Nestled in the midst of the mighty Brahmaputra river, Majuli is the largest river island on the World. Majuli Island derives a unique identity as being a place a holy place of the Neo Vaishnavism cult of Assam which makes it a true treasure house of culture and religion. The peaceful environment of this river island is what draws visitors from across the World to Majuli. The village atmosphere with the touch of modernity (has all amenities like electricity, mobile and data coverage), the cool winds of the rivers Brahmaputra and Luit, the warm and welcoming people, delicious traditional cuisine of the Mishings of Majuli, the religious Monasteries, the island to you for cycling, swimming in the natural lakes, traditional fishing on the open rivers, trekking across the huge forest reserves, visiting the Samaguri Satra to learn about the traditional art of mask making, visit the Salmora Village to try your hands at traditional pottery making, indulging in endless conversations in broken English with the local villagers over a kitchen fire, sipping a huge bowl of the traditional rice wine called ‘Apong’, exploring the many Satras, roaming around the island on a rented motorbike, indulging in the festivities of various festivals especially the Raas Leela, putting your camera to work by clicking pictures of amazing birds that visit Majuli every year from far across the World relaxing on the sands of the river bank to catch a glimpse of the sunset, gazing at the stars on a clear sky free of smog, reading a book, relaxing on a hammock, sipping a cup of black tea or coffee, camping in the open air tents, trying your hand at traditional handloom weaving, trying your hand at cooking with freshly picked vegetables and herbs from an organic garden, playing on huge open green fields with you children and loved ones, walking along the river banks til the time you board your ferry to bid Goodbye to Majuli, you will never feel how you ran out of your time in Majuli Island and were still left with many things to do and explore. For example you missed to see the Sattriya Nritya performance at the Uttar Kamalabari Satra – which is among one of the eight classical dance performances of India or you missed to step foot in the Museum of the Auniati Satra that has on display many ancient relics of the Ahom Kingdom of Assam – the fear of the Mighty Mughals. Majuli Island has lots to offer its visitors from the perspective of ecotourism environment where visitors blend themselves to the natural environment of the place and for a few days become a part of that place and indulge in activities that form a part of the day to day activities of the people of Majuli Island. There are numerous instances when visitors come to Majuli Island only for a day but end up spending more than a month just to feel the calmness, vast natural beauty, the warmth of the simple people here at Majuli. A land of fun, frolic, festivals, peace, calm, natural environment, simple people, rich cultural heritage – We welcome you to the Largest River Island in the World – welcome to Majuli Island!
A unique and the largest river Island in the World, Majuli is home to the Mishing tribes of Assam who are simple people living in a world that is away from a fast paced city life. The quaint surroundings filled with green paddy fields and yellow mustard gardens, that create a clean and green village environment where the Mishing people dwell in harmony engaging in agricultural activities, fishing and weaving of exquisite handlooms of cotton and silk. These simple and unmaterialistic life is what makes Majuli island a sought after destination to visitors from across the World who come here to spend their time away from the city and relax in a peaceful environment that is filled with the chirping of thousands of migratory birds who come to Majuli every year from across the globe and fill Majuli’s water bodies with varied colors. These water bodies along with the Rivers Brahmaputra and Luit bring in a lot of fertile soil to the Island of Majuli which makes this island a unique land for agricultural farming. People have realized this and have engaged in agricultural activities at Majuli from very early times until today. While you travel across Majuli, you will see vast areas of land covered with rice plantations that provide food to the people of Majuli. This is why ‘Majuli’ the name contains two meaningful words, where ‘Ma’ stands for ‘Laxmi’ (the goddess of property) and ‘Juli’ meaning ‘Granary’.
Heritage of the Satriya Art of Majuli Island ~
Nestled in the heart of the mighty Brahmaputra river of Assam, Majuli Island is a hub of the Neovaishnavite cult of Assam along with the spiritual environment that attracts thousands of visitors every year to this riverine island. The people of Majuli are ever welcoming and they welcome their visitors with open arms and open up their place of stay so the visitors could experience their ancient culture and heritage. Majuli island is a treasure house of culture and the Satras of the island are a hub of cultural heritage that practice the ‘Sattriya’ dance art form, along with the practice of the Satriya culture, production, practice and training of handicrafts and cottage industry is also coming to notice at Majuli Island. In making of gosa, mortar, Sarai, singhasana, fan of cane,boat making, mat from googol and coloring them with hengul-haital are expressive of the creative thinking of the artists of Majuli Island.
