Day 2 (contd) .....
There are 15 species of raptors in the
Sunderbans checklist. We added a new one at the Netidhopani watchtower, a
Changeable Hawk Eagle. More importantly, the bird was a dark morph specimen,
the first of the type recorded in India. A star bird and a star record for the
Changeable Hawk Eagle
Other raptors seen on the trip
included a solitary White-bellied Sea Eagle, Osprey, Brahminy Kite, Oriental
Honey Buzzard and Shikra
White-bellied Sea Eagle
Netidhopani has mystery, myths and folklore. The ruins of a 400 year old temple
point to the presence of humans in the area before the land went back to the
forest. Little is known about the original inhabitants and work is just
beginning to start on unraveling the mystery surrounding those who were the
first to tame the Sunderbans.
The folklore based on Netidhopani
relates the touching tale of eternal love between Behula and Lakhindar. Manasha,
the goddess of snakes has a feud with Chand Sadagar, a merchant. In an act of
vengeance she kills his only son Lakhindar on the wedding night. Behula, the
child bride, puts Lakhindar's corpse on a raft of banana stems and travels to
the court of the gods to pray for her husband’s life. On the way, she passes
Netidhopanir Ghat, where Neti, a washerwoman, is plying her trade. Neti’s
little son disturbs his mother at work and she picks him up and bashes the
child on the washing stone, dropping him dead in the process. Washing finished,
Neti calmly picks up her son and restores him back to life before heading home.
Inspired by Neti's prowess, Behula seeks her help in restoring her husband's
life. Neti helps Behula find the court of the gods. As with most folklores, the
tale has an inevitable happy ending.
The journey back from Netidhopani takes
the boat through some of the largest river systems in India. Miles and miles of
water stretch to the horizon at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal. This is the
land of sharks, dolphins and crocodiles.
One of the most enigmatic residents of the Sunderbans is the Irrawaddy Dolphin
(Orcaella brevirostris), a greatly threatened estuarine species found in small
numbers in dwindling habitat. Made famous in 'The Hungry Tide', this beauty was
spotted by Sudeshna on the River Matla while it was fishing in the golden light
of the setting sun.
A small detour on the return trip took us to the
Dobanki watchtower, where a short canopy walk is the main attraction. A
particularly tame Hoopoe was the birding feature. The bird refused to fly till
you literally stepped on it! Other birds at Dobanki included a wire hopping
Dusky Warbler and an Osprey
The evening at Camp was devoted to a
performance of folk-theatre ('Jatra') featuring the tale of Bonobibi.
Interestingly, Bonobibi has Islamic origins but is worshipped in the form of an
idol by all inhabitants of the Sunderbans, be they Hindu or Muslim by faith.
The story of Bonobibi's travels from Saudi Arabia with her brother Shah Jungli
to the forests of the Sunderbans and the vanquishing of the evil Dakshin Roy
while protecting the faithful 'Dukhey' is a much adored village theatre in
these parts, bearing endless repetition.