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Full Access Localising Global Faiths The Heterodox Pantheon of the Sundarbans

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Localising Global Faiths The Heterodox Pantheon of the Sundarbans

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image of Asian Review of World Histories

This essay foregrounds the Sundarbans, a littoral zone in India that moves between sea and land and is a site of global history. It studies the pantheon of divinities, especially Bonbibi (Lady of the Forest), a mythical figure of Muslim origin. Such deities are worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims exclusively in the Sundarbans (Beautiful Forest) that straddles the state of West Bengal (India) and the nation-state of Bangladesh. It demonstrates how the Sundarbans, during Islamisation in the medieval era actively adapted, as against passively adopting, the global faith of Islam to suit the local needs of the people there. The result was a religious worldview that was not quite Islamic, but not quite Hindu either, but rather a singular faith system unique to the region and suited to meet the needs of the people there. And because this faith system does not conform to the orthodox beliefs of either Hinduism or Islam, it can accurately be described as a heterodox pantheon.


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