Art of Mask Making: One of the most renowned art form of Majuli island that has earned accolades at both the National and International level, the art of traditional mask making was introduced by Kushabanta Dev Goswami of the Samaguri Satra in Majuli island and his legacy has been continued and kept alive by Dr. Hemchandra Goswami of the same Satra. This art of mask making has won the prestigious Sangeet Natyak Academy Award and also the Republic day tableau award for Assam as well. Dr. Hemchandra Goswami of the Samaguri Satra in Majuli has introduced a completely new dimension to this art by introducing handmade masks that allow the movement of eyes and face to be depicted here. The famous art of mask making has been practiced here at the Samaguri Satra since centuries and a visit to this Satra is a must for any tourist visiting Majuli island. These traditional masks are mostly used in ‘Bhaona’ performances that are staged across the various Satras of Majuli island. These Bhaonas are a way to disperse the teachings of the holy guru Srimanta Shankardeva who introduced the Neovaishnavite cult here in Majuli. These masks are used in traditional dance and drama and are an integral part of the Sattriya culture of Majuli. These masks help to provide a physical form to the various mythological characters and this allows people to easily relate to their various mythological heroes. The masks of Majuli Island are used for religious and traditional dramas. The materials used to make traditional masks of Majuli are bamboo, cane, paper, cloth, clay and rock color. The artisans of Majuli create three types of masks viz. Mukha (face masks), Lotokai Mukha (use to move lips, eyes, hands, etc.) and Bormukha (large sized masks). In a process evolving the making of these masks of Majuli, at first the frame of the mask is prepared with bamboo and strings and later cloth and color is used to provide final touches. Masks of Majuli are used to depict various mythical characters of the Hindu mythology like Garuda, Jatayu, Bakasura, Naag, Hanuman, Putana, Ravana and many more deities and demons.
Fan made of Cane: Another very important art form practiced at teh Auniati Satra and Kamalabari Satra in Majuli island is the art of fan making with hands. These fans are adorned by people from across the World. These hand made fans are made with cane that are allowed to dry in the sun and later small sticks are weaved by the help of bamboo and later these fans are colored with natural colors. In addition these fans are also decorated with items like cloth and other materials.
As to how this beautiful riverine island was named as Majuli there are different theories attached with it. As per an ancient folklore, King Arimatta had committed a grave sin by unfortunately killing his own father and for expiating from this sin he had committed he tried offering various glittering objects like gold and diamonds to the Brahmaputra river that denied to accept these gifts and broke into two parts leaving an island in between that came to be known as Majuli. Another legend states that Sage Parashuram after assassinating his mother traveled the entire world to wash away his sin and finally resorted to meditating to Lord Krishna in the want of salvation when two streams fell down beside his knees and the middle part came to be known as Majuli . It is also said that, when Lord Krishna eloped with Rukmini from Kundilnagar to Dwarka, Lord Krishna took rest at Majuli Island. Rukmini was enchanted by the serene atmosphere of Majuli and commented that Majuli was the Dwarka of her imagination. Lord Krishna went on to say that Majuli would be known as Dwarka in the future. Perhaps earlier Majuli was well known as ‘Majali’. This was changed to Majuli in the later eighteenth century.
In addition to being the largest river island in the World, Majuli is a center of the Sattriya culture, a place filled with abundance of biodiversity and is also a summit of various cultures. Although the Mishing people form a dominant part of the population of Majuli many other indigenous tribes of Assam also inhabit Majuli island. The abundance of crops and fisheries all across the island ensure the greenery is always around but nature also adds woes to this gifted island during the monsoon season when Majuli island gets prone to floods and the local people loose their cattle, buffaloes, goats, etc. People living along the river banks need to migrate to highlands to save their life as well. The houses of Majuli are built on elevated platforms called as Chang. These elevated platforms are made using bamboo and in the modern times with iron rods and mortar as well that allows the house to remain above water and people can brave the floods by staying inside their houses even during monsoon time. The autumn season comes calling with an array of hope and Majuli becomes green again with a wonderful surrounding as the crops start growing again in the sappy mud soil. After the crops are sown the agricultural fields become green again and people of Majuli island light the ‘Akash Bontis’ and seek the blessings of Goddess Laxmi – the Goddess Of prosperity. Come November the entire Majuli island gears up to celebrate the festival of Raas Leela and Paalnaam.
