Ghodaghodi Lake is a Ramsar site in western Nepal. This Ramsar site consists of a system of around 13 large and shallow oxbow lakes and ponds with associated marshes and meadows. It covers an area of 2,563 ha (6,330 acres) in Kailali District and lies at an altitude of 205 m (673 ft.) on the lower slopes of the Siwalik Hills.
The wetland area is surrounded by tropical deciduous forests, shrub forests, village communities and their agricultural fields. Even though it is popularly known as the Ghodaghodi Lake, another interesting thing about Ghodaghodi Lake is that it is actually made up of nine different lakes marked separately by marsh lands. The nine lakes present within the Ghodaghodi Tal are the Ghodaghodi, Chaitya, Sunpokhari, Nakhrodi, Budhi, Baishwa, Purbi Pjhuaw, Ojhuwa and the Ramphal.
There are several legends related to the origin of Ghodaghodi Lake. The name Ghodaghodi is derived from the Nepali word for horse meaning male and female horse.
It is believed that the lake is tied to a very popular event between two of Nepal’s most revered deities. Lord Shiva and Parvati were said to have visited the lake in different forms. A hermit came upon the deities and turned them into a horse. Once they were in horse form, they then circled around the lake.
Other legends that surround the name of the lake evolved around the Chaudary people who reside near it. They were always seen making various animal inspired artifacts yet; most are made of figures in the form of sacred horses.
The main Lake’s southern tip is close to the East-West Highway between Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi. It takes 1.5 hours to drive from Dhangadhi and 2 hours from Nepalgunj to reach the Lake.
The lake has religious significance. There is a shrine located on the banks of the lake. The Tharu people who are indigenous to this area celebrate a traditional festival called Agan Panchami in the month of December. They worship the deity and offer animals. They offer horses, elephants, and tigers made from clay to Goddess Gauri Mata at the lake so the Goddess will make their wishes come true. It is a living tradition so you will often find clay horses in the temple. People take holy dip in the lake. It has also become a place for traditional fishing and agricultural practices richly filled with their traditions.
The lake has record of more than 450 species of plants. The plants like Water Primrose (Ludwigia alscendens), Bladderwort (Utricularia australis), Sal (Shorea robusta) and Myrobalan (Terminalia alata), Orchid (Aerides odorata), Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), and rare wild rice (Hygrohiza aristata) are found here.
The forest and wetlands serve as a wildlife corridor between the Terai lowland and the Siwalik Hills. They support critically endangered and vulnerable species including Bengal tiger, smooth-coated otter, Eurasian otter, swamp deer, lesser adjutant stork, marsh crocodile, red-crowned roofed turtle and three-striped roofed turtle.
Ghodaghodi Lake Area is an important habitat for birds in Nepal. It acts as staging posts for migrating wetland birds and is a home for both resident and wintering species too. A total of 140 bird species has been recorded in the lake area, including the globally threatened Lesser Adjudant and near-threatened Darter. The area is also a habitat for endangered and vulnerable mammal and reptile species including Bengal tiger, smooth-coated otter, and marsh crocodile.