If you are a tourist who’s on the look out to tick off his checklist, this post on Majuli Island will not make sense to you. But if you are a traveler who explores the place like a local, takes in all what nature has to offer and doesn’t have a listing to tick off, you will not return disappointed from Majuli island. Instead you might just leave a piece of your heart there like I did.
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see. – Anonymous
On my trip to Assam wih Koyeli travels, I gave myself a respite from planning the trip and creating a checklist. I was ready to savor the unfolding experiences which Assam was to treat me with. After the Kaziranga odyssey, It was time to indulge in the serenity and tranquility of Majuli island.
Where is Majuli island?
Situated by the banks of Brahmaputra river in Assam, Majuli island is recognized as the world’s biggest river island. It is a tranquil piece of land located in the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti is joined by the Subansiri River in the north. The ever eroding area of Majuli island has reduced from 1500sqkm to an area of only around 320sqkm in a few decades. Nevertheless, it is a home to a number of villages and tribes.
How to Reach Majuli Island?
An early morning 120km drive from Kaziranga towards Majuli island was through lush tea gardens of Upper Assam, then cruising along the urban city of Jorhat and finally reaching Nimati ghat. During a quick break for tea at one of the shacks by the ghat, I admired the expansive view of Brahmaputra. The cars, bikes, livestock were put on the ferry and then we made our way to the ferry balancing ourselves on the wooden planks laid for the passage.
Also read – Kaziranga National Park- An Assam jungle odyssey
The ferry ride to Majuli island
I figured out a place with relatively better view of the landscape to settle myself in the ground floor of the ferry. As the ferry started, the obstructed view was not enough to satiate my desire to embrace the vast view of the mighty river. I immediately picked my camera and climbed to the first floor of the ferry. The view was spectacular with the Brahmaputra reaching to the horizon, the often occurring small islands, the locals doing their every day thing outside their little bamboo huts. An hour passed in a jiffy and we reached the northern ghat to be welcomed by the expanse of sand and a few shacks at the shore.
Time in Majuli island
As I hopped on the car on the other side, I was in for an extremely bumpy ride with no roads at all for quite some distance. After a while, I stopped noticing the kind of track I was on, as the rawness and purity of the place had taken over me. The houses with thatched roofs, the lush green farms by the roadside, the water cranes in the water bodies and locals giving us an estranged look made me forget the bumps and I was there to embrace it all.
Satras of Majuli island
The origin of Satra dates to around 500 years back when a Hindu saint Sri Sankardev settled in Majuli and preached a form of Neo Vaishnavism. From then, Satras are an integral part of society in Majuli Island. The ever evolving culture is propogated by these Satras. These are termed as Hindu monasteries for the convenience of explaining to the outsiders and also because of their resemblance to the monasteries we know. Every satra also has a head monk, kids (Young monks) stay in the satra and are given the spiritual learning along with the general education.
There are more than 30 satras in Majuli but of those, 4 are major ones. Our first stop in Majuli was Dakhin Pat Satra which was built in 1654. We stepped inside the naam ghar (the main temple) to find the calmness and spirituality in the air. The Satra has huts for Sarsaadhikari (head monk) and the young boys according to the structural hierarchy of the satra. The satra is all lush green with a well kept pond too.
The next Satra due for a visit was Samaguri Satra. It was no ordinary satra but a mask satra, that’s how I remember it fondly. Mr. Goswami, known as Mask maker, who is also a descendant of Sri Sankardev introduced us to the art of mask making. He was also excited about the masks going to represent Assam in this year’s republic day parade. I was amazed at the stunning masks used in bhaona performances to enact Ramayana at various platforms. The room filled with masks from characters of Ramyana and other epics are sure to give one goosebumps. An eclectic atmosphere indeed!
The other Satra I saw during my trip to Majuli island is called Kamalabari Satra where we witnessed a Krishna bhakti bhaona performance by young monks of the Satra. The dance had a typical style called Maati Akhora which gets easily noticed. It means that all the dance postures are connected to the ground (maati). The mesmerizing dance by the kids was neither for any visitors nor for any idols, instead, it was to pray in front of bhagwad gita which is kept in the main temple. The beautifully done moves and postures were a delight to watch.
A slice of local life in Majuli Island
The guide from Koyeli travels pulled over the car to show us a peculiar Mishing tribe house. He had a bunch of stories to tell about this tribe. The guide told that they originally are called Hillmiri tribe and most of them have migrated from Arunachal Pradesh. He was still explaining that their houses are on a little height to avoid trouble during floods, when a co traveller knocked on a door and started a conversation with a local lady in a white crisp saree. We joined her too. She did let us in to take a glimpse of her house. The house was made majorly of bamboo and wood. The livestock was kept in the area below the house. The simplicity of the lady surely touched my heart and her uninhibited attitude surely talks of the tribe’s faith in humanity.
Bird watching & Canoe Ride in Majuli Island
One must plan to take life slow in places like Majuli where nature is bountiful and so serene. That’s what few of us did in the morning hours in Majuli. A relaxed walk by the river Luit led to quite a bird watching session. Few known and few unknown birds were spotted in the magical hours of morning.
While morning hours were spent bird watching, evenings are mystical if spent on a canoe. A makeshift canoe caught our attention when the home stay owner took that out for a ride. That cold winter evening I think was best relished by indulging in ride over the river.
Where to Stay in Majuli Island
There’s nothing like staying in a place which resembles local’s abode and is quite comfortable and convenient too. We stayed in Dekasang Resort run by a local. The beautifully decorated property is not only by the river side but also gives a feel of living in a Mishing Tribe house. The owner has given special attention to make the resort use organic vegetables and also to make the resort eco friendly. His passion for Majuli was quite evident in his words. The artifacts, the wooden furniture, the bamboo usage in the resort makes it for one of the sought after stay options in Majuli island. It is staying amidst the most untouched form of nature with birds chirping in the balcony, the vast green cover in the backyard and the calm river boundarying the front of the resort. The home cooked meals were no match in the entire Majuli island.
The drive back to the ghat was bumpy but the expanse of white sand seen till the horizon made me a satiated soul. The ghats from where ferries ply keep changing depending on the river’s flow. We reached the ghat and boarded the ferry to our way back. But this time, I knew sitting inside the ferry was not for me. So, I climbed again to indulge myself in the most exotic views of the landscape. Ofcourse, my camera didnt rest till the time I reached the other ghat from where we drove back to Guwahati.
Majuli island is not a place, but an immersive offbeat experience which needs to cherished and lived. The slow and laid back life in this island helps one to take a break from the ever running technologically advanced lives and be one with the purest nature at the island.
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