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Name : LILY MITRA  [On Apr 15, 2011]

State : WB

Title : SOMETIME AT SUNDERBAN

Article :

 In an attempt to break away from the monotony of our schedules and to refill ourselves with the much sought for vitality, my family and I set out for a short trip to Sunderbans during the last autumn break. We set out on our voyage on a big vessel, named M.V.Chitralekha, which was organized by West Bengal government tourism.

 As the name implies, Sunderban comprises of an extremely beautiful forest spanning across 102 islands dissected by vast stretches of water. It is located at the southern-most fringe of West Bengal and Bangladesh. The name ‘Sunderban’ comes from the Sundari trees that grow in this area though their number is dwindling.  It has been declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. The  Indian part of Sunderban comprises of 9,630 sq km. It is the world’s largest delta formed by the mighty rivers - the Ganges, the Brahamaputra and the Meghna. It is also world’s largest esturine forest (the forest that grows in estuary regions). The estuaries are formed by gradual deposition of alluvial silt by the rivers.

 This alluring forest delta is also the kingdom of the Royal Bengal Tiger, an asset that countries are now trying to save. In the royal kingdom habitation in the long stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest, live happily the crocodiles, the leopards, the otters, the wild boars, the cobras and so many others. We were fortunate to see the chitals at their hiding place, have a glimpse of a cattle egret in breeding plumage, flying cotton pigmy goose, brown headed gull, a very busy tailor bird and the common kingfisher bird, patiently perched on a branch in order to catch a fish. The magnanimity and the biodiversity of this forest are attributes that one can’t miss while on the voyage.

 The flora consists of plants that can withstand the extreme biotic conditions - high salinity in the soil, tidal effects and frequent inundation. It is interesting to learn that the mangrove plants have a unique method of adapting to the environment. Their roots cannot respire in salty marshes, so they arch above the surface (called pneumatophores) to breathe. Some of these plants breathe through perforated barks.

 Though we sailed through the delta for most part of the journey, we also halted occasionally at islands that were worth seeing in detail.

  Of the 102 islands that Sunderban is made up of, 54 islands are inhabited by human beings. Not surprisingly, for the village dwellers, the most common conveyance on this delta to travel from one island to another is the boat. During high tide, fishermen sometimes even have to forsake their lives for a priced catch. Our tour guide, Mr. Tarun Baidya at M.V.Chitralekha, shared with us many interesting anecdotes about Sunderban and its inhabitants.

 The residents of the delta are essentially characterized by their struggle with nature in order to survive amidst such dense forests and extreme climatic ocnditions. Falling prey to a tiger or being bitten by a venomous snake is nothing unusual for those innocent yet diligent residents of the delta.

If misfortune further prevails, their agricultural fields get inundated with saline water and result in a loss of crop (as occurred during the furious AILA), but nothing can really dampen their spirit.

 One of the most fascinating social aspects of life in the delta is the true secularism governed by the forests alone. Irrespective of religion or caste, all people living there worship the forest god and goddess BANBIBI and DAKSHINA ROY.

 The sight of the tributaries meeting the horizon offers the necessary succor to the eyes while on board the vessel. Boats sailing in the distance, below the clear blue sky, all add up to make the perfect picture. It is rather fascinating that Sunderban, a home to such myriad flora and fauna, is an ensemble of elements of beauty as well as cruelty of nature. Only Almighty could have created such a treasure that is analogous to the joys and sorrows of our lives.

The beauty and bounty of Sunderban gave us much more than we aspired for.

 The sumptuous food on board and comfortable stay options formed the icing on the cake.

This journey traversed through the delta has indeed left an indelible impression on our minds and we recommend it highly to all tourists. 

 

copyright@lily mitra