Majuli Island has over the years gained prominence in the World’s tourism map with the presence of the various Neo Vaishnavite monasteries called as the ‘Satras’ that act as a storehouse of culture and play a very important role in the literary and socio cultural development of Majuli island. The idea behind these religious institutions of Majuli island was introduced by teh holy saint reformer of Assam Srimanta Shankardeva who preached that all human beings are equal not based on caste system as it was very prevalent at the medieval times across India. With the preaching of Neo Vaishnavism the holy guru setup these Satras in Majuli island in the 16th century to preach his discourses. These Satras of Majuli Island today have become important religious centers visited by people from across the World and are important centers for promoting music, art, literature, dance, drama along with certain artistic activities like manufacturing traditional masks, musical instruments and various other items used in religious and cultural performances of Majuli Island as well as Assam. Majuli Island today has become a nerve center of the Satriya culture of Assam. The four combining forces of Brahma, Nika, Purusha and Kaal Sanhati of Mahapurusha dharma have spread the religious advice among the people here. The various Satras of Majuli Island of ancient and present are: Auniati Satra, Elengi Satra, Dwa Satra, Kalakata Satra, Kamalabari Satra, Notun Kamalabari Satra, Karatipar Satra, Kakarikota Satra, Katanipur Satra, Kamjania Satra, Kaupatia Satra, Kharkatia Satra, Gajala Satra, Garamur Satra, Garamur Saru Satra, Samaguri (purani) Satra, Notun Samaguri Satra, Chupaha Satra, Douka Chapori Satra, Dakhinpat Satra, Dihing Satra, Narasingha Satra, Nachanipar Satra, Nepali Satra, Adi Elengi Satra, Phulbari Satra, Batargayan Satra, Bor Sakopara Satra, Baghargaya Satra, Bihimpur Satra, Bengenaati Satra, Belosidhia Satra, Bhagati Satra, Matiyabaria Satra, Madarguri Satra, Letugram Satra, Saru Sakopara Satra, Sualkuchi Satra, etc.
Sample Itinerary for your visit to Majuli Island and Kaziranga ~
Day 1 ~ Guwahati -Kaziranga National Park
Arrive at Guwahati Airport. On arrival you will be received by our representative at the airport offering a warm welcome in traditional Assamese style. From the Airport drive to the Kaziranga National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kaziranga National Park is home to the highest population of the Endangered One Horned Rhinoceros species anywhere in the world. On arrival check into a Comfortable hotel/Guest House. Visit the nearby tea gardens in the late afternoon. Evening Bonfire and cultural performances (Bihu Dance of Assam) on request.
Night Stay: Comfortable Hotel at the Kaziranga National Park
Meals Included: NA
Day 2 ~ Kaziranga National Park – Kaziranga Orchid Park ~ Majuli Island
Early morning go for a Jeep Safari into the Kaziranga National Park from the Bagodi/Kohora Safari Range at the National Park. Later in the day visit the Kaziranga Orchid and Biodiversity Park at Kaziranga National Park. The Kaziranga Orchid and Biodiversity Park is the Largest Orchid Park in India. Later depart to Majuli Island. Night halt at a comfortable Resort/Homestay at Majuli Island.
Night Stay: Resort/Homestay at Majuli Island
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3 ~ Majuli Island
Today we visit the Satras (Assamese Monasteries) and learn about the Neo Vaisnavite culture that is practiced by the monks. Explore the mysteries of the Largest River Island in the World also learn about the lost art of Mask making. Spend time spotting rare birds and fishing. Spend the later part of the day at Majuli with the local people learning about their traditional arts & crafts. Spend time Bird-watching and at leisure. Evening, spend time savoring the locally brewed ‘Apong’ and other servings prepared by the locally by the Bon fire.
Night Stay: Resort/Homestay at Majuli Island
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 4 ~ Majuli Island and Shillong
Morning depart to Shillong in Meghalaya. Arrive at Shillong for night halt.
Night Stay: Comfortable Hotel/Guest House at Shillong
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 5 ~ Shillong and Cherrapunji
Embark on your journey to Cherrapunji. On the way sight the Shillong Peak and Elephant Falls. Arrive at Cherrapunji. At Cherrapunji, visit the Nohkalikai Falls, the Seven Sister Falls and the Mawsmai Caves.
Night Stay: Comfortable Resort/Homestay at Cherrapunji
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6 ~ Cherrapunji ~ Double Decker Living Root Bridge (Trek Duration ~ 5 – 6 HRS)
Today after breakfast, we kick start the Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trek at Nongriat Village near Cherrapunji. Duration of trek is 5 – 6 hours. We will also spot the Single Decker Living Root Bridge at Cherrapunji.
Highlights of the Trek:
- These Living Root Bridges (Single and Double Decker) are one of the most unique bridges in the world. They are grown by the ancient tribes of the Khasi hills
- Pools with pristine blue water
- Cross Hanging Bridge
- Picturesque Views
After the trek we’ll have lunch at the Local Market at Cherrapunji and savor Ethnic Khasi Delicacies and Cuisine. Later visit the Dainthlen Falls and wrap up for the day.
