The Bihar-Nepal Earthquake of 1934

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On 15th January 1934, the subcontinent convulsed, sending shockwaves across Northern and Central India. It was the one of the worst earthquakes in India’s history and it was called the Great Bihar-Nepal Earthquake.

With its epicentre a few kilometers from Mount Everest in Eastern Nepal, shockwaves reverberated from Punjab to Assam, and Bombay to Lhasa in Tibet. But it was Bihar and Nepal that were most devastated.

Devastation in Nepal caused by the 1934 Bihar-Nepal Earthquake
Devastation in Nepal caused by the 1934 Bihar-Nepal Earthquake

Bihar’s official death toll was 7,253. Fortunately, many people were saved that day only because they were out in the fields. Numerous fissures and geysers in the ground caused water and sand to spout, while flooding added to the chaos.

As emergency relief, the Tata Iron & Steel Company sent a special train to Munger with 120 tons of iron sheets, five trucks of rice, and mechanics and tools. They then began putting up temporary shelters for the homeless survivors.

Tata Steel plant at Jamshedpur (present-day Jharkhand)
Tata Steel plant at Jamshedpur (present-day Jharkhand)

Leaders from Bihar like Rajendra Prasad and Anugrah Sinha set up the Bihar Central Relief Committee and raised Rs 28 lakh to help the survivors of the earthquake.

Dr Rajendra Prasad
Dr Rajendra Prasad

This Bihar-Nepal earthquake was the worst in the subcontinent in the modern era, and memories of it came rushing back in 2015, when Nepal was struck once again, with an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude. The city of Kathmandu was almost flattened; 9,000 people were reported dead.

Mahatma Gandhi in Bihar after the 1934 Nepal-Bihar Earthquake
Mahatma Gandhi in Bihar after the 1934 Nepal-Bihar Earthquake

You can still get a sense of the 1934 tragedy in the palatial quarters of Raj Darbhanga and its capital Rajnagar. The Navlakha Palace was abandoned, and its ruins are a reminder of the fury of that fateful winter afternoon.

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