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Build concrete shorelines at the spot

Manpura II

Fishermen and bank stabilisation

Today we went on a tour de force and large delegation across the island, Hassan and Parvez arrived from Dhaka by boat and there was an initial exploration of the places where the river is gnawing away at the island. First we were in the north of the island, where the Ganges has virtually reduced the size of the island by a third. On the current Google Maps, land was still visible on the smart phones in front of us, but in fact it had been washed away. Now they are trying to save the remaining part with cement blocks. The cement blocks are made right by the river and stacked on the river edge.

Stabilisation of an Embankment on Manpura, Photo: Claudius Günther, 2019

The people who live in this area told us about their loss of land. Many of them have moved more than once to escape the water. Moving 6 or 11 times was not uncommon. For the fishermen of the island, who usually go for Hilsha fish (Bangladesh’s national fish, so to speak), it is now closed season. It is forbidden to catch this fish for 3 months (Feb. – May). While the fishermen wait, they work on construction sites on the island, help on the agricultural land for daily wages or move to other towns for three months to find work here. When the fishing season starts, they go out on the boats with new nets, boats and everything needed to fish. The buyers, who later buy the fish from the fishermen at low prices, give a larger amount of money to renew the working equipment. The biggest investment is the fishing net, which costs up to 80,000 Thaka, about 900 Euros. If they do not damage this net, the profit they make in a season is considerable. But if they get stuck somewhere on the bottom, and there are many reasons for this, and they tear the net, it costs around 800 thaka, about 9 euros, to replace a 30 cm hole. If this happens more often, they lose a whole part of their profit to the river. They buy the nets for fishing from a company based in Comilla. No cheaper nets come from abroad. The place where we had our conversation with the fishermen is the Temporary Fish Market, which is a bustling place of trade during the season. Not only local traders come here, but also buyers from abroad.

The Hindu temple of Manpura has been taken down and rebuilt 5 times. Now, however, the odyssey seems to be over for the time being. Picture: Claudius Günther, 2019

The Krishna Temple of Manpura
After the fish market, we walked through a village landscape to a Hindu temple, the most important temple on the island.
most important temple on the island. It is a Krishna temple. The Brahmin on duty here was very eloquent and shared a lot about local Hinduism with us. The temple has had to move four times in the last few years, each time being built in a different area to escape the water. Besides Krishna, Shiva and Narayon (Brahma, Shiva avatar, Ram) are also worshipped here. The Chakrabothi are the leaders of the temple here. Our Brahmin here was in charge of the temple since the age of 9 (the title remains in the family). Chakrabothi are a Brahmin sub-caste who perform Pandit duties. Monosha1 puja is done once a year. the women statue for Monosha is made of clay and bamboo. The story of Monosha has to do with Shiva and her late deification. Shoni puja, is a ritual to offer sacrifices to Satan and make him lenient.
In addition, Hindu fishermen also commemorate Muslim saints like Gadji Kalu. Thus, fishermen give offerings from the boat into the river water. The professional group of fishermen (Boiral) are Hindus and Muslims.

The Mazar of Miadschumir Shah
Miashumir Shah lived as a dervish on the island of Manpura and is revered by Hindus (more) and Muslims. The first person to arrive on the island should stop at his shrine and eat some of the sand that lies at his saint’s grave. Miajumir Shah actually has no grave because no one knows where he died. However, he is revered on the island for his miracles (healing). He protects the people on the island through the earth. That is why believers go to his srine and collect a piece of earth to themselves.

Shrine of Mirjumir Shah, protector of the island, Photo: Claudius Günther, 2019

The bridge over the river
There are quite a number of dams on the island that are heaped up in anticipation of the river taking over the land. Some of them are built as concrete dams of considerable height, while others are only 5 metres high and are planted with trees.

These trees are usually preferred because of their many-branched roots. The dam we drove along was several kilometres long and stopped abruptly at a river which, like all the rivers here, is temporarily tidal. On the other side was a small abandoned tea shop that only opens when the fishermen go out or arrive. Something like a fishing clubhouse. The bridge over the river is still being built.

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