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Jungle Nama

A Story of the Sundarban
Retold by Amitav Ghosh
Illustrated by Salman Toor

Jungle Nama is a verse adaptation of a  legend from the Sundarban, the world’s largest mangrove forest. For the people who live in and around the forest, this story is a charter that regulates every aspect of life; the beliefs associated with it dictate how they relate to the forest, and to the beings that inhabit it, especially tigers. It tells the story of the avaricious rich merchant Dhona, the poor lad Dukhey, and his mother; it is also the story of Dokkhin Rai, a mighty spirit who appears to humans as a tiger, of Bon Bibi, the benign mistress of the forest, and her warrior brother Shah Jongoli.

This realm was once under the sway of Dokkhin Rai;
  a mighty spirit feared by all under the sky.
He preyed on humans, in a tiger avatar;
  whomever he wanted he’d take for his shikar.
Under his rule all beings shivered in terror;
  day after day, they looked heavenwards in prayer.
At length their entreaties crossed the Empty Quarter;
  from Araby there came two beings of great power.
One was the Mistress of the Forest, Bon Bibi;
  the other was her brother, Shah Jongoli.
Bon Bibi was strong, but full of compassion;
  her brother was a warrior, his powers were legion.


Ali Sethi narrates the audio version of Amitav Ghosh's JungleNama