A beautiful mangrove forest in the delta of river Ganga lies the adventurous forest of Sundarban, The boundary less scenic beauty of the greenery and the soil water blended together and the wild life, has always given us the exciting and adventurous feel. The name Sundarban literally means beautiful forest, Sundar- beautiful ban-forest” if translated into the native language of Bengal. The name may have been derived from the Sundari trees (the mangrove species Heritiera forms) that are found in Sundarbans in large numbers.
‘Every coin has two side’, just as every story has two side.
We always see the outer side the beautiful and happy side ,but there is always another side of every story.Just like the saying even here is another side of story.
I had been to Sundarban long back with my family for any family night out picnic, I was in my teens that time and few of my cousin had also accompanied us along with their parents. There was an uncle with us, who was our tour coordinator, he was guiding us throughout the tour and sharing his knowledge about the forest and round it. Then he told us something which as a child did not put much impact on me ,but found it little strange. He told about a village called Vidhwapara. Now being an adult I realize and understand the impact of the sadness, superstitious cruelness of our culture.
Featured Photos by sayamindu,
- Vidhwapara (abode of widows) is a region in Sundarban ,All the widows aboded by their family lives in this region.
- Arampur (abode of rest) in the bank of the Bidda,denesly covered with the mangrove. The salt-water of the river Ganges makes it appropriate for the villager to make fishing as the major profession for their live hood.
- In Arampur daily early morning a gang of 7 to 13 men together goes fishing in the rowboats hours in the river to get hold of the fishes like bhetki, sole, and bagda chingri (jumbo shrimp). Keeping their life on stake, these men leaves their home to earn their livelihood. Sometimes these men come back and there are manier times that they become a prey of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
- Each and everyday most of the men of this region have to fight with death for their survival. Going in the dark forest for fishing, collecting honey deep inside the forest, escaping the natural calamity in the river and most terribly from the ferocious Royal Bengal Tiger in the jungle, has given birth to a very unique non-communal tradition where irrespective of communities everyone worships Dakshin Ray and Banabibi as their eternal saviors.
- Dakshin Ray -the Royal Bengal Tiger, to go in the forest and be return safely all the people of all community worship the Royal Bengal Tiger as the God of tiger.
- Banabibi, is the protector of the inhabitants living in and around the forest . The Goddess is worshiped among all irrespective of any caste religion or community. All the women prayer and worship Banabibi as the protector of their family and husband’s life.
- Day after day the women in the village waits for their husband to return from the forest after fishing. After doing their daily task like feeding the children .scrubbing their small hut. Then they go to the temple and offer prayer to the unique goddess – Bana Bibi – the goddess of the Sundarban’s inhabitants to be protected from the beasts of the forest. Offerings like coconuts and flowers given to Bana Bibi and prayer are made protect the family, specially the men who goes to the forest .
- Arampur is a region in the sundarban ,where all the widows live after losing their men. Around 60 old and young widows whose husband are dead due to the attack of the Royal Bengal Tiger live in this region. Soe decade ago this village was renamed as Vidhwapara – abode of widows and called the widow’s as The tiger widows.
The Tiger-widows are recognized as the unholy and evil women and blamed for the death of their husband by the in-laws and community. The mother in law accused the widow as ‘swami-khego’ meaning “husband-eater” and consider them as unlucky and misfortune. The ill treat and disrespect of these widow led them to to live a lonely and isolated life. In the Indian community generally widows are treat with dishonor. Thus when the allegation of being a reason of husband death adds up to the humiliation.
There are set of rules preset for the the widows
- The widows are left isolated and not allowed to interact with other males.
- The widows are not allowed to wear colorful sarees ,only to wear white saree
- They are also not allowed to wear ornaments ore get dressed up.
- Participating in any auspicious occasion are banned for these women.Even their sight and touch is also considered as misfortune in the ceremony of religious and auspicious occasion.
- In the early morning , they are not to be seen, as there sight is considered a cause of misfortune too. Seeing them in the early morning is considered to began the day with bad luck.
- For all these set of biases and disgraceful rules keeps the widow away from living a normal life.
It was a mere co-incident while returning from the forest we meet a fisherman who returned in our launch, he was injured by a tiger and also lost his fellow fisherman to it. The tiger attacked when they went for fishing. Seeing the tiger the fellow fisherman fainted however this man fell in the river and got saved by God’s grace however his friend was taken away by the Tiger. It is a very common tragedy with the beautiful mangrove forest of Sundarban, having said that this human-tiger conflict has already been noticed by multiple nations and have become a well known subject for research specially in the eco-social field.
Featured Photo by Leszek.Leszczynski