Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bonbibi - Part 4

Accurate chronicling of history, I think, is a predominantly western concept. India has often relied on myth, epics and a rich body of literature as a substitute for historical accuracy. Fact and fiction are unashamedly in bed with one another and it's hard to tell one from the other. This couldn't be more true for the Sunderbans. To trace it's history is a futile task. What will it lead to - an account of how the British set up Canning as a commercial establishment, and possibly the words of an intrepid British explorer witnessing a native of Gosaba in his quaint habitation through his 'civilized' colonial glasses.

No I'd rather revel in the myth, to learn about that alternate history which recounts both the real and the fantasy (of the native), in his distinct voice / language soaked in cultural context and symbolism. Bonbibi's emergence as a forest deity has a literal narrative, as we have seen so far and a sibilant undertone that can be easily overlooked. Her family, the circumstances of her birth and her accomplishments serve two purposes to the native. Firstly to establish Bonbibi as figure of great power to be respected and revered. Secondly to reassure the local, that she is one of their own, with the same culture and values. It is this second aspect, that affords the outsider a glimpse into the culture of Sunderbans.

Consider the rise to power of Bonbibi and her initial confrontation with Dakkhin Rai. The battle supposedly takes place between Dakkhin Rai's mother, Narayani, and Bonbibi. Similarly, other stories of Bonbibi, describe her brother Shah Jangali taking on Dakkhin Rai. One might interpret this, as a clear segregation of sexes as far as power struggle is concerned. For though she is a feminine deity and her dominion is unquestioned, the native chooses to ignore what could happen in a battle between the sexes, perhaps out of fear for the consequence it might have on the social order and accepted roles that both sexes play.


cupcake chronicles said...

write some more....kickly revert to writer avatar

Jasmine said...

I wonder why you stopped writing.