A dangerous beauty

The Sundarbans have always provided a romantic setting in fact and fiction. At least in my imagination, they are a wonderful mangrove forest, populated by immensely clever and elusive tigers, and much more...

The lower deltaic Bengal, the Sundarbans has always had a life of its own, unique in its distinctive natural aspect and social development. Geographical and ecological evidence indicates that most of the area used to be once covered with dense, impenetrable jungle even as patches of cultivation sprang intermittently into life and then disappeared. A continuous struggle ensued between man and nature, as portrayed in the punthi literature that thrived in lower deltaic Bengal between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

Sutapa Chatterjee Sarkar's new book from Social Sciences Press, THE SUNDARBANS: Folk Deities, Monsters and Mortals tells the history and the anthropology of the region. She is Reader in the Department of History at West Bengal State University.

The construction of a permanent railroad connecting Calcutta to Canning further facilitated the influx of new ideas and these, subsequently, found expression in the spreading of co-operative movements, formation of peasant organizations, and finally culminated in open rebellion by the peasants (Tebhaga Movement). The struggle between men and the dangerous forests was therefore overshadowed by the conflict among men.

The book tells the Historical Geography of the Sundarbans, their description in punthi Literature and their role in modern Bengali fiction. Along with chapters on Tilman Henckell, Land Reclamation, the Port at Canning, and so on.

In hardcover, 212 pages Rs 550, ISBN 9788187358350