Majuli, the largest riverine island in the world, nestles in the lap of the mightly Brahmaputra. This is where the 15th century saint and fountain head of Assamese culture, Sankardeva, first established a Satra or neo-Vaishnavite monastery, born of insightful discourses with his spiritual successor, Madhabdeva.
Today, Majuli is the principal seat of Vaishnavite faith, culture and practice. The treasures of Majuli are undoubtedly it’s Satras. The first satra, set up by Sankardeva and Madhabdeva together, was Manikanchan Sanjog, now no longer extant. Subsequently, Majuli became the centre of 65 such satras. Of these, there are only 22 satras in Majuli today. Due to the annual floods and constant land erosion, Majuli today is only a fraction of it’s original size of 1256 sq. km. recorded by the Imperial Gazetteer in 1901. This has forced many of the sattras to shift base to Assam’s mainland.
Among those the main existing satras are Dakhinpat Satra, Garamurh Satra, Auniati Satra, Kamalabari Satra, Benegenaati Satra and Samaguri Satra. These Satras are the treasure houses of the songs and dances initiated by Shri. Sankardeva like “Bongeet” Matiakhara, Jumora dance, Chali dance, Motua dance, Nande Bringee, Sutradhar, Ozapali, Apsara dance, Satria Krishna dance, Dasavater dance etc.
A walk through the villages of Majuli is highly recommended to savour the warmth of the people and their simple way of life. Most of them practice agriculture, fishing and weaving. Boat making, dairy farming, pottery and handloom are other important activities. The weaving is particularly exquisite, making use of a whole range of colours in cotton and silk, found only in Assam.
Majuli also has an exciting bio diversity. If the visit is timed right, one can spot many rare and endangered avifauna species here, such as the greater adjutant stork, pelican and the whistling teal.
Majuli produces about a hundred different varieties of rice without a drop of pesticides or artificial fertilisers. Among the fascinating arrays gorwn is Komal Saul, a unique kind of rice that becomes edible after just 15 minutes of soaking in warm water. It is usually eaten as a breakfast cereal. Bao Dhan grows under water and is harvested after ten months while Bora Saul is a sticky brown rice, used to make pitha, the traditional Assamese rice cake.
The government has initiated the efforts to save Majuli from the ravages of the Brahmaputra. Majuli is currently in the Tentative list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites and is undergoing scrunity as a World Cultural Heritage Site.