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Ripped Apart by the Jungle’s Fury: Heartbreaking Stories of Women Left Behind as ‘Tiger Widows’ in the Sundarbans

“Tigers roam the Sundarbans wild,

Their hunger never reconciled,

Dozens fall with deadly might,

Haunting darkness cloaks the night.”

The Sundarbans’ jungle has claimed countless lives, leaving behind shattered families and a trail of tears. Among the most heart-wrenching stories are those of the women left behind as ‘Tiger Widows’, struggling to raise their children alone and carry on in the face of unimaginable loss.

Tiger of Sundarban

The Sundarbans, a vast mangrove forest spanning across India and Bangladesh, is home to one of the world’s largest populations of Bengal tigers. While these majestic creatures are revered by many as symbols of power and strength, they have also become a significant threat to the livelihoods of local villagers who live on the fringes of this wilderness, these tigers represent a constant and deadly threat. According to World Wide Fund for Nature-India study, between 1985 and 2008, 789 people were attacked by the Bengal tigers, killing 666 humans in the Sundarbans, and leaving behind a trail of tragedy and sorrow.

In particular, these attacks have created a group of women who are referred to as “Tiger Widows,” women who have lost their husbands to tiger attacks and are now left to struggle on their own. This article will explore the tragic consequences of these fatal attacks on the local communities in the Sundarbans and shed light on the struggles faced by the women who have become known as Tiger Widows.

“I will never forget the feeling of staring into the eyes of a tiger, knowing that my life was in its paws. It left me with a profound respect for the majesty of these creatures, but also a deep fear that never quite leaves me.” 

– Rabi Sardar, a survivor of a tiger attack in the Sundarbans.

Rabi Sardar’s harrowing experience surviving a tiger attack in the Sundarbans is a testament to the dangers the local population faces daily. As a fisherman, he knows the forest well and has witnessed firsthand the increasing aggression of the tigers. While his survival is a remarkable feat, his experience has left him with a deep sense of fear and anxiety that haunts him to this day. His story serves as a reminder of the constant danger faced by those who call the Sundarbans home, and the urgent need for measures to protect the local population and the endangered tigers that inhabit the area.

Also Read: Silent Crisis: Exploring the Alarming Increase in Dropout Rates in Sundarban Schools

Surviving a Bengal Tiger: Fishermen’s Encounter in the Man-Eater’s Dominion

Fishermen of Sundarban

In the village of Gosaba, Satyanarayanpur, Rabi Sardar is a hardworking fisherman who, like many others in the area, struggles to make ends meet. Several weeks ago, Sardar with a team of nearby fishermen encountered the world-renowned man-eating Royal Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans. While one member was killed, the remaining individuals managed to survive and recount their experiences.

“It was a fine day, and we were a group of six set out to catch crabs and lobsters in a creek near the reserve forests. As usual, we anchored the boat on a bank. As we were preparing to catch the crabs, a tiger came out of the dense forest and jumped on Chinmoy. He dragged him back to the jungle. We used sticks and oars to chase the tiger. By the time, Chinmoy was heavily injured and took his last breath while we were returning back to the village,”

– recalled Rabi Sardar.

This harrowing account tells the story of a group of fishermen who were attacked by a Bengal tiger in the Sundarbans. The tiger, appearing out of nowhere, pounced on one of the men, Chinmoy, and dragged him deep into the jungle. The other men, armed with only sticks and oars, bravely gave chase, but it was too late. Chinmoy suffered fatal injuries and passed away before they could get him back to the village. This tragic incident is just one of many that illustrate the dangerous reality of living and working in the man-eating tiger territory of the Sundarbans.

“A Global Hotspot For Human-Tiger Conflict”: Sundarbans!

Human-Tiger Conflict

“The Sundarbans is a global hotspot for human-tiger conflict, a stark reminder of the delicate balance between human development and wildlife conservation. It is imperative that we work towards finding solutions that ensure the safety and livelihoods of both the local communities and the endangered tigers that call this region their home.” –

Dr. Abhijit Mitra, is a wildlife conservationist, and expert on the Sundarbans’ ecosystem.

Despite years of efforts by the government and authorities to minimize the ongoing conflict between humans and tigers, the number of fatalities continues to rise. Numerous measures have been proposed and implemented, ranging from practical to innovative, including setting up electric fences and creating alternative livelihood opportunities for the locals.

However, these initiatives have yet to be able to address the root cause of the problem. Human settlements and activities have encroached upon tiger habitats, leading to a loss of prey and an increased risk of tiger attacks. As a result, the conflict between humans and tigers remains a significant concern, and more effective solutions must be explored to ensure the safety of both humans and wildlife.

