Bon Bibi - One Goddess, Two Religions
The Sunderban area is at the border of India (Bengal) and Bangladesh, with the largest mangrove forest in the world and the most fantastic nature. It is the part of the world's largest delta formed by the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. This area is mostly famous for its tigers that devour people; however, it is one of the few areas where carnivorous tigers live. In India, tigers live in other places, too, but they do not devour human beings so notoriously.
Sunderban (also referred to as Sundarbans), like the Brazilian region of Mato Grosso, or Australian Arnhem Land, is a place with most astonishing wildlife. Its population consists generally of two groups of people - Hindus and Muslims.
The most important Goddess in the region is Bon Bibi (Lady of the Forest). To your surprise, you will learn that she did not come down from the Himalayas (as Durga) to help her people, nor was it the Ganges. She is the only Hindu Goddess the origin of which is not in India. Her story begins in the second holiest city of Islam - Medina. The legend has it that once upon a time there lived a Sufi fakir, Ibrahim. The Archangel Gabriel spoke to him and Ibrahim thus (being helplessly childless) got a promise that he would have children. Two children at once were born to him - Bon Bibi (daughter) and her brother Shah Jongoli. When they got older, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to them as he had appeared to their father and said that they had been chosen for a divine mission. Gabriel said that they should leave their homeland and come to India. They obeyed and started their journey as Sufi traders. But in the land that Gabriel had chosen for their divine mission they met a very evil demon - Dokkhin Rai. This demon had a passion for human flesh. But Bon Bibi, along with her brother, quickly overpowered him. They did not kill the demon, but urged him to promise that he would avoid devouring human flesh. Bon Bibi also divided the Sunderban jungle and drew up the boundaries of places where people should live. She left the other parts of the jungle for the demon.
However, balance (agreement) did not last too long, as humans are greedy creatures and they always want to disturb their agreement with nature. One of such disturbers, as legends say, was Dhoni. He wanted to become rich and with this purpose he planned to exploit the jungle. He also hired a boy, Dukhey (this is the boy's name), as an assistant. But Dhoni eventually deceived him and left him (carrying away the stolen riches of the forest) at the mercy of the forest. The poor boy was deluded and abandoned. As he stood in the jungle alone, enveloped in complete fear, suddenly a huge body with a tiger's head appeared before him. The boy felt bursts of horror creeping over him and then the Bon Bibi's name repeatedly echoed through the mangrove forest as soon as it broke out of the boy's shrieking mouth. The name of the Goddess started vibrating. It was his mother who had advised him to call Bon Bibi whenever a danger may be coming his way. And Bon Bibi really arrived on the scene and rescued the boy from the Dokkhin Rai's claws.
When local people go into the jungle here, they always pray to Bon Bibi first with a wish that she bestows protection on them. Shah Jongoli has also his place in prayers. Bon Bibi is simultaneously a Muslim and Hindu Goddess. These two religions have One Deity here. In the way of life of people living in this region we also see that God does not separate people. It is rather people who destroy bridges and disturb their agreements with nature, although they can do it the other way.
Bengal tigers that eat people are called Dokkhin
Rai. Anytime a prayer is invoked to Bon
Bibi, it starts with the words of the Qumran.