay has successfully hosted more than five thousand guests from various locations such as Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Bhairahawa. Over the past two years, the homestay has generated revenue exceeding Rs 500,000.
Bahedwa Tharu Community Homestay has achieved recognition as the best homestay in the country. Despite facing challenges in its initial phase the homestay has come of age as it now hosts 40 guests daily, with bookings made a month in advance. The recent accolade has further boosted its popularity, attracting an even larger number of visitors.
Utim Chaudhary attributes the homestay’s success to the authentic preservation of Tharu culture and tradition. As the influx of visitors continues to grow, plans are in motion to expand the capacity to 50 houses. Additionally, the homestay is gearing up for the construction of a hall and a Tharu museum, aiming to offer guests a grand and sophisticated experience immersed in the rich Tharu culture and identity.
“People seem to love the Tharu culture. I see happiness in people’s eyes when they put on the Tharu attire,” says Uttim.
Beyond hospitality, the homestay is dedicated to social causes. They actively provide free eye checkups, distribute free prescription glasses, and conduct awareness programs about dengue for those in need, showcasing a commitment to both cultural preservation and community welfare.
Targeting international guests
Now the focus is on targeting foreigners. The president of Bahedwa Tharu Community Homestay, Bhagwan Singh Chaudhary says they have been working on a plan to attract foreigners.
“We’ve even asked the government to help us,” he says.
Bhagwan Singh says that international tourists not only contribute to the promotion of Tharu culture across various regions of the country but also play a crucial role in benefiting the entire tourism sector of the nation.
“Let’s hope we can fulfil our potential,” he says.