Man Vs Wild: A Glimpse into the Lives of those who Brave the Jungle for a Living

The Sundarbans’ core islands present an unparalleled challenge for its inhabitants, as access is only possible by boats and steamers. For the villagers, life is a constant struggle as they rely mainly on three types of work to make ends meet: agriculture, fishing, and honey collection. However, what may seem like a routine day-to-day activity for many, in reality, its a dangerous and life-threatening endeavor for the locals. 

Every time they venture out to sea to fish or step foot into the jungle to collect honey, they risk their lives. This challenging lifestyle is a harsh reality for the inhabitants of the Sundarbans, where the struggle for survival is an everyday battle. PayBito team on its mission to end hunger and help the villagers in Sunderban interviewed “Tiger Widows” to bring out their stories. 

Tiger widows of Sundarban

“Losing my husband to a tiger attack was the most traumatic experience of my life. My world shattered in an instant, leaving me to raise our children alone.” 

– Aparna Mondal, Tiger Widow in the Sundarbans.

Jeet went out to sea one day, excited to catch a big fish to bring back to their families. But when night fell and they hadn’t returned, fear set in. The next day, a search party found only torn fishing nets and scattered belongings on the shore. Jeet and his friends had become the latest victims of the tigers that roam the Sundarbans.

“My husband Jeet went fishing early morning and never returned. I am left with no money or help to raise two kids alone on this life-threatening island. My son is six years old, and my daughter is two years old. My husband was the only breadwinner of the family. Now, I carry my two year old to the paddy field where I work as a labour. And, sometimes, my son has to work too”

says Aparna.

His wife, Aparna, was devastated. She was left with two young children to raise alone and no means of income. She had no idea how she would provide for her family. Despite the danger, Aparna had to work in the fields to earn a meager living, carrying her two-year-old daughter with her every day. Sometimes, her six-year-old son would join her, sacrificing his childhood to help make ends meet.

Aparna is one of many women in the Sundarbans who have lost their husbands to tiger attacks. For them, the struggle is not just about the financial hardship but the emotional trauma of losing a loved one in such a brutal way. The loss of a husband takes away not only a companion but also a breadwinner, leaving them to fend for themselves and their children in a dangerous and uncertain world.

“Being a Tiger Widow is a label that nobody wants, but we wear it with pride knowing that we are survivors of one of the most brutal tragedies that can befall a family.” 

– Rekha Mondal, a Tiger Widow who has dedicated her life to raising awareness about the dangers of the Sundarbans’ jungle.

Rekha Mondal and her husband had been married for just three years when tragedy struck. He was a honey collector, venturing into the dense core of the Sundarbans jungle to collect the precious honey that would provide their livelihood. It was dangerous work, but they had no other choice.

One day, he didn’t return. Rekha waited anxiously, hoping that he was just delayed, but as the hours turned into days, her fears grew. A search party eventually found his torn blood drenched clothes and equipment, but there was no sign of him. It was clear that a tiger had taken him.

Rekha was left shattered and alone with no means of support after her husband’s tragic death. Despite the difficulties, she was determined to raise her children on her own. Years later, tragedy struck again when her son also fell victim to a tiger attack, leaving behind a devastated wife and young daughter named Rini. The events left Rekha and her family with deep emotional scars that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Tiger widow with granddaughter

But she refused to let the tragedy break her. Instead, with the help of a social worker she decided to use her experience to help others in similar situations. She became an advocate for the families of tiger attack victims, raising awareness about the dangers of the jungle and pushing for better safety measures.

“The struggle of Tiger Widows is not just about financial hardships, but also the emotional trauma of losing a loved one in such a violent way. We must do more to support and empower these brave women.”

– a social worker in the Sundarbans

For Rekha, being a Tiger Widow was not just a label, but a symbol of strength and resilience. She turned her pain into a force for good, determined to ensure that others would not suffer the same fate as her husband.

PayBito’s “Brokering World Hunger Away” Campaign Takes Action to Empower Tiger Widows in the Sundarbans

PayBito’s brokering world hunger away campaign recently visited the core areas of the Sundarbans and witnessed firsthand the difficult circumstances faced by Tiger Widows. After speaking with the women and hearing their stories, the campaign has decided to take action to support them.

As part of their efforts, PayBito is working with local NGOs and community leaders to provide vocational training to Tiger Widows, helping them learn new skills that can lead to sustainable income generation. The training programs include tailoring, handicrafts, and other skills that can be practiced from home or in small groups.

The goal of this initiative is to provide the women with the tools and resources they need to support themselves and their families, reducing their dependency on external aid and empowering them to become self-sufficient. PayBito recognizes that this is just one step in a larger effort to address the issues faced by Tiger Widows, but they hope that it will make a meaningful impact on the lives of those they are able to reach.

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