Origin of the name Sundarbans
The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the whole world. Its name can literally be translated as "Beautiful forest" in Bengali. This name has been taken from the sundari trees that are found in the Sunderbans in a large number. Some people have proposed that it is another name for Shomudraban meaning Sea forest.
The forest lies in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal formed by the Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers along Bangladesh. The forest covers around 10,000 sq. km. of which a part is in Bangladesh. It has now been proclaimed as a world heritage site by the UNESCO in 1997. The Sunderbans is estimated to be about 4110 km sq. of which a huge part remains in the form of river, canal, creeks and other water bodies.
Flora and Fauna in The Sundarbans.
The Sundarbans are a home to a huge variety of flora and fauna. According to the records 26 varieties of True Mangrove species have been found, 29 species of Mangrove associates and 29 Back mangrove species. This record around 84 species of Flora found in all.
According to Hunter's statistical account of Sundarbans, the "Tigers, Leopards, Rhinoceros, Wild Buffaloes, Wild Hogs, Wild cats, Barasinga, Spotted deer, Hog Deer, Barking Deer and Monkeys", are the principal wild animals found here. This has been recorded around in the year 1878. However over the last 100 years or so, due to habitat degradation and ecological changes, the faunal compositions in Indian Sundarbans have undergone a number of changes. A number of animals have become extinct during the last two centuries like Javan Rhino, Wild Buffalo, Swamp deer and barking deer.
There are also a huge variety of insects, birds, snakes and water animals found here. Snakes like the python, Green Whip Snake; birds like the Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Storks, Green Pigeons, Sand pipers etc are found here in large number.
The Royal Bengal Tiger of The Sundarbans.
The mangrove forests of the Sundarbans are the single largest home to the Royal Bengal Tigers. These are the only forests having the tiger as its indigenous population. The numbers of Tigers are decreasing every year due to hunting and poaching. As per 2004 the population of tigers in Sundarbans was around 274, out of which Sundarban Tiger Reserve and south 24 Parganas Forest Division have 249 and 25 tigers respectively.
The Caspian Tiger, Javan Tiger and Bali Tiger are species which have already been extinct.
The People of Sundarban.
Just after the independence a huge number of people moved into Sundarban mainly due to migration. They cleared the forests and set up habitation here. Several colonies sprang up in this manner. Around 36% of the population there belongs to the SC or ST. The mainly earn their living through agriculture, which is mostly rain-fed. During lean seasons people even resort to fishing and collection of prawn seeds, risking their lives from man eating tigers and crocodiles.
Culture of the people of Sundarban.
The hardships of the daily life of the people have led to fraternal feelings and non-communal traditions. Members of both Hindu and Muslim community worship the same gods and Goddesses. The two most famous among them are Dakshin ray and Banabibi. Dakshin Ray is worshipped as the God of Tiger while Banabibi is worshipped as the protector of the inhabitants of the forests. Both of them are worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims.
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