SUNDERBANS, said to be derived from Sandari vane, a forest of sundali trees, is a name given to the islands and swamps in the delta of the Ganges, extending for 60 miles from the zamin dari and pargana lands in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south, lat. 21' 30' 40" and 22° 37' 30" N., and from the Hoogly in the west to the Megna in the east, long. 88° 4' 30" to 91° 14' E., it varying breadth of 30 to 81 miles, and along the coast in length 165 miles, about 7532 square miles.
' The northern portion of the delta is highly cultivated and densely populated, aupporting 420 souls upon each square mile, or nearly 5,000,000 inhabitants ; the southern portion is occupied by extensive swamps and denae forests, and their few inhabitants live in boats, not daring to venture on shore by day on account of the nutnerous tigers, nor by night 011 account of the miasma. The name has also been supposed to be derived from the Chandra Bhanda tribe, employed, like the Molangi, on the salt manu facture there ; others derive the term from the two Bengali words, Blinder, ban, great or beautiful forest. The breadth of the delta from Chittagong to the mouth of the lloogly is 260 miles, divided longitudinally by the afegna ; all to the west of that river presents a luxuriant vegetation, while to the east is a bare muddy expanse, with no trees or shrubs but what are planted. On the west coast the tides rise 12 or 13 feet ; on the east, to 40 or 80. On the west, the water is salt enough for mangroves to grow for 50 miles up the Hoogly ; on the east, the sea-coa.st is too fresh for that plant for 10 miles south of Chitta gong. On the west, 50 inches is the Cuttack fall of rain ; on the east, 90 to 120 at Noacolly and Chittagong, and 200 at Arakan. The east coast is annually visited by earthquakes, which are rare on the we,st. And lastly, the majority of the great trees and shrubs carried down from the Cuttack and Orissa forests, and deposited on the west coast of the delta, are not only different in species, but in natural order, from those that the Fenny and Chittagong rivers bring down from the jungle. Mariners when approaching the Sandheads, having no land iu sight, not even the height of a span, to guide them, are obliged to trust entirely to their lead to inform them of their position. The sand that is brought down by the rivers hardens under the surface of the sea into a concrete, nearly as hard as rock, to touch upon which is fatal to any craft ; but as the waters descending the rivers cut a subaqueous channel through the sand, the lead informs the pilot at once whether he is on a bank or in a channel. Government pilots are always cruising a few miles from the land, and at night continually burn blue lights to inform ships of their position. The segregation of the sand from the mud is as follows : The freshes or heavy rains bring down from up-country vast quantities of sand and earth, calculated at 40,000 million cnbic feet, or nearly one-third of a cubic mile, rendering the waters of all the rivers opaque or of a dull yellow colour. This body of water rushing along with great itnpettiosity reaches the sea; a contest immediately takes place between the rushing water and the advancing tides ; the effect is to cause the heavier sand to subside, which is done on either side of the river channels, forming the Sandheads ; the finer particles of mud arc driven back or up the rivers, and deposited upon the ten thousand islands over which the title sweeps ; but as all the finer particles of sand and mud are not thus thrust back upon the Sunderbans, some portion of the alluvium is cturied out to sea fur forty, fifty, and even for sixty miles, where, silently and slowly, it finds its way to the bottom of the ocean. forming the soft, impalpable purple mud so well known to pilots and others approach ing the shores of India. At sixty miles from the Sunderbans the ocean is free from any appearance Of natant impurities, but neverthelesg a certain anieuht of alluvial matter ig subsiding tb the bottom of the sea that number of miles frtiiii the land, which probably only commence sink at forty miles from the Sunderbans. On the' eastern flank of the delta, by the deposition of soil driven up by the waves, the mainland of Noacolly is gradually, extending seawards, and adVairced four miles Within 23 yeast. The,ele vation of the Surface of the land is Caused by the overwhelming tides and south-west hurricanee in May and October ; these extend thirty miles north and south of Chittagong, and carry the watera bf the 3legna and Fenny back oVer the land, iri a series of tremendous waves, that Wirer islandi of Many hundred acres, and roll three Mika ori to the mainland. On these Occhsions the average
