MAJULI ISLAND, THE CRADLE OF ASSAM’S CULTURE
One of India’s seven sister states, Assam, is located in the country’s northeast. It is a land covered in a sea of tea plantations and untamed forests with picturesque flora and fauna, valleys, old heritage, and gorgeous architecture. Assam is well known for its top-notch tea, oil and petroleum resources, Muga silk, and is one of the leading global biodiversity hotspots.
In the lap of the Brahmaputra creek of Assam lies Majuli – the largest river island in the world. Majuli means ‘the land between two parallel rivers’. It was formed in that stretch of the canal where the largest number of tributaries drain out and form their deltas on the Northern and Southern banks.
The island is endowed with extraordinary beauty and a rich legacy that will astound you upon your first encounter. It has two cities, Garamur and Kamalabari, as well as other tiny villages scattered all across the area. This stunning destination in Assam is a calm refuge, far from the bustle of the contemporary world. A primitive society within itself, with inhabitants who live in bamboo huts(no tall structures or other indications of the modern era), produce goods by hand(everything including ceramics, clothes, houses, and boats), and cook over an open fire. There is a wealth of unmatched natural beauty and a wide variety of species. The people here are quite kind, and welcoming, and are often seen adorning vibrant clothes along with artistically made masks. Since the sixteenth century, it has been regarded as Assam’s cultural hub. It is enveloped by lush greenery on all sides and devoid of any pollutants, making it an excellent candidate for inclusion in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Ferries run from the city of Jorhat to the island of Majuli.
Naghmar, the major village of Majuli Island, still hosts a multitude of bright and colorful festivities that draw visitors from all over the world. Raas Purnima is one such noteworthy event that locals lavishly commemorate. It is a delight to witness the dance performance based on the life of Lord Krishna. The Paal Naam and Bathow Puja are the two well-known events in Majuli. In the region, there are many Vaishnava Satras, all of which are centuries old. The four most notable of these sacred satras are Auniat, Dakhinpath, Garamur, and Kamlabari. Sankardeva, the founder of Assamese culture, established the Vaishnava Satras. The first Satra in Majuli was the illustrious and fortunate “Manikanchan Sanjog.” Thereafter, 65 satras grew, which spread the social and ethnic ideals. There are currently only 22 Satras in Majuli, with the remainder having been relocated to other, safer locations because of flooding and erosion.
These Satras are a rich trove of various dance forms, including Borgeet, Matiakhara, Jumora, Chali, Noyua, Nande Vringee, Sutradhar, Ozapali, Apsara, Satria Krishna, Dasavater, etc. Many visitors come to Majuli Island solely to participate in a pilgrimage and cultural trip.
Kamlabari Satra has a long history of being recognized as a major hub for literature, art, and culture. Even though it is fairly old, its stunning architecture is difficult to miss while visiting this site. The ceilings are embellished with eye-catching representations of several deities that masterfully capture Assamese heritage.
It has produced several great figures in the cultural sector. Many well-known performers from this Satra, including Muktiyar Bayan and the late Maniram Dutta, have made significant contributions in elevating the reputation of Assamese classical dance. Great artists and followers have received training from here, and they perform on both national and international stage.
Samaguri Satra (Mask Makers Village)
Mask makers that exhibit exceptional talent in their craft reside in this Satra. They can make them out of materials like dried cow dung and a bamboo base. The creation of masks is a traditional craft that has existed on the island of Majuli ever since its inception and is a skill that has been passed down from the ancestors. The artists in this location create masks of numerous Gods, deities, and other gothic idols and each of them represents a particular character. It can take a couple of weeks or several months to finish making them, depending on the design’s complexity. Majuli occasionally hosts various dramas known as BHAWNA. Notably, these masks are crucial props for these performances.
Take in the splendor of breathtaking sunset views
What could be more beautiful than witnessing Brahmaputra’s powerful arms open wide to embrace the golden beams of the sun? You will be left awestruck by the breathtaking sunset views. Watching people rowing boats back to their houses and being a part of the silent endeavour will be an unforgettable experience.
