Banabibir Zahurnama

Banabibir Zahurnama a long poetic narrative recounting the supernatural powers of an imaginary woman Pir of the sundArbans. It was composed by the puthi writer Mohammad Khan. Banabibi, an imaginary Muslim woman pir, is the Muslim face of the Hindu deity Banadurga or Banadevi. Till the recent past, people used to worship such imaginary supernatural deities to protect themselves from diseases and wild animals. They used to give their gifts and sweets to please them. The tradition has still not died out. Banabibi is the protector of Sunderban maulyas or honey collectors who offer food and sweets to Banabibi before entering the forest to collect honey and wax. This, they believe, wards off beasts of prey, ghosts and other evil spirits. The arabic word zahur means an act of power or supernatural power; the persian word namah means books or papers. Mohammad Khan's poem is thus a narrative of Banabibi's supernatural acts. The first part of the poem describes Banabibi's birth, her journey from Makkah to the south of Bengal and of the spread of her influence there. Part two, called Dhonai-duhkher Pala, speaks of the introduction of her worship and the establishment of her supremacy in the south. This is an imaginary tale, composed in the style of mangalkavya. It has been Islamised by adding references to Allah, the Prophet muhammad (Sm), Makkah, and holy men and women. The poem was very popular at the time of its composition. [Wakil Ahmed]