The honey is believed to have medicinal -- and sometimes slightly hallucinogenic -- properties. Print this article. Lupin sells Japan arm to Unison for Rs 3, cr. Delhi's pollution to enter 'emergency' zone. Festive sales bring cheer to automakers. Prez rule in Maha 'cruel joke' on democracy: Congress. Ayodhya Verdict. More like this To bee or not to bee: How this man is capitalising on the buzz. Zahangir, short, dark, and strong, with a deep scar across his left cheek, trudged up the bank and into the forest first.
April and May, the period of the honey harvest, are hot months virtually everywhere on the subcontinent, but here in the Sundarbans the heat is excruciating. Temperatures climb over degrees Fahrenheit in the brutal pre-monsoon spring. The sun pounds the uncountable streams, rivers, and creeks like a blacksmith trying to flatten a crooked piece of tin. The heat pours through the loose weave of the salt-stunted canopy. Extending across 10, square kilometers from the southwestern corner of Bangladesh and over the border into India, the Sundarbans covers the mouth of the Ganges—Brahmaputra Delta like a mask.
Along the northern coast of the bay, the delta stretches kilometers across, dividing and subdividing the soft alluvial soil into hundreds of mangrove-coated islands that constitute the Sundarbans. The sludge that passes for land here is mountain mud, the detritus of the shrinking Himalayas, carried across the Gangetic Plain and the Assam Valley to this tropical burial ground.
Roughly 3. According to Zahir Uddin Ahmed, the divisional forest officer for Sundarbans West, about , of them enter the forest each day to harvest its resources. Most of them, like Zahangir, Nurul Islam, and Haleem, spend the better part of the year as fishermen, while others gather timber and palm fronds or work on shrimp farms in the surrounding villages.
Abdul Roshid runs a motorcycle taxi service. Photos by Shumon Ahmed. Few agricultural practices have a longer history than honey hunting. Here in the Sundarbans, the crux of the local lore revolves around a confrontation between a group of honey collectors—known in the Sundarbans as mouals —and the fearsome tiger god Dakshin Rai, a folk deity well outside the standard Hindu pantheon. The story goes something like this:.
The honey hunter Dhona and his nephew Dukhe go into the forest with a group of mouals. Dhona accepts the offer and, in no time, finds his boat loaded with honey and wax. Before sailing for home, he sends Dukhe off into the forest alone to collect firewood. Dukhe objects, but to no avail. As Dukhe sits alone in the gloaming, Dakshin Rai takes his opportunity to pounce.
In utter despair, the boy cries out to the forest goddess Bonbibi Maa!
Meet Nepal's daredevil honey hunters - BBC News
Bonbibi then sends the boy home on the back of a crocodile. Oddly enough, the forest goddess is herself considered a Muslim—even by Hindus. The rituals practiced by some Sundarbans Hindus—as described by the naturalist Sy Montgomery in her book Spell of the Tiger— may well predate the rise of orthodox Vedic Hinduism 3, years ago. Istiak Sobhan, the Bangladesh program coordinator for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, says the Ganges—Brahmaputra Delta itself began taking form just 5, to 7, years ago.
If the story of Dukhe is as old as it seems, then honey hunting in the Sundarbans has existed in some form or other for nearly as long as the forest itself. The honey hunters who took me into the forest all live in a 5,person, Muslim village called Horinogor strung along a broad, flat river at the northern edge of the Satkhira Range, the westernmost section of the Bangladeshi Sundarbans. Horinogor itself, like most settlements near the Sundarbans, is probably not much more than a hundred years old. These days, honey collection is performed less as an incidental boon to fishermen working in the spring season than as unskilled seasonal labor on an inflated pay scale.
Officially speaking, the honey collection season begins annually on the first of April, when the Forest Department issues permits for roughly 2, men never women to row into the forest, usually in groups of seven to ten. For two months—or longer in particularly good seasons, which come rarely now—mouals will walk for as many as ten hours each day searching among the high branches for hidden hives, the largest of which can grow to a square meter in size and yield twenty kilos of honey.
Big-story-telling Kholil claimed to have once harvested a hive containing forty kilograms. These immense hives are built by Apis dorsata , the same giant honeybees that nest on Himalayan cliffs, concrete overhangs in Delhi and Mumbai, and throughout the forests of southeast Asia. The bees begin migrating from the nearby countryside as early as late January.
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The first honey appears by mid-March along with the tight white clusters of blossoms that frost the tips of the khalsi trees. Until the end of June, the bees build their nests, dangling from the branches like inverted cockscombs and cloaked in thousands of defensive bees, each just under an inch long. On our first afternoon together, Nurul Islam told me that he had once inadvertently upset a hive with the smoke rising from his cooking fire.
The swarm descended and stung him sixty times.
In the course of the spring bloom, the bees will produce honey from as many as twelve species of trees, each distinct in flavor, texture, and color. Honeys from the goran and passur trees are thick and red with little fragrance and a tendency to crystallize. Keora honey, though fair and thin traits valued as highly in Sundarbans honey as they are in Bollywood actresses is blandly sweet compared to the first and most prized of the Sundarbans honeys: khalsi. Pale gold in color, liquid and fragrant, subtle in its sweetness with a tart, almost peppery sting at the finish, khalsi honey lasts no later than mid-April and, once harvested, ferments within three months; honey hunting is as much a game of speed as endurance.
Over the course of a good two-month honey season the best of the honey will be gone by the end of May , a group of seven or eight experienced mouals can gather as many as 1, kilograms of raw honey and generate earnings of at least 30, to 50, taka per head. Even in the best months, a fisherman will earn less than half that. Since most groups of honey hunters earn too little throughout the rest of the year to fund their own licenses, they work through middlemen in our group, Abdul Roshid who arrange the necessary permits and buy their entire harvest when the season ends at about to taka per kilogram.
In Dhaka, the middlemen sell the honey for taka per kilogram to larger retailers who, in turn, repackage the product and sell it for taka per kilogram or more.
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Hardly a drop goes to export. Like a surrealist nightmare, the Sundarbans is beautiful and sinister in equal measure. The forest seems fortified: the mudbanks are a first line of defense, low-lying ramparts that render invaders clumsy, slow, vulnerable. There is an 8,year-old cave painting in Spain that portrays a man climbing vines to collect honey. They use the same tools that their ancestors did — hand-woven rope ladders and tangos, the long sharp bamboo poles that they use to cut the honey-filled hives off of the face of the cliff.
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The Ancient Art Of Death-Defying Honey Hunting In Nepal
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