"It is no exaggeration, but the literal truth, to say that in this meeting with the peasants I was face to face with God, Ahimsa and Truth."
Thus wrote Mahatma Gandhi about his first encounter with the poor folks of Champaran in their struggle for freedom against the British indigo planters...April 17, 1917. Gandhiji goes on to say:
"That day in Champaran was an unforgettable event in my life and a red-letter day for the peasants and me."
The old District of Champaran, of British India, was one single administrative unit in the Province of Bihar. It is situated in the north-west corner of the state. To its west lies the state of Uttar Pradesh (United Provinces of British India). To the north is the country of Nepal. To the the east is the district of Muzaffarpur and on the south are the old district of Saran and the newly created one, Gopalganj, spun off from the former . These geographic delimiters are of significance in that they point out the strategic importance of this district, not just for the State of Bihar but for the whole of India. The divisional headqaurters of the old British Division of Tirhut was at Muzaffarpur, less than 50 kms from the eastern border of the district. This fact is noteworthy in Gandhiji's struggle for freedom. In his frequent encounters with the district administration of Champaran, he had to come to Muzaffarpur, the Divisional headquarters of the Tirhut Division, from places in Champaran. The Commisioner, of course, was in contact with the Lt. Governor of Bihar through the Chief Secretary of Bihar, stationed either at Patna or Ranchi.
The river Gandak provides the major drainage for Champaran and it also marks the western border of the district, for the most part. Geological evidence shows that the river used to flow through the middle of the district in ancient times, but has gradually shifted westward. During this shift, a large number of lakes have been left behind. The water in these lakes is stagnant. It is a good source of fish, of course, and also of an edible vegetable, the singhara.
Kesariya, a small town, situated on the eastern banks of the Gandak River at the triangle where Champaran, Saran and Muzaffarpur districts meet is of special significance.