Night Stay: Comfortable Resort/Homestay at Cherrapunji
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 7 ~ Dawki, Mawlynnong and Guwahati
Today, our day starts in the beautiful village of Mawlynnong, settled in the wilderness of East Khasi Hills. Morning after breakfast we visit the Living Root Bridge of Mawlynnong. You spend the day simply enjoying the nature of the place. Get your camera out, make notes of the place, read a book or anything that unwinds you.
For Sightseeing, Options are:
- Asia’s cleanest village
- Balancing Rock
- Village Walks
Dawki Sight Seeing Options:
- Clear Water Boating on the Umngot River at Dawki
- Bangaldesh Border at Tamabil
Later depart to Guwahati
Night Stay: Comfortable Hotel at Guwahati
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 8 ~ Kamakhya Temple and Guwahati Airport
Morning visit the Holy Maa Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati. The Kamakhya Temple ‘the Temple of the Bleeding Goddess’ is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas and is one of the holiest temple shrines in India. Offer your worship to Goddess Kamakhya. After breakfast, depart to Guwahati Airport for your onward destination. Tour Ends. Bid Adieu!
Meals Included: Breakfast
To plan your visit to Majuli Island in Assam please fill the form below ~
Hotels, Resorts and Homestays at Majuli Island ~
If a visitor to Assam wants to experience the true essence of the State, the best way is to travel and stay with the locals of Assam. The vast and green countryside of Awesome Assam makes one feel with the bounties of Mother nature and also experience the true beauty of Assam which lies in the unadulterated landscapes of the countryside of the State. A perfect getaway in Assam is the Island of Majuli ~ the Largest river Island in the World and the Abode of the Neo Vaishnavite cult of Assam. Majuli Island is the perfect destination in Assam to experience Ecotourism at its best! Inhabited by the Mishing tribes of Assam, the people of Majuli are very welcoming and allow travelers here to experience their way of life across the various Homestays at Majuli Island.
1| La Maison De Ananda ~ Majuli Island
The La Maison De Ananda is one of the oldest homestay properties at Majuli Island. La Maison De Ananda meaning the ‘House of Happiness’ was an initiative of a local of Majuli, Danny and two french architects who fell in love with Majuli Island and decided to open a place here to serve guests with an authentic Mishing tribal experience accompanied by local savouries and wine of the Mishing tribal culture of Majuli Island.
The La Maison De Ananda has now gradually built an extension just opposite the road named as the Risong Family Lodge which is owned and run by the caretaker of La Maison De Ananda, Mr. Monjit Risong. Mahendra is an able local who assists Mr. Monjit in running the overall operations here. Both these places offer a lovely stay at cozy traditional bamboo cottages adorned with all necessary amenities to make your stay comfortable.
A family kitchen (Risong’s Family kitchen) just adjacent to the cottages of La Maison De Ananda churns out ethnic local cuisine to tickle your taste buds. Accompanied by locally brewed rice beer of Apong, your stay at the La Maison De Ananda will be one filled with endless conversations about the beauty of Majuli Island with travelers from across the World accompanied by a soothing background score of the chirping migratory birds of Majuli Island making your visit to Majuli one to be cherished for a lifetime!
2| La Lolat Eco Camp ~ Majuli Island
From the promoters of the La Maison De Ananda we present to you the newest Eco Camp at Majuli Island ~ the La Lolat Eco Camp. A traditional style Mishing constructed camp that offers travellers a unique experience of camping at the World’s Largest River Island of Majuli. A haven for backpackers and traveller groups, the La Lolat Eco Camp at Majuli, offers accommodations at nominal rates along with traditional Mishing tribe food that is sure to leave your taste buds crave for more. The La Lolat Eco Camp is equipped with facilities for over 15 travellers who can choose to stay at tents at our camp or carry the option of bringing tents of their own and staying at our premises (conditions applicable). The La Lolat Eco Camp has a traditionally constructed Mishing kitchen and the local chef churns out delicious meals for dinner and lunch. Conversations of travellers with the locals of Majuli over a glass of rice beer (Apong and Sai Mod) discussing the rich heritage and culture of Majuli island is a common sight to be witnessed at the La Lolat Eco Camp. Nearby tribal villages can be accessed with our team who can guide you in detail about the day to day life of the Mishing tribal people of Majuli. A nearby lake ensures a soulful breeze touches your skin every moment. Traditional fishing can be experienced by our travellers at the La Lolat Eco Camp. Bathrooms with running water is an added advantage. When at leisure during your visit to Majuli get a chance to rest on the hammock at our camp alongside a river savouring a cup of black tea. We arrange for your pickup and drop to our campsite from the Kamalabari ghat at Majuli. Cycles on nominal rent are available at our camp to assist you to explore the mysteries of the largest river island in the World. Bird watching can be experienced at the lake and rivers adjacent to the La Lolat Eco Camp. Local guide to explore the Satras of Majuli can be arranged upon prior request.
