Sunderban: Enigma of the unforgiving beauty

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Moulay of Sunderbans

  • The Moulay or Moulis are traditional honey collectors of Sunderban who risk their lives every time they venture into the ravishingly beautiful mangroves for their dangerous job. Seeking blessings and protection from the forest goddess Bonobibi, they step into the prime tiger territories every year between April to first week of June, to collect purest mangrove honey, fully aware that one moment of carelessness may cost their lives. A single 10-12 days haul yields about 800 kgs honey, sometimes even less. Leaving a portion for the queen bee and the larvae to survive, the remaining bee hive is cut off carefully and stored in stainless steel containers, to be sold off to the forest dept in the form of wax and honey. Tiger attacks on Moulays are frequent and most often, fatal and the face masks worn at the back of their heads are not always infallible. Unfortunately, human-tiger conflict is detrimental to both human and tiger population. So promoting apiculture in safer domains of the mangroves is one option the forest dept is counting upon, which is still debated. Sustainable and responsible tourism might be taken into account as well. Till then, the fragile ecosystem of Sunderban biosphere with its numerous creeks, channels, mudflats, islands and gigantic mesh of the aerial roots of sundari, goran, khalsi remain entangled with the lives of the Moulays, as ever.