Total suspended particles (TSP) were collected in Lumbini from April 2013 to March 2016 to better understand the characteristics of carbonaceous aerosol (CA) concentrations, compositions and sources and their light absorption properties in rural region of severe polluted Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP). Extremely high TSP (203.9 ± 109.6 μg m−3), organic carbon (OC 32.1 ± 21.7 μg m−3), elemental carbon (EC 6.44 ± 3.17 μg m−3) concentrations were observed in Lumbini particularly during winter and post-monsoon seasons, reflecting the combined influences of emission sources and weather conditions. SO4 2− (7.34 ± 4.39 μg m−3) and Ca2+ (5.46 ± 5.20 μg m−3) were the most dominant anion and cation in TSP. These components were comparable to those observed in urban areas in South and East Asia but significantly higher than those in remote regions over the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, suggesting severe air pollution in the study region. Various combustion activities including industry, vehicle emission, and biomass burning are the main reasons for high pollutant concentrations. The variation of OC/EC ratio further suggested that biomass such as agro-residue burning contributed a lot for CA, particularly during the non-monsoon season. The average mass absorption cross-section of EC (MACEC) and water-soluble organic carbon (MACWSOC) were 7.58 ± 3.39 and 1.52 ± 0.41 m2 g−1, respectively, indicating that CA in Lumbini was mainly affected by local emissions. Increased biomass burning decreased MACEC; whereas, it could result in high MACWSOC during the non-monsoon season. Furthermore, dust is one important factor causing higher MACWSOC during the pre-monsoon season. © 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.