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Bonbibi-r Palagaan

Description

A dramatic form connected to the cult goddess, Bonbibi who is worshipped only in Sundarbans. ‘Pala’ means a long verse narrative and ‘gaan’ means song. Bonbibi-r Palagaan, a performative ritual, originated as a eulogy for the deity through simple recitation and singing to invoke her blessing. It later evolved into a form of enactment, of the various exploits of Bonbibi in the ‘Bhati-r Desh’ (the land of tides, i.e., Sunderbans).

Location

Sunderban regions of India and Bangladesh, the largest mangrove forest of Sundari trees (Heritiera fomes) in the world.

Development

The multiple claims for the earliest date of Bonbibi-r Palagaan are indicative of the folk nature of the form, which cannot be traced back to one original performance. None of these dates can be authenticated because of the lack of published scripts. 

 

  • Girindranath Das states that play scripts began to be written and performed between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
  • In 1909 was produced Satishchandra Choudhury’s Bonbibi, the Palagaan performance.
  • Sashankhasekhar Das says that in 1942 Basiruddin Gayen of village Bhomra, Satkhira district, Khulna division (now in Bangladesh) scripted and performed the play ‘Bonbibi-r Jatra’ in Bhurkhunda (now in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal) at ‘the Bhabanipur Jamidari’ on the estate of a British company (however, there is evidence long prior to this date of the text and songs being performed).
Context

Bonbibi-r Palagaan has traditionally been performed as a part of worshipping the forest-goddess, Bonbibi. The traditional performance is ritualistic in nature. In contemporary times, the performance is also conducted irrespective of the worship and serves as an important mode of entertainment to the residents of Sunderbans during various local festivals and fairs, and for tourists.

Performance Sites

Open grounds with elevated platforms are preferred for the traditional Bonbibi-r Palagaan performance. In present times, wooden stages are also constructed for the performances.