Who would have thought that the beautiful North Eastern state of India, Assam, once housed the world’s biggest river island! It even held a place in the ‘Guinness World Book of Records’ for the same. However, over the last 100 years this river island of Majuli has steadily slipped from the spot from being numero Uno in terms of its size as it has shrunk from its original size of over 1000 square kilometers to just about 500 square kilometers, a decrease in landmass by almost 50%. The Island is a cultural hub housing architecture, artworks and artifacts that are over a 100 years old. Since in about 25 years this beautiful island may be no more, on our trip to Assam we decided that this historic island is a must visit.
Here are the top 5 things you could do on a visit to the beautiful river island of Majuli:
1. Board a ferry
The only way to get to the river Island of Majuli is by hopping on to a ferry from Jorhat in mainland Assam. The ferry is more like a huge barge which can accommodate up to nine vehicles with a small seating area as most people occupy their own vehicles and enjoy the view of the Brahmaputra river on the outside. After an hour-long journey along the waters of the Brahmaputra, the ferry finally docks along the sandy shores of the Majuli Island.
2. Visit the Satras
Sixty-four Satras once adorn the beautiful Majuli Island. Satras are inhabited by Vaishnavs, these are Monks that follow the Neo Vaishnavite discipline which was established by Saint Srimanata Sankar Deva. Satras are ancient religious institutions with historical artwork, artifacts and architecture. You can see the historic Ram Tulsi bark at one of the monasteries which is claimed to have been brought from the Himalayas almost 200 years ago. The most significant aspect of your visit to the Satras should be absorbing the culture and tradition that circles the place. Most of the Monks there are specialized in various trades and crafts that are renowned across the world. At the Samaguri Satra we witnessed the world famous mask making process by the Monks and also got to try a few on. The entire process is so intriguing and captivating. The Monks have won many accolades and recognition for their masks over the years. As tourists you can support the locals by buying their masks or other handicrafts to take back home as a memory of this beautiful cultural hub.
3. Visit the Missing Village
The island of Majuli, before the Neo Vaishnavites was first inhabited by the Missing Tribe. The Mising Tribe is the largest tribe that inhabits this river island. The Missing Tribe is known for its agricultural practices and handicrafts made by the women of the villages. The inhabitants of the Missing Village are extremely welcoming and hospitable, they even let us play a game or two of marbles and invited us over for a traditional fermented rice drink. Furthermore, you can soak in the beautiful image of houses on stilts that aren’t only signature to the Missing Tribe but are present on the entire island.
4. A trip to the Village of Potters
Witness the making of pots using just their feet and hands in the Halmora Village, an age-old tradition followed by the 1200 inhabitants of this village. They use the soil from the banks of the river to carry on this tradition of kiln baking pots. Initially they lived along the banks of the river island, however, the rapid erosion of the Majuli Island by more than 50% from the 1900’s to now has forced them to relocate at least thrice. The inhabitants usually have two houses, the lower house is the one they use during the summers and winters, and the adjacent house on stilts is the one they occupy in the monsoons when the water level rises. The government has made attempts to slow the eradication of the Majuli island by placing 100s of sand bags along the shore. However, the locals believe that this effort won't last for long and a wall needs to be built. But the flipside to this story is very heartbreaking, the sandbags as well as future prospects of a wall have limited the availability of mud for the Village of Potters to make their pots forcing a reduced production and income. This is a big dilemma for the inhabitants as well as the government which is truly heartbreaking to witness.
5. Watch the Raas Leela live
Majuli Island is the only place in the state of Assam where the Raas Leela is celebrated by the devotees by performing plays. We got ourselves tickets to the play, each costing rupees 300, a fairly small price to pay for such enticing entertainment and colourful performances. It is the tradition of the Majuli people to pay their respect to Lord Krishna by enacting the Raas Leela, hence if you do happen to visit this beautiful island, do get yourselves seats to the captivating plays put up by the locals of Majuli.
Do check out our adventure on the Majuli Island ( https://youtu.be/09e7cfU5oOY ) on our YouTube Channel, 'The Crimson Canvas' and don't forget to like, share and subscribe.