Majuli Travel Guide
Majuli is situated at a distance of 20 km from Jorhat. One can take the bus or a hired taxi to the Nimati Steamer Ghat from where ferry services ply. The distance takes over three hours to cover, with three bus rides and two ferry rides.
On the north-bank is the river Subansiri and on the South bank, the mighty Brahmaputra has excided the island from the main land. Lakhimpur town is to the North and Golaghat is to its southwest. The town of Sibsagar is on the southeast and Jorhat is to the south. On the extreme east is Dibrugarh District.
* The Vaishnava Satras founded by Sankardeva
* The colourful culture of the tribes
* Migratory birds
* The Ali-ai-ligang festival in Feb-March
* Pottery making
* Mask making
* Paal Namm festival in the end of winter
* The sunset in winter
* Exotic homespun masks crafts
Majuli has been the cultural capital and the cradle of Assamese civilization for the past five hundred years. The satras set up preserve antiques like weapons, utensils, jewellery and other items of cultural significance. Pottery is made in Majuli from beaten clay and burnt in driftwood fired kilns in the same mode carried out by the peoples of the ancient Harrappan Civilisation. Sociologists have stressed on the preservation of these unique peoples, whose culture and dance forms are untouched by modernism. The handloom work of these tribes is also internationally famous.
Virtually every single person on the island is involved in the three-day long 'raas' festival, depicting the life of Krishna. People from hundreds of kilometres away come to celebrate this festival including a number of expatriate members of community. The satras have also honed certain art and craft traditions, which can now be found only here. In Natun Samuguri satra for example, one can still find the craft of mask-making; and in the Kamalabari satra the finest boats are made.
Majuli or Majoli is a fluvial island in the Brahmaputra river, in the Indian state of Assam. Majuli is the largest riverine island in the world and the largest freshwater island in South Asia. Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada is actually the largest freshwater island in the world. Majuli had a total area of 1,250 square kilometers (482.6 sq mi), but now having lost significantly to erosion it has an area of only 650 square kilometers (251.0 sq mi).
The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri river in the north. The island is about 200 kilometres east from the state's largest city — Guwahati, and is accessible by ferries from the town of Jorhat. The island was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit. Majoli is also the abode of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture.
Originally, the island was a narrow and long piece of land called Majoli (land in the middle of two parallel rivers) that had Brahmaputra flowing in the north and the Burhidihing flowing in the south, till they met at Lakhu. Frequent earthquakes in the period 1661–1696 set the stage for a catastrophic flood in 1750 that continued for 15 days, which is mentioned in historical texts and reflected in folklore. As a result of this flood, the Brahmaputra split into two anabranches—one flowing along the original channel and the other flowing along the Burhidihing channel and the Majuli island was formed. The Burhidihing's point of confluence moved 190 km east and the southern channel which was the Burhidihing became the Burhi Xuti. The northern channel, which was previously the Brahmaputra, became the Luit Xuti. In due course, the flow in the Luit Xuti decreased, and it came to be known as the Kherkutia Xuti; and the Burhi Xuti expanded via erosion to become the main Brahmaputra river (Sarma 2004, p. 6).
Krishna, the popular Hindu god is supposed to have played here with his friends. While this is speculative, the locals speak in the Assamese language. However, what is certain is Majuli has been the cultural capital of Assamese civilisation since the 16th century; based on written records describing the visit of Sankardeva — a 16th century social reformer. Sankardeva, a pioneer of the medieval-age neo-vaishnavite movement, preached a monotheist form of Hinduism called as Vaishnavism and established monasteries and hermitages known as satras on the islet.
The island soon became the leading centre of Vaishavinism with the establishment of these satras. After the arrival of the British, the island was under the rule of the British till India gained independence in 1947.
The dwellers of Majuli are mostly tribal folk. These tribal are the mishing tribes from Arunachal Pradesh and who immigrated here centuries ago. Apart from them, the inhabitants are also from the Deori and Sonowal Kacharis tribes. Languages spoken here are Assamese, Mishing, Deori. The island has one hundred and forty four villages with a population of 150,000 and a density of 300 individuals per square km. The only mode of association to the outside world is through a ferry service which operates only twice a day. Despite inherent drawbacks faced, modernism has touched this island, with the setting up of medical centres and educational institutions. Housing too, has segued from traditional bamboo and mud construction to ones made of concrete.
The heart of all villages is the Namghar, where villagers episodically gather to sing and pray. It is the most important public place for the villagers. After the rituals are complete, villagers decide here on issues concerning the village such as auctioning of fishing rights, what to do with money raised, and other topics of significance to the community as a whole.
The inhabitants are expert navigators by boat; their expertise is most visible during the monsoon season when they navigate the turbulent waters of the Brahmaputra. Extremism is also a major concern in the region. The insurgent group the ULFA, has a wide network in the region and was responsible for the execution of social worker Sanjoy Ghosh who was trying to uplift the people of the island.