Amidst the mighty Brahmaputra river in the scenic beauty of Assam in Northeast India, lies the world’s largest river island. Majuli, also known as the cultural capital of Assam, once covered more than 1200 square km of area. But, due to continuous flooding and erosion, it has now come down to 352 square km.
Experts predict that the island might completely disappear in the next 20 years. Every monsoon, Brahmaputra takes off large chunks of the island destroying many homes. But despite that, the tribals always with a smile on their face, welcome tourists to their enchanting Majuli.
The Cultural Capital of Assam
Rich in art, culture and heritage, this island is the hub of the Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture who preach and practice the teachings of saint-scholar Srimanta Sankardev.
Vaishnavas or the followers of Vishnu have been building satras or monasteries for centuries and Majuli currently is home to 22 satras.
1. Kamalabari Satra
A must visit in Majuli, Kamalabari satra is regarded as the centre of Assamese art, culture and classical studies. The world famous Sattriya dance also originated from here and later went on to become a classical dance form.
Kamalabari has been divided into two parts- Uttar Kamalabari and Natun Kamalabari satra.
The Uttar Kamalabari is famous for its Ankia Naat drama performed in Brajavali and Saali Nitya which is a form of dance.
In Natun Kamalabari, one can delve into historical artefacts and experience the 215 original works of Srimanta Sankardev that have been preserved.
2. Natun Samaguri Satra
Located 12 km from Kamalabari, this is another unmissable jewel of wonderful Majuli.
Samaguri is renowned for the practice of the art of mask making. It was founded in 1663 and has been carrying out the practice for generations. Masks are made from canes, hair, cloth, mud and more.
The head artist, Mr. Hemchandra Goswami conducts workshops to explain the process which attracts people from around the world.
Used for theatrical performances, these masks are mainly used during the Raasleela festival and their splendour is brought to life by the talented artists wearing them.
3. Auniati Satra
Auniati satra worships Govinda which is another name for Lord Krishna. Founded by Niranjan Pathakdeva, this place is known for its Apsara and Paalnam dance which can be enjoyed by visitors.
A trip to Auniati would be incomplete without experiencing its eclectic assortment of traditional Assamese utensils, jewellery and other artefacts.
4. Rasleela Festival
Every year in the third week of November, Majuli celebrates its biggest festival. Being the hub of Vaishnavites, Rasleela- Lord Krishna’s life- is celebrated with great pomp and show. The locals along with Satra monks participate in the three-day long festival to enact Krishna’s life via songs, chants, folk dances, puppet shows and plays.
During the Rasleela festival, different tribes of Majuli- Assamese, Mising and others come together to celebrate their culture.
The Bhaona dramas where performers wear masks while enacting is an experience you won’t find elsewhere. Dancers performing Shattriya dance can also be witnessed at the different satras.
5. Ali Aye Ligang
Starting from the second Wednesday of February till the next 5 days, Ali Aye Ligang is a spring festival to celebrate agriculture and harvest. Hosted mainly by the Mising tribe, this festival marks the onset of sowing seeds.
People sing and dance to tunes of folk songs and exchange delicacies. During this festival, Misings indulge in dishes called Poro Apong or Nogin Apong (homemade Rice wine) with various dishes, especially made with pork meat. ‘Purang Apin’ (packed boiled rice) is cooked in water with special leaves..
6. Rengam Showroom
Started by a Israeli backpacker who came to visit Majuli, Rengam Women Weavers Cooperative now consists of over 140 women from 15 villages. It was started with the aim to empower Mising women to generate their own income by using their cultural traditions.
The talented female weavers of Rengam create exquisite and beautiful high quality handwoven products which can be bought from their showroom.
Way to Majuli Island
In order to reach Majuli, you will first have to reach Jorhat which is just 20 km from Majuli.. From Jorhat you will have to travel on a ferry. Ferries are available everyday at the Neemati Ghat ferry dock.
Jorhat has its own airport with daily flights from Kolkata and Shillong. Jorhat also has a railway station which is connected to Assam’s biggest city of Guwahati which is well linked to the major cities of India.
Where Can You Stay
1. La Maison de Ananda
La Maison de Ananda which translates to ‘The House of Happiness’, was built by a French couple who fell in love with Majuli. It is one of the most popular places to stay in and explore Majuli.
Designed in a traditional Mising way of “chang ghar,” the House of Happiness is built with bamboo with 3 single beds in each room and attached restrooms. Its filled with all the basic amenities and as a bonus, you can enjoy the scenic surroundings from a big balcony in the house.
You should definitely try the amazing food cooked by the current Mising caretakers and their homemade rice beer.
2. Okegiga Homes
Unique in its setting, Okekiga is the only place in Majuli to accommodate three different styles of guest house- Bamboo cottage, Swiss cottage and camping tents.
Filled with gardens and farms, you can put in a helping hand for the locals with their farming while you’re there. You can also enjoy the serene river Lohit which flows in the front of this lovely accommodation.
3. Ygdrasill Cottage
Built with locally sourced bamboo, Ygdrasill cottage is one of its kind. Surrounded by paddy fields and a pond, it gives you a slice of a simple, leisure rural lifestyle.
In Other Words
When city life gets too much and you’re badly craving for an escape, we couldn’t suggest a better place than Majuli. Filled with paddy fields, rivers, bamboo guest houses of hay covered roofs, you don’t want to miss out on this enchanting island.