The biggest river island in the world, Majuli is located on the river Brahmaputra in Assam. The island had a total area of 1,250 square kilometres (483 sq mi) at the beginning of the 20th century, but due to soil erosion, it has now reduced to 875 sq km. Majuli is a lush green environment-friendly, pristine and pollution free fresh water island in the river Brahmaputra, just 20 km from the Jorhat city. Among one of the most surreal places in India, Majuli is also a strong contender for a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Mostly inhabited by Tribals, the culture of Majuli is unique and quite interesting and is one of the key reasons why people love this place so much. It is also called the cultural capital of Assam since the 16th century. A good learning center for neo-Vaishnavite philosophy, there are 22 Vaishnava Satras in the city, the first of which was established in the 15th century by Sankaradeva, the father of Assamese culture. These attract a lot of tourists.
The festivals celebrated here are all joyous and vibrant. The main festival in the town of Majuli is called Raas and witnessing it is an interesting spectacle. It is celebrated for five days starting from second Wednesday of February till the next week. Local dishes like purang apin (rice wrapped in special leaves), apong (rice beer) and dishes made of pork, fish and chickens are served. Traditional Mising dance Gumrag Soman is performed in every village worshiping the almighty Donyi polo (mother sun and father moon) asking for good year of harvest. Other festivals like Christmas is celebrated by the majority Christians of Mising tribe in upper Majuli where Jengraimukh village is the epicentre of Christians.
Sunsets at Majuli are pink and ethereal – they make one forget that civilisation can even exist in ways less beautiful. Majuli homes are made from bamboo and placed on concrete pillars at a height of about two feet from the ground in order to prevent water from seeping in during the monsoon floods. Majuli is carpeted in verdant mats of rice fields interspersed with tiny ponds bursting with hyacinth blossoms. Quiet roads, shaded by bamboo trees, wind their way through the flat terrain. Locals can be seen cycling on these narrow paths, groceries hanging from their handlebars, while fishermen can be seen lugging nets, bulging with fish, from the ponds.
Several species of endemic and migratory birds call Majuli their home. Large flocks of birds can be seen swooping down to catch their riverine dinner, fluttering amidst grazing cattle and frolicking in the water. Several birdwatching tours to beels (lakes in Assamese) are conducted by friendly locals for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers.
Places to see in Majuli are as below :
Dakhinpat Satra :
Dakhinpat Satra is one of the major attractions of Majuli, which was the chief satra patronised by the Ahom King. Established in 1584, the Dakhinpat Xatra is a well-known centre on the Majuli island. This was the chief satra patronized by the Ahom Ruler, the Dakhinpat Satra is renowned for the famous Raasleela that is enacted here with great pomp and glory. During this festival, Raasleela is performed on full moon night. Apart from Rasotsava, Dakhinpat Satra or Fakua Puja is another chief festival celebrated with great fervour.
Garamur Satra :
This “Satra” was founded by Lakshmikantadeva. During the end of autumn. Gamur is among the many holy seats. This Vaishnavite spot preserves ancient artifacts and articles, the most prominent among these being Bortop. Raasleela is performed with great zeal and enthusiasm during autumn. Garmur can easily be reached from Jorhat Nimatighat, Dhokuakhana and Luit-Khabolughat.
Samaguri Satra :
Shamaguri is a centre of art, cultural and classical studies. The satra is famous for the mask making in India. It is one of the most important pilgrimage centers of Majuli. Travellers can reach Shamaguri Satra from Jorhat and Luit-Khabolughat of Lakhimpur.
Auniati Satra :
Auniati sastra founded by Niranjan Pathakdeva, the satra is famous for the “Paalnaam” and Apsara Dances and also its extensive assortment of ancient Assamese artefacts, utensils, jewellery and handicrafts. It also has a hundred and twenty five disciples and over seven hundred thousand followers worldwide. This site is well connected with Dhokuakhana from Dhemaji and Luit-Khabolughat from North Lakhimpur and can be reached easily.
Kamalabari Satra :
The Kamalabari Satra, founded by Bedulapadma Ata, this religious site too houses significant articles related to art, culture, literature and classical studies. One of its branches, the Uttar Kamalabari Satra plays a major role in the spread of Satriya art both in India and abroad.
Bengenaati Satra :
Muraridev was the founder of this Satra. It is a reliquary of antiques of cultural importance and an advance centre of performing art. The highlight of the centre is the royal robe which belongs to the Ahom King, Swargadeo Gadadhar Singha. Along with gold robes, an umbrella of gold is also preserved at the site.
The islanders use small wooden boats for fishing or to reach the mainland. They also use makeshift rafts (cleverly made by joining wooden planks together to fish as well as ferry people, bicycles, cargo and more from Majuli on one side of the river to Lakhimpura village on the other.
Best time to visit :
Majuli is to coincide with the rasleela, at the time of the full moon in the month of Kartik (November); but Majuli can be visited all year around. During the rainy season much of the island is flooded, but ironically, it makes getting around (by boat) easier.
How to reach :
The township of Jorhat, situated in Upper Assam, presents the nearest air link from Majuli. It is well connected with all the major cities of Assam as well as India. Jorhat is well connected by air, with daily flights from Guwahati, and four flights a week from Calcutta. From Guwahati, Jorhat is a seven-hour bus ride. Buses leave early mornings and at nights.
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