Eric Arthur Blair, universally known as George Orwell, the genius behind the thought-provoking allegory Animal Farm, was born on June 25, 1903. What may surprise some is that this literary maestro was born in Motihari in Bihar. Orwell’s roots were tied to India through his parents. His father, Richard Walmesley Blair, served in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service during the colonial era. His mother, of French descent, was the daughter of a teak merchant in Burma (modern-day Myanmar).
Motihari is considered a must-visit ancient site with mentions in scriptures like Mahabharata and Ramayana. A part of Videha, a kingdom ruled by Sita’s father Janaka, Motihari offers scenic expanses of verdant landscapes. Earlier known as Champaran until its bifurcation in 1972, the site is also famous for the Satyagraha led by Mahatma Gandhi to support the farmers oppressed by the indigo planters.
For a long time, the house of the legendary author was in disrepair until it was rediscovered by his admirers in 2003. Later in 2014, the Bihar government decided to preserve and restore it. A budget of about 59 lakhs was provisioned for the upscaling and beautification of the house, turning it into a museum. The Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar took a personal interest in the project and was there for the museum's inauguration.
Many of Orwell’s major works are based around places within the Indian subcontinent. One of his earliest works, "A Hanging" (1931), takes place in Burma as a retelling of a brutal hanging under British colonialism. Other works such as "Burmese Days" (1934), "Shooting An Elephant" (1934) and numerous letters talk of various sites in the Indian subcontinent. Within Orwell’s oeuvre, Burma (Myanmar) comes up as a site worth visiting if not for the literary value, then surely for its landscapes. It is pertinent to note that while India may not have been a central focus in Orwell’s works, his understanding of the oppressive nature of colonialism was shaped by being in the subcontinent as a resident, a journalist and a police officer.
While you visit the house of George Orwell and explore the museum, there are other places in Motihari that travellers may find of interest.
Champaran Satyagraha Park - Satyagraha Park stands at a distance of 550 meters from the George Orwell Birthplace Museum, a park built in memory of the Champaran Satyagraha movement.
Moti Jheel - A delightful tourist location at the city’s heart, the Moti Jheel is next to a hillside and presents the travellers with remnants of Indo-Mughal architecture built around it.
Gandhi Museum and Auditorium - The Gandhi Museum and Auditorium stand 2.3 km from the Orwell Museum. It’s a site worth visiting with unique relics, photographs and other artefacts of the Champaran Satyagraha Movement. It also has a Gandhi Memorial Pillar designed by Nandalal Bose, a renowned artist of the Bengal School of Art.
Buddha Stupa - Dating from the 3rd century BC, the Buddha Stupa of Kesariya stands 52 km from the George Orwell Birthplace Museum. The stupa has a circumference of about 400 feet and is elevated to a height of about 104 feet.
The George Orwell Birthplace Museum remains open throughout the week. Travellers can reach it from the Lok Nayak Jayprakash Airport, Patna, a 3 hours drive from Motihari at a distance of 153 km. It can also be reached by road as it is well connected to its neighbouring cities and Patna. The city also enjoys the services of railways at Bapudham Motihari Railway Station, which is approximately 2 km from the Orwell Museum.