3| Ygdrasill Bamboo Cottage ~ Majuli Island
Located at the Kerela Gaon of Majuli Island the Ygdrasill Bamboo Cottage offers a unique stay option at traditional Bamboo Cottages to its visitors at the Largest River Island of Majuli. There are individual cottages for guests who choose to stay here. The property overlooks a nearby pond that serves as an ideal location for birdwatching. The entire area is spread across an open field and offers its visitors a unique pollution free atmosphere to stay.
4| Hotel Srimanta Shankardev ~ Majuli Island
Located conveniently at the Garmur Tinali of Majuli Island, the Hotel Srimanta Shankardev is the only Hotel property at Majuli Island. Visitors who prefer to stay in a Hotel environment can choose their accommodation at the Hotel Srimanta Shankardev at Majuli Island.
5| Dutta Guest House ~ Majuli Island
The Dutta Guest House is located at Kamalabari in Majuli Island. The Dutta Guest House is a concrete building structure that offers rooms to travellers on a budget and guests here are attended to the family members of the house. Local travellers prefer this guest house as a choice of stay. Meals offered here are Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
6| Kakoty Guest House ~ Majuli Island
Located conveniently at Garmur in Majuli Island, the Kakoti Guest House at Majuli offers budget lodging for travellers to Majuli Island. Clean rooms equipped with basic facilities are available here at Kakoti Guest House. Although, there is no in house restaurant at this place, it doesn’t pose a problem as there are many restaurants nearby which serve delicious local food of Majuli Island.
7| Eco Camp Me: Po Okum ~ Majuli Island
Me: Po Okum in Mishing translates to Happy House in English. This is an ideal place for travellers who choose to stay at Majuli Island in traditional bamboo cottages. Equipped with toilets and showers each bamboo cottage at Eco Camp Me: Po Okum ensures your comfortable stay at Majuli Island. Each bed is accompanied with a mosquito net to ward out these tiny beasts. Relaxing and quiet, the bamboo huts at Eco Camp Me: Po Okum are on poles where a ladder assists you to reach the rooms here. All meals options of breakfast, lunch and dinner are made available to guests but at specified timings only. A calm and serene location, all your needs are attended to by the family owners of Eco camp Me: Po Okum. You can enjoy your stay in Majuli Island in calm here listening to the chirping on birds and playing with the domesticated cows, chicken and pigs.
8| Dekachang Resort ~ Majuli Island
Based upon promoting Ecotourism across Majuli Island, the Dekachang Resort at Majuli is arguably the finest properties of Majuli Island. The promoters who also run the Dekachang Resort at Sonapur near Guwahati area in Assam, have indeed brought in the concept of modern type resort at Majuli Island. Equipped with honeymoon suites, the Dekachang Resort at Majuli definitely provides its visitors with a warm and unique experience of staying at the largest river island in the World! Located very close to the Brahmaputra one can feel the fresh breeze throughout the day along with the regular chirping of the birds of Majuli Island. The meals served here are among the best in Majuli with farm fresh organic vegetables which are cooked in traditional Assamese style. Choose to stay here if you are not on a budget travel and want a complete experience of Assam’s great tradition.
9| Ayang Okum ~ Majuli Island
The Ayang Okum is another river bank traditional cottage homes at Majuli Island. Located near the River Brahmaputra at Majuli Island, the Ayang Okum provides guests with a complete eco friendly atmosphere surrounded by the yellow mustard fields and a gentle river breeze that keeps blowing across the day. A pioneer in the hospitality industry of Majuli Island, the owners of the Ayang Okum ensure to treat guests as family and assures the best of their hospitality visited by tourists from India and abroad. Ayang Okum provides basic, clean and hygienic facilities to all its guests. Accompanied with a traditional kitchen, Ayang Okum churns out delicious mishing traditional meals from garden fresh vegetables and fresh local fishes of the Brahmaputra in Majuli Island.
10| Okegiga Homes ~ Majuli Island
Okegiga Homes at Majuli Island is another traditional bamboo accommodation facility in the world’s largest River Island. Okegiga Homes has a mix of traditional Bamboo