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Art. VIII.-THE MUGGUR OF THE SUNDARBANS,
(Crocodilus tiporcatus). Vernac, Kumir. THIS great saurian is found in all streams of the
Sundarbans and is of the blunt-nosed type which usually inhabit salt water regions. The fish-eating crocodile, having a long nose, remains in fresh water rivers and is not seen in the Sundarbans. People, both in speaking and writing, often call the crocodile an alligator. The fact is that the alligator is a wholly different animal which is found in America.
During the months of October to March, when the weather is cool, crocodiles of all sizes may be seen lying on the banks of streams at time of ebb tide obtaining heat from the sun. Some of them face the sun with their mouths wide open to allow the heat to enter within them.
These monsters breed between the months of March and May. The female lays her eggs on land. She is careful in selecting the spot and softens it with tender twigs, leaves and grass. The nest is generally near the bank of a narrow stream along which she may pass in and out without difficulty. The number of eggs which a crocodile usually lays is between 40 and 80. In colour the eggs are a creamy white. In size they are about as large as the egg of an ostrich.
. As soon as laid, the female crocodile covers the eggs with grass and leaves to keep them warm and she also remains near them to supply warmth from her body and to watch them. She jealously guards the eggs while hatching and also the young crocodiles until they are able to slip into the water and look after themselves.
During this period she is extremely ferocious and refuses to permit anything to approach her. The male crocodile, being in the habit of eating the eggs and also the young, is kept off by the female and never attempts to get anywhere near them while she is present. The eggs are hatched in about a month from the time they are laid and the young ones appear during the months of April to June. In a few hours they are able to slip into the water where they obtain a living for themselves and probably never again have anything to do with
A full grown crocodile is usually about 12 to 16 feet in length ; but not infrequently they attain a length of 18 to 20 feet.
Crocodiles are useful as scavengers of the streams they inhabit. Their principal food consists of fish, of which they have an abundant supply at all times; but they also feed on carcases of animals and on corpses, and the desire to obtain animal food makes the large and bolder ones a menace to domestic animals and man, They often become extremely daring and at such times are a terror wherever seen. They are dangerous in the Pussur river of the Khulna district and in most of the streams of the Backergunge portion of the Sundarbans. In the vicinity of Saugor Island they become active during the month of January, when the Gunga-Saugor bathing festival takes place, and cause alarm and anxiety among the thousands of women and other pilgrims who visit the island for the purpose of bathing at the place where the Hooghly river (a branch of the Ganges which is sacred to Hindus) falls into the Bay of Bengal, and where the mythical saint Kapil Muni is said to have dwelt.
In some parts of the Sundarbans these monsters have been known to follow boats for long distances and even to attack and overturn small ones with a stroke of their tail for the purpose of securing the occupants, They have been seen floating on the surface of the water and coming within a few feet of a steamer when going at full speed. When moving about, the only portions of the reptile visible are the top of the head and a part of the dorsal crest, the body being submerged to the level of the eyes. The crocodile stares with a disgusting leer along the surface of the water.
Not infrequently the larger and bolder ones go ashore, under cover of darkness, and seize and carry off domestic animals, either goats or young cattle. Their plan of securing prey is ingenious. They lie in wait near bathing-places for anything that might approach the edge of the water, dog, cattle, goat or man. They creep up towards the object and as soon as within striking distance, a single stroke of the tail is sufficient to knock over a quiet unsuspecting creature. The monster then seizes the fallen animal between its jaws and carries it off below the water where it is kept in some convenient hole or under a fallen tree. As a meal is wanted the crocodile tears up the animal, piece by piece, tosses each bit into the air and hops it into its mouth. Having no tongue and being unable to chew, the pieces are simply gulped down one after the other
Crocodiles have been known to attack the inmates of homesteads. The thatched huts of the natives, with their frail walls and doors, are not sufficient security against these powerful reptiles. When captured and cut open it is not unusal to find in a crocodile's stomach ornaments worn by women and children as well as other indigestible articles, the only evidence of the death of the victims it had devoured.
When one of these monsters becomes bolder and more dangerous than usual, the people arrange to destroy it and they track the enemy with the greatest pertinacity in their boats. As soon as seen they harpoon it and have a buoy tied with a long cord to the
a end of each harpoon. The boys prevent the crocodile from escaping. The creature is forced to come up and is soon harpooned a second and third time and so on until it is exhausted. When half killed, they drag it ashore and despatch it with loud execrations,
In appearance the crocodile is clumsy and sluggish ; but at sight of approaching danger or when attacking prey it moves with great rapidity and strikes with tremendous force.
That this reptile learns to obey the call of man is well known. Those kept in sacred tanks are trained to do so. Faqirs pretend to possess power over these creatures and to keep them under control. Woodcutters and others who frequent the jungles, declare that the power of a faqir is so great that he can make crocodiles rise or sink in water by his charms and that by his exorcisms their mouths are closed and they are prevented from doing any harm.
Tame crocodiles may be seen in the tank that faces the tomb of Khan Jahan and also in the one near the Satgambuz (mosque of seventy domes) in the Bagherhat sub-division of the Khulna district. When called by the faqirs of the place, they respond and are invariably rewarded by being fed with a fowl or a kid. These have not been known to attack man.
Some superstitious beliefs about the curative properties of parts of the crocodile prevailing among the people of the Sundarbans may be mentioned here.
The two upper and two lower large teeth of the reptile are said to be efficacious in thecure of rheumatism and gout and are worn tied to a string at the waist of the person who may be suffering from these diseases.
A large tooth mounted in gold and worn at the waist is believed to be a remedy for hysteria.
The fat of a crocodile is said to be a cure for rheumatism. A bit of the tail, dried and kept within a maduli (a small drumshaped ornament), which is worn by the natives on the left arm, is alleged to be a remedy
The flesh dried and cut in small pieces and given to cattle within plantains, is supposed to be a cure for cattle disease.
Crocodiles' eggs are said to be a cure for asthma. An egg is stuffed with rock salt and buried in the ground near the oven on which the daily meals are cooked. is taken out after 15 days and the contents given to the patient ; each dose should not be more than can be held on the top of a two-anna piece.
A superstition prevails that, if the most perfect tooth of a large crocodile be put in a stream or tank, it has the power of making the water so clear that anything at the bottom may be distinctly seen.
The fear of injury from these monsters is so great, the loss caused by them so enormous, and the consequent affliction so intense that the following sayings have become current among the people :
“ The tiger of the jungle, the crocodile of the river, and the dishonest zamindar and gantidar of the land- who can combat them?"
“The tiger for his cunning, the crocodile for his adroitness, and the zamindar and gantidar for their craftiness in oppression-fear them equally.”