Getting to know Majuli – India’s Largest River Island
MAJULI ISLAND, ASSAM
Located on the river Brahmaputra, Majuli is the largest fresh water island in India. 200 km from Guwahati it is accessible by ferries from Jorhat city which is about 20 km away. With a population of approximately 1.6 lacs Majuli is rich in ethnic culture and traditions.
The tribes of Majuli coexist in harmony with each other while still managing to retain their individuality. An idyllic world, its distinctiveness can be attributed to the simplicity of its people and the serenity and calmness that it offers.
Majuli through the Satras:
A great place to become acquainted with the neo-Vaishnavite philosophy, initiated by the revered Saint Sankardeva and his disciple Mahadabdeva, Majuli is the hub of Assamese culture and tradition. Famous for its Satras or monasteries, set up by Sankardeva, Majuli is visited by tourists from all over the world. Unlike conventional monasteries, the Satras here are more cultural than religious .The Satras have over the centuries honed certain crafts and art forms which are specific to Majuli. The Natun Samuguri Satra, for example, still continues to make beautiful masks depicting various mythological characters for stage performances. The Kamalabari Satra on the other hand is known for making the finest boats.
Majuli has the largest concentration of monasteries than anywhere else in the state. Of the original 65 Satras about 22 have stood the test of time and nature. Absorb the history of the place through the Satras, the more famous ones being the Daksinpath, Garamur and the Auniati satras. These Satras were centres where devotion was propagated through song, dance and drama. The traditional Sattriya Nritya has been nurtured here from the 15th century onwards with the intention of preaching the neo-vaishnavite philosophy.
Festivals on the Island
At Majuli several vibrant and colourful festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm, chief among them being the Raas festival. Almost everyone in the village is involved in the three-day long Raas festival. Performed during Janamasthami, the dance performances in Raas festival are a tribute to Lord Krishna. People come from all over to celebrate this festival. Equally popular is the Majuli festival, a carnival where various cultural groups from all over Assam and other states gather together to participate.
Nature and Majuli
The main occupation of the people of Majuli is agriculture. Paddy being the chief crop here, there are around 100 varieties of rice grown in the island. Pottery, boat making and weaving are some of the other activities the villagers are engaged in. Intricate weaving using a variety of vibrant colours and exquisite patterns is something that is special to Majuli and its people.
Home to thousands of migratory birds like the Pelican, the Siberian crane and the Greater Adjutant Stork, Majuli is a bird lovers paradise. Its varied bio-diversity and vast collection of flora and fauna add to the charm that is so typical of Majuli.
Jadav Payeng, Majuli’s In House Conservationist
Continuous soil erosion has reduced the total area of Majuli to less than half its original size. The untiring efforts of one person phase contributed significantly to stem this erosion to a considerable extent. Jadav Peyang, a resident of Majuli, has taken up the mammoth task of planting innumerable trees all over Majuli since 1979. Created tree by tree, today the forest covers a total area of 550 hectares and is called the Molai forest .Peyang’s effort have been recognised for fortifying the island and providing a habitat to several endangered animals.
Majuli is a must visit for those who wish to give a miss to regular touristy destinations and enjoy the soul stirring spirituality, peace and tranquillity that is so integral to this beautiful island. Take your time to appreciate the pace of life on Majuli Island as it encourages you to slow down, connect with yourself and remind you of who you really are.