Try to board the last ferry from Kamlabari, which departs at 03.00 pm. You won’t be able to look away from the natural miracle taking place in the sky over this region of Northeast India.
Bamboo Hut Stay
You may have stayed in several opulent hotels but Majuli’s bamboo hut accommodations will undoubtedly take your breath away. Although there are numerous places to stay on the island, living in a bamboo hut is once-in-a-lifetime experience. Only in Kamlabari can you find these homes, making the long journey to the river island worthwhile. Here, you will also find people from all over the world, sitting on the bamboo floor around the fire, sipping hot tea.
Majuli’s communities are just as magnificent as the island itself. Take a tour of the village to discover its lovely tradition and culture. Join the residents and learn about life on the island from them. Get your hands on the special rice beer and hang out with your new acquaintances. Cycling around the verdant countryside is another way to experience the relaxed pace of life.
You can also discover the Mishing Village, one of the well-known settlements. It is undoubtedly a blessing to get to know the friendly Mishing people. This tribe is also known for their preparation of Gadu (which is a famous type of blanket and requires a lot of skill and knowledge to be made) and for weaving the most elegant Assamese tapestries. On the banks of the river, they typically reside in Chang ghars, dwellings with raised platforms.
These beautiful villages will help you deepen your connection with nature in Majuli. Go on long walks, witness locals engaged in the renowned traditional craft of hand weaving, learn fascinating things about culturally diverse aboriginals, try a few of their dancing steps, play their musical instruments, and breath in the whole aura while exploring these hamlets. Don’t leave any bit of it!
Rice beer and tribal cuisine
One thing you should not miss in Majuli is having a sip of rice beer and tribal cuisine. It beats your neighbourhood brewpub in quality. The indigenous Majuli “mishing tribe” creates this traditional speciality beverage. This unique beverage is made by fermenting rice all day to create home-brewed rice alcohol. This beer is offered as a welcome beverage to everyone who enters the homes of the mishing tribes.
Their delicious tribal meal includes fish that has been baked in banana leaves, sticky rice, chicken that has been cooked on a stick (chicken khorika), and Oo Tenga fruit with fish curry (Oo Tenga Mas Jul).
Tengapania is a magnificent example of Ahom architecture. The intricate statues and pointed pillars that surround the area are spellbinding. The temple is a well-known picnic destination and is close to the Brahmaputra River. On a sunny day, the green area is the ideal place to relax by the lake and take in the peace of the golden edifice. It eludes the kind of charm that Assamese culture possesses and is a must-see when in Majuli.
Explore the Shri Shri Dakhinpat Satra
Numerous devotees from all over the world visit the Shri Shri Dakhinpat Satra, which was constructed in the year 1584 by Vamsi Gopal. This location’s artistic architecture, which is evident in the murals and sculptures, is what makes it unique. For those seeking peace, the Satra is among the best locations to visit in India.
Roads in the countryside that lead to this Satra cast a spell. They are lined by lakes on either side, some of which have wooden boats and water hyacinths afloat. Additionally, the Mahaprabhu Jadavarai is fervently worshipped here and the Rasotsava celebration is also observed.
On Majuli Island, bird watching is unquestionably a must-do activity. Numerous locals live on the island, along with migratory birds that can be observed in the winter. Storks, pelicans, whistling teals, and Siberian cranes are among the feathered animals you might observe. The two types of birds that are most frequently spotted travelling along marshes and roadways are ducks and wild geese. If you are someone who loves bird watching then this is a great place to experience a magical tread that will take you on an exotic journey spotting these colorful creatures and sing to their tunes across the vast wilderness of Majuli.
Take a scenic boat cruise
Diving into the Brahmaputra, one of India’s most renowned rivers will provide you with a closer look and feel of the powerful river firsthand in Majuli. Hire a country boat and begin rowing on the river to do this. To make enduring memories, sing songs, take in the beautiful scenery, and travel along the canals and rivers. Bring the paddle to hand and begin rowing the boat yourself.
Majuli pulsates with dance, drama and songs. It lives in its people and their lives.