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West Bengal: In the Sundarbans, Hindu devotees offer 'bhog' to Muslim goddess for protection from tigers by Saadia Azim June 20,2016   |  Source: First Post

Fifty-five year old Bhabotaron Paik is a forest guard at the Neitidopani forest reserve in the faraway western edge of Sundarbans jungles. But before he dons his khaki uniform every day, he bathes, wears his dhoti and puts on an orange gamchha (stole) on his bare shoulders, a red tilak (mark) on his brow and heads out, barefoot, to the “Bon Bibi temple" to present her bhog (the offering of food that is made to Hindu deities). First, he cleans her temple, washes the goddess' utensils before performing an aarti and reciting some mantras. A fellow priest bangs the gong and Paik blows the conch. Then he offers sandesh as bhog for the deity. A portion of it is distributed as prasad to all those participating in the puja. Nothing's unusual for the volunteering priest — except that the goddess, Bon Bibi (Lady of the Forests), is a Muslim deity, worshiped mostly by Hindu devotees. Bon Bibi’s shrine is located at the entrance within the doubly wired fenced office of the reserve forest under the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserved area. Paik has served as the official priest in the isolated office in one of the densest forest area. He is regular in his puja for the last 30 years. “Ma doesn’t discriminate amongst her devotees. So why should we? Everyone prays to her here," says the


© 2014 Firstpost

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