earthy dePosit of silt, separated by tniCaceotta sand, is an eighth of an inch for every tide ; but in October 1848 these tides Covered Suhdeep Island, denOsited six inches On it's level surface, and filled ditches several feet deep. These deposits become baked by h tropical Sun, and resist to a considerable degree denudation by rain. Whether any Hither rise is caused by elevation froin below iS dolibtful ; there, is no direct evidence of it; thciugh slight earthquakes annual*. occur ; and even when they have not been felt, the writer of tanks has been seen to oscillate for three-quartet* of an hour Without intermission from no discernible cause. The Sunderbana have no defence whatever to Seaward, not even an inch in height ; every spring-tide and every cyclone-wave dashes its waters over the land, deluging the country with waves, the MI petuosity and volume of Which are unknown and nnheard of in Europe ; waves SO, 40, and even 60 feet in height have been known to rise in the Bay of Bengal, to dash over the highest trees, and to deluge the whole country for mils* inland. The Sunderbans in their present state are exposed to the fury of the tropical htirricaues that arise in the Bay of Bengal, and their unhealthiness iS great, from the stagnated air rind corrupting vegetable deposits ; but should this tract ever share in the upheaval that is now going. on near Arakan and on the Tenatserim coast, rich \mild be the soil that would be brought under the plough, and great Would be the populatidn that would be found to Occupy the seaboard tract. Until that time arrives, much of the Sunderban tract can but retnain waste, an inacceasible and an impregnable defence to India towards the sea. The remains of temples mosques, and other buildings, both Hindu and Muhannnadan, prbve that the country hall not only been once populated, but had Made great advancement in civilisation. Maharaja Pratadyta built a magnificent city in the Twenty-four Pargana pbrtion of the Sunderbans. He inade tributary all the princes of Bengal, Behar, Orisaa, and Aitsam, overthrew Akbar's army on the shores of the Mutlah, but fiballY ended his days a captive iu the Mogliul capital. Storm-waveS have devastated the Sunderbana, and the ravages of Mugs and PorttigueSe buc caneers 'completed the desolation. Mr. Long haS stated that, when in Paris in 1818, M. Jomard, of the Bibliotheque Royale, showed him a Portu guese map of India more than two centuries old, in Whieh the Sunderbana was marked off as cultivated land with five cities therein. This was confirmed by a map in De Barros' Da Asia, a standard Portuguese history of India.
The principal alma of the sea, proceeding from west to east, are the Hoogly, Sattar mukhii Jamira, Matla, Bangadimi, Guasuba, Raimangal, Malancha, Bara Panga, Marjata or Kaga, Bangara, Horinghata or Baleswari Bab nabad channel, and the Megna river.
Anion& the al:Unit-lea that overtake the Siinderbans are great inundations caused by eyclones or hurricanes. About 1584, the tract lying between the Horinghata and the Ganges, known as the Backerganj or Burrisal diStrict, Was swept by an inundation, succeeded immedi ately afterwarda by an incursion of Portupiese and Mug pirates. In June 1622 this same tract was again inundated, 10,000 inhabitants perishing, and many houses and property destroyed. In 1787 happened a great Calcutta storni. In 1736 A.D. the river Megna rage six feet above its usual level at Lukhipur. In A.D. 1833 Saugor Island was submerged.10 feet • the whole of the pdpulation, between 3000 and 4'000 souls, together .‘ with some of the European superintendents, perished ; at Kedgeree, a building 18 feet high was completely submerged. The Duke of' York East Indianian was thrown high and dry in the rice-fields near Fultah in the HoOgly ; in a.n. 1848 the island of Sundeep was submerged ; and in 1876 a storm - wave overivhelmed a great portion of the delta, and destroyed about 25,000 Sbuls.—Calcuita .flevietv, No. p. 24, March 1859 • Ilooker'§ JouK—See Cyclone.