Bonbibi – The protector, the word Bon means wildlife and Bibi means mother. Residents and honey-gatherers in and around the Sunderbans are always at the mercy of various predatory animals in the region, especially the famous tiger of the area. The majestic and splendid nature of the Royal Bengal Tiger has given rise to many stories about the Sundarbans – some of them true, and some of them quite apocryphal.

Bonbibi - The Protector

The beautiful forests in this region have also made it easier for a legend to grow. Scared of the dark, the tiger, and other wild beasts, gatherers knew their immediate future was in grave danger every time they crossed the threshold of the forest. They prayed to a protective deity called Bonbibi to guard and arm them against danger of all possible kinds. The arch-enemy of this beautiful forest goddess was Dakhhin Rai, who might even take the shape of a tiger to attack people. Thus thwarting the motive of Bonbibi, which was primarily to save the forest-dwellers.

Who is Bonbibi – The Protector?

Interestingly enough, Bonbibi is the daughter of Ibrahim, a fakir from Mecca. He had been compelled to take a second wife because his first wife could not bear children. The second wife, too, had abandoned Bonbibi, who was her daughter with Ibrahim, in a forest. Bonbib and shah Jangali, the two children of the second wife, were believed also to have born in the forest.

She is a deity worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims. Hindus worship her as Bon Durga or Bon Devi; the deity wears a saree, and carries the trishul. Her vahana is the tiger. The Islamic deity, Banbibi, is a pirani. Her long and beautiful hair is braided, and she is adorned with a tikli on her forehead. Normally, she is seen in a ghaghra. A tiger or a hen is seen with or around her. The worship of the mother protector still continues with great verve, and the deity is seen as a bridge between the conspicuously different rituals of Islam and Hinduism.

Armed with her trishul, and her feet on the dangerous tiger, Bonbibi reminds us that the forest is at once the creator of life, and also has the supreme power to destroy it.

Take a tour of Sundarbans to know more about Royal Bengal Tiger, Bonbibi and honey collector of Sundarbans.

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Sharad Vats

Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered. Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park. Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here's a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger. Buy now on Amazon