Dharan is a busy bazaar town on the first gradients of the Churia Hills. It serves as the principal surface gateway to the Koshi, Mecchi and Sagarmatha zones. The main road from the Terai to Dhankuta and beyond runs as a central artery through the town, while steep, partly forested slopes rise to the east and west. The old part of town is known as Chandranagar and the new part as Juddhanagar. At almost double the national average, it has one of the highest literacy rates in Nepal and its schools are renowned throughout the eastern region. The town was at the center of a powerful earthquake in 1988, several hundred casualties were suffered.
The construction of the surfaced road all the way to Basantpur has improved communications in the area, but has also allowed goods to be more easily transported north of Dharan, thus reducing the area's longstanding reliance on Dharan.
Dharan was one of the main traditional recruiting grounds for the British Gurkha army and there is ample visible evidence - in numerous expensive clothes shops and the attractive modern bungalows around town, for example - of the wealth that these overseas posting have brought to the area. But the new geological realities of the post cold-war world order have come to roost here too, with most of the Gurkha contingent in the British army having been demobilized since 1990. the resultant combination of wealth and high unemployment is new to Nepal, and Dharan now faces those problems of crime and drug addiction with which the west has long been familiar. Ask around locally, and it's acknowledged in hushed, almost confessional tones. The area's limited employment opportunities suggest few immediate solutions.