Majuli is the largest fresh Water River Island in the world, situated in the upper reaches of the river Brahmaputra in Assam. This landmass, with a population of 1.6 lakhs, majority being tribals, has a very rich heritage and has been the abode of Assamese Vaishshnavite culture with tremendous potential for spiritual and Eco-tourism.
The island is a bio-diversity hotspot and has rich ecology with rare breeds of flora and fauna and is a part of a major migratory path for Ducks, Geese and other birds. The population contains a wide mix of tribal peoples, including Ahoms and Kacharis; the Mishing and Deori tribes inhabit upper Majuli.
The Assamese Vaishnavite Culture
Kamalabari SattraFerries run twice a day from Nimatighat, 12-km north of Jorhat, to Manjuli, which holds several important Vaishnavite Sattras. At present there are 22 Sattras on the island, including those in Garamur and Kamalabari, but one has to travel a few kilometers out of Kamalabari to see some of the more interesting ones.
Although the origins of Majuli may be uncertain, it is known for a fact that the social reformer Sankardeva visited the island in the early 16th century. Sankardeva propagated a form of Vaishnavism that was simpler and more accessible than the ritualistic Hinduism of the time. His approach was rooted in faith and prayer, and stressed on the cultural aspects of life and living.
This cultural ambience is not confined to the Sattras alone. Every village on the island, whether tribal or non-tribal, has assimilated these traditions in daily life. The central point of all villages is the Namghar; where periodically people gather to sing and pray. It is more than a temple - it is a sacred meeting place as well. Usually after the sessions of reading and discussion, the members of the Sattras will get together to decide on matters concerning the village community.
A Harmonised Living
In this day of individualism, Majuli still preserves the notion of the community. Among the majority Mishing community, who migrated from the Arunachal hills many generations ago, traditions of Ali-Ay-Ligang (the harvest festival) are still preserved, and different ethnicity have been living together peacefully for generations.
Lord Krishna is supposed to have played with his consorts in Majuli. Though thousands of miles distant from Vrindavan, one only has to visit Majuli during the "Ras Purnima" in the month of `Kartik` (October - November) to experience the zest of this festival. Virtually every single person on the island is involved in the three-day long `Ras` festival, depicting the life of Krishna.
Every village hosts its own, and people who have left Majuli return to take part in the song, dance, theatre and merriment. And the language that is used is `Brajavali`, the tongue of Mathura. In Majuli, the days of Bhawna and Ras are special, with thousands turning out all over the island to watch and experience.