Thursday, July 2, 2009

A trip to Sundarbans

Sundarbans

It was a fine Friday of 29th May 2009, the last day of the 5 day ‘Learning for Content and Community Building Workshop’ that I was facilitating for Commonwealth of Learning in association with Rupantar, a leading NGO, in Khulna, Bangaldesh. The fifth day was for field trip and casual discussions; a community building exercise.

In the morning, around 8 AM, Shaikh Abdul Halim, Co-ordinator of the workshop along with Md.Saifuddin Rony, Rohima, Maksuda Akther, Tauhid Alam and Md.Shafiqul Shaikh came to Hotel Western Inn International, where I was staying in Khulna, in a Van driven by our friend Jewel.


We planned Sundarbans as the first destination of the trip, and during the return journey we would also visit some places of historical importance.

The Sundarbans (Bengali: Shundorbôn) is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world. The name Sundarban can be literally translated as "beautiful jungle" or "beautiful forest" in the Bengali language (Sundar, "beautiful" and ban, "forest" or "jungle"). The name may have been derived from the Sundari trees that are found in Sundarbans in large numbers. The forest covers 10,000 km2 of which about 6,000 are in Bangladesh. It became inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997. To the south the forest meets the Bay of Bengal; to the east it is bordered by the Baleswar River and to the north there is a sharp interface with intensively cultivated land. The Sundarbans is very rich in wildlife. It is the home to famous Bengal tigers

From Khulna we traveled through Khulna-Mongla high way that break through the heart fetching greenery of farms and the coastal villages. Mongla sea port is the boarding point for visiting Sundarbans. Mongla is one of the two seaports of Bangladesh. It is 40km from Khulna city. Rupantar has arranged a motor boat for our travel from Mongla to Sundarbans. Mongla port is at the confluence of the River Passur and Mongla.

With the permission from the Khulna Divisional Forest office in hand one can make a deep and wonderful exploration in to the Sundarbans in boats that can be hired from Mongla port. If you want to stay in the forest, the Forest Department has a guest house at Katka, the Rest House of the Mongla Port Authority at Hiron Point is the another option. Advance booking is needed for stay in both the places. But we preferred to visit Karamjol Wildlife Center of Sundarbans, which is easily accessible from Mongla Port, because I have to return to Dhaka in the same evening. In the Karamjol Wildlife Center we walked around two kilomiters in to the forest and have seen deer , monkeys, crocs and snakes in cages and the preserved skeleton of popular Bengal Tiger.

Every body enjoyed the walking very much. There is a thatched shelter at the end of the permitted path. We sat in the shelter for some time observing the wild beauty of the Sundarbans. Then we went to the zoo and saw cute deer and monkeys. There is also a crocodile lake and a watchtower in the Karamjol Wildlife Center. The watchtower has given us a broad and catching sight of the Sundarbans of that area.


In the return journey from the Sunderbans, the boat moved very close to the shores that boarded by village homes. Children were swimming and playing in the river which have stolen dozens of life a few days back during the hurricane Aila. We have seen their parents were queuing up in the shore for relief supply . It is true, the innocent smiles of children always save us from the pangs of hard realities. It was amazing to see a boy around ten years was fast enough to swim with our boat and finally catch it.

While the boat was nearing Mongla sea port, Halim and other fiends sang "Aei Padma, Aei Meghna, Aei Jamuna, Surma nodi Tote, Amar Rakhal mon gan geye jay, aei amar desh, aei amar prem........."



Mausoleum of Saint Khan Jahan Ali

At Mongla we had tea and snacks from a small shop and proceeded to single domed mausoleum of Saint Khan Jahan Ali's in Bagerhat. This monument is located on the northern embankment of a large tank locally known as Thakur dighi. Khan Jahan Ali, saint-general, had laid the nucleus of an affluent city during the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah (1442-59), the city was known as 'Khalifatabad' (present Bagerhat). Khan Jahan had built numberous mosques, tanks, roads and other public buildings. Khan Jahan died on 25 October 1459 and was buried in the tomb built by himself. The tomb is enclosed by an inner and outer compound.

The Sixty Dome Mosque (Bengali: Shat Gombuz Moshjid)

The Sixty Dome Mosque (Bengali: Shat Gombuz Moshjid) is the largest historical mosque in Bangladesh and one of the most impressive Muslim architectural structures.The mosque was built by Khan Jahan Ali in the 15th century. The serene and imposing monument, stands on the eastern bank of a vast sweet-water tank, clustered around by the heavy foliage of a low-lying countryside. The mosque roofed over with 77 squat domes, including 7 chauchala or four-sided pitched Bengali domes in the middle row. The mosque is decorated mostly with terracotta and bricks.

Tagore's Father in law's house at Daksindihi, Khulna

Our last destination was the great poet and Nobel Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore's father in law's house at Daksindihi, Khulna. Now the house is a museum where you can see the daily usage materials of Tagore family. You can also see statues of Rabindrnath and Mrinalini Devi in front the house and  stage named Mrinalini Mancha in the left side of the house under a big tree. The establishment of Rabindra Complex had encouraged the local people to organise a fair on every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of the great poet. The meaningful silence filled in the old house and its surroundings have made us imagine about the old days on which the poet might used to visit the home. The serene atmosphere prevailing there might have sowed the seeds of many poetic dreams in his mind. We walked around the house and sat in front of it for some time.

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