From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Additional information may please be sent as messages to the Facebook
community, All information used will be gratefully
acknowledged in your name.

A syncretic tradition attacked

Elections, 2019

The legend

Tamaghna Banerjee, May 18, 2019: The Times of India

A Bonbibi temple in the Sunderbans
From: Tamaghna Banerjee, May 18, 2019: The Times of India

The cult of Bonbibi, the guardian spirit of the forests worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims in the Sunderbans, is under threat.

In the run-up to the elections, BJP leaders, supported by a group of Hindu priests, have been addressing and worshipping the goddess as ‘Bondebi’. Completely disregarding Bonbibi’s crosscommunal image, they are now claiming the goddess as Hindu. The Muslim voters, upset by the propaganda, said they have started alienating themselves from worshipping the goddess.

“Muslims don’t worship Bonbibi any more. Only Hindus are keeping the tradition alive and worship the deity regularly. Our village temple is seldom visited by any Muslim. Hence, we address the goddess as Bondebi rather than Bonbibi. The villagers, too, now call her by that name,” said Paritosh Mondal, a local panchayat member and BJP leader in the Sunderbans. Mondal is from Gosaba under Jaynagar Lok Sabha constituency, which will go to polls this Sunday. Called upon mostly by honey collectors and woodcutters before entering the forest for protection against attacks from tigers, it is believed that the goddess was a fierce enemy of the king of the jungle — Daskshin Rai — who appeared in the guise of a tiger to attack people.

According to mythology, the goddess is believed to be the daughter of Ibrahim, a fakir from Mecca who later became the king of the Sunderbans. As Ibrahim’s first wife Phulbibi couldn’t bear a child, Ibrahim married Golalbibi, who gave birth to Bonbibi and her twin, Shah Jangali. However, to keep a promise made by the king to his first wife, he left the pregnant Golalbibi at the forest and her daughter became the goddess of the forest and remained a Muslim by birth. “We regularly take idols of the goddess with us and worship her at the riverside before entering the forest. But the Muslims don’t worship her any longer,” claimed Supada Mondal, a honey collector from Gosaba.

Although the books, scriptures and temples still bear the name Bonbibi, according to locals the cult is fading and she is gradually being portrayed as a Hindu goddess.

Echoing Mondal, auto driver Arafat Sheikh and homemaker Nazma Sheikh said they do not worship the deity any more. “Idol worship was never present in our religion. Our ancestors used to worship the deity because they went into the jungle, but we don’t look at the forest for a profession any more. We attend the fairs during the Bonbibi Puja, but don’t visit the temple,” said Nazma Sheikh.

Personal tools