Situated on the banks of the river Brahmaputra in the Jorhat district of Assam, Majuli is the largest fresh water river island in the world. The island with its wide blue sky, sparkling waters of the mighty Brahmaputra and the beautiful landscapes induces a mesmerizing picture. Known for its rare bio-diversity, it is home to thousands of rare migratory birds like the Pelican, Siberian Crane, Greater Adjutant etc.
Often referred to as the ‘Cultural Capital of Assam’, Majuli has a rich heritage and is the nucleus of the Vaishnav culture propagated by SrimantaShankardev, a renowned social reformer of the 16th century, who started the Neo-Vashnavite movement in Assam.
SrimantaShankardev, the Father of Assamese culture, constituted a number of monasteries which are popularly known as ‘Satras’. The Satras consist of a spacious prayer hall facing a simple shrine enclosed by dormitories and bathing tanks for monks. There were around 65 Satras in Majuli at the time of their establishment, but now only 22 Satras are present.Satras are not just monasteries, but centres of traditional performing arts.These Satras propagate the ethnic and socio-cultural and religious ideals of Vaishnavite Saint SrimantaShankardev and Madhavdev. Apart from the Satras and the natural beauty, Majuli also boasts of its unique handmade products like masks and pottery and weaving of intricate fabrics.
Known for its cultural celebration, Majuli attracts a lot of tourists from across the globe during its festivals. The famous ‘Raas Purnima’, which is celebrated in the Hindu month of Kartik exhibits a dance performance revolving around Lord Sri Krishna’s life and the ‘Majuli festival’ which hosts special events where several cultural troupes from all over Assam come and perform, sees a lot of footfalls. Some tourists also come for the ‘PaalNaam’ which happens at the end of Autumn and the Bathow Puja where Lord Shiva is worshipped.
Out of the 22 Satras in this island, KamalabariSatra, AuniatiSatra, DakhinpatSatra,GaramurhSatra, BengenatiSatra and ShamaguriSatra are worth mentioning.
A centre for Art, Culture, Literature and Classical studies, KamalabariSatra was founded by Bedulapadma Ata. The finest boats seen on the island are made in this Satra. Its branch Uttar KamalabariSatra takes pride in the performance of the Satria Art in several states of India and around the world.
Known for the ‘PaalNaam’ and ‘Apsara Dances’, the AuniatiSatra was founded by NiranjanPathakdeva. Another significant feature of this Satra is its extensive assortment of ancient Assamese artefacts, utensils, jewellery and handicrafts.
DakhinpatSatra was founded by Banamalidev, a promoter of Raasleela, which is presently observed as one of the main festivals of Assam. Thousands of devotees visit this Satra every year during Rasotsava.
GaramurhSatra was founded by Lakshmikantadeva. During the end of autumn, the traditional Raasleela is portrayed with joy and grandeur. Preservation of ancient weapons called ‘Bortop’ (cannons) can be seen here.
BenganatiSatra was founded by Muraridev, the grandson of Shankarvev’s stepmother. This Satra is a storehouse of antiques which has cultural importance and an advance centre of performing art. The royal robes, made of gold, of the Ahom king SwargadeoGodadhar Sinha, along with the royal gold umbrella are preserved here and put on display.
The ShamaguriSatra is known for its mask-making tradition worldwide. These masks are a must-buy from Majuli.
Guest accommodation for tourists are offered by the Satras where devotees and visitors take part in the worship of Lord Vishnu and Krishna and also enjoy traditional ‘bhaona’ performances. Around 100 different varieties of rice are grown in Majuli. ‘Kumol Saul’, a rare type of rice is enjoyed by the locals as a breakfast cereal. Also well-known is ‘Bora Saul’, a sticky brown rice which is used to make Pitha (traditional Assamese cake).
An ideal destination for tourists and nature lovers, Majuli stands out with its natural beauty and the pristine innocence of the native people residing there. The hospitality is remarkable.
Jorhat town is around 20kms away from the island. Jorhat is well connected by air, rail and bus. From Guwahati it is a 7hour bus ride to Jorhat. From Jorhat one has to reach the NeematiGhat which is 14kms away from Jorhat. There are 2 ferry rides to Majuli every day. One at 10am and the other at 3pm.