Bonbibi: A Religion of the Forest in the Sundarbans


  • Amrita Sen Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India
  • Jenia Mukherjee Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India


This article speaks about Bonbibi, the forest goddess of the Sundarbans. Drawing on Bonbibi Johuranama, along with oral history and field narratives, it traces the practice of Bonibibi worship in the mangrove forests. The article explores how and why Bonbibi worship has evolved as a “religion of the forest,” blurring boundaries between Hindus and Muslims, all of whom pay reverence to her before entering into the forests to carry out their livelihoods. Lastly, the article argues that the cult of Bonbibi offers an opportunity to reflect on place-based framings of the environment in specific conservation landscapes, where the dominant conservation ethic is rooted in statist provisions.

Author Biographies

Amrita Sen, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India

Amrita Sen is an assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. An environmental sociologist by training, she is interested in research across political ecology, urban environmental conflicts, and community-based conservation.

Jenia Mukherjee, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India

Jenia Mukherjee’s research interest spans environmental history, political ecology, and transdisciplinary water research. She was awarded the World Social Science Fellowship in 2013, the Australian Leadership Award Fellowship in 2010 and 2015, and the Carson Writing Fellowship (2018–2019) for her research on Kolkata’s wetlands using the historical political ecology approach. She is the Indian principal investigator for the ongoing EqUIP Project entitled “Towards a ‘Fluid’ Governance: Hydrosocial Analysis of Flood Paradigms and Management Practices in Rhone and Ganges basins (India, France & Switzerland).”

Bonbibi with little Dukhe, Shah-Janguli, and Dakshin Ray, here appearing as a tiger.