Welcome to the Bangladesh Cultural Institute of Italy


The Sundarbans and the Royal Bengal Tiger

The Sundarbans (Bengali: Shundorbôn) is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.

The name Sundarban can be literally translated as "beautiful jungle" or "beautiful forest" in the Bengali language (Sundar, "beautiful" and bans, "forest" or "jungle").

The name may have been derived from the Sundari trees that are found in Sundarbans in large numbers. Alternatively, it has been proposed that the name is a corruption of Samudraban (Bengali: Shomudrobôn "Sea Forest") or Chandra-bandhe (name of a primitive tribe).

But the generally accepted view is the one associated with Sundari trees.

The forest lies at the feet of the Ganges and is spread across areas of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, forming the seaward fringe of the delta. The seasonally-flooded Sundarbans freshwater swamp forests lie inland from the mangrove forests.

The forest covers 10,000 km2 of which about 6,000 are in Bangladesh.

It became inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997, but while the Bangladeshi and Indian portions constitute the same continuous ecotope, these are separately listed in the UNESCO world heritage list as the Sundarbans and Sundarbans National Park, respectively.

The Sundarbans is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. The area is known for the eponymous Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), as well as numerous fauna including species of birds, spotted deer, crocodiles and snakes.

It is estimated that there are now 500 Bengal tigers and about 30,000 spotted deer in the area. Sundarbans was designated a Ramsar site on May 21, 1992. The fertile soils of the delta have been subject to intensive human use for centuries, and the ecoregion has been mostly converted to intensive agriculture, with few enclaves of forest remaining. The remaining forests, together with the Sundarbans mangroves, are important habitat for the endangered tiger. Additionally, the Sundarbans serves a crucial function as a protective flood barrier for the millions of inhabitants in and around Kolkata (Calcutta) against the result of cyclone activity.

In popular culture
The Sundarbans has been celebrated in numerous Bengali and Indian English novels, songs, and film.

The Bengali folk epic Manasamangal mentions Netidhopani and has some passages set in the Sunderbans during the heroine Behula's quest to bring her husband Lakhindar back to life.

Sundarbaney Arjan Sardar, a novel by Shibshankar Mitra, and Padma Nadir Majhi, a novel by Manik Bandopadhyay, are based on the rigors of lives of villagers and fishermen in the Sunderbans region, and are woven into the Bengali psyche to an extent.

Part of the plot of Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize winning novel, Midnight's Children is also set in the Sundarbans.

Most of the plot of prize-winning anthropologist Amitav Ghosh's 2004 novel, The Hungry Tide, is set in the Sundarbans.

The Sunderbans has been the subject of numerous non-fiction books, including the The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans by Sy Montegomery for a young audience, which was shortlisted for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award.

The area provides the setting for several novels by Emilio Salgari, (e.g. The Mystery of the Black Jungle).

Padma Nadir Majhi was also made into a movie by Goutam Ghose.

Numerous documentary movies have been made about the Sunderbans, including the 2003 IMAX production about the Bengal Tiger - Shining Bright. The acclaimed BBC TV series Ganges documents the lives of villagers, especially honey collectors, in the Sundarbans.

The Sunderbans are celebrated through numerous Bengali folk songs and dances, often centered around the folk heroes, gods and goddesses specific to the Sunderbans (like Bonbibi and Dakshin Rai) and to the Lower Gangetic Delta (like Manasa and Chand Sadagar).

(From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia)