Do you know William Blake’s poem about the tiger? It starts with
“Tyger, Tyger burning bright
In the forests of the night..”
If you haven’t read it yet, ask your teachers or parents to get you a copy of the poem and perhaps even explain it to you. It really describes the awe-inspiring, scary, beautiful tiger very well.
Of course, you must remember that were never any tigers in the United Kingdom, where Blake lived. Blake’s poem is based on his own imagination and what he had learnt from other writings and legends about the tiger.
But for the agricultural people of the Sundarbans and of South East Asia, the tiger is a real presence, a fear to be faced and out-witted every day; a natural force that they are both in competition with and admire.
The tribals of Sundarbans, for instance, live off the same land that the tiger claims as its own. On a daily basis, therefore, they have to contend with the tiger’s awe-inspiring presence.
To ward off the tiger, they worship a god named “ Dakhin Rai” (king of the South).
Near the ‘Garia’ railway station in Calcutta there is a line called ‘Lakhikantapur’ along which you come across a station called ‘Dhabdhabi’. A Dakhin Rai temple is located a few miles away from this station. People who live in that area worship this god. This area earlier used to be a part of Sunderbans.
Dakhin Rai, the God of Tigers, the King of the South, has been born of the imaginations of the people living in the Sunderban areas who believe that he is the only God who can protect them from the beasts of the jungle.
His domain stretches from Kakdweep in the south to the Bhagirathi river in the north and from Ghatal in the west to the Bakla district in the east. He is worshipped on every Amavashya (new moon) night and the local people offer animal sacrifices for the puja. The tribals try to please Dakhin Rai with night-long dancing and singing.
Dakhin Rai’s idol is very tall and the god has big, twirling whiskers. He has a narrow waist and his body has a shiny, yellowish lustre crisscrossed with dark stripes. He has a 20ft long tail with white foam or saliva dripping from either sides of the mouth. The tribal people of the Sunderbans make it a point to pray to Dakhin Rai before they set out for their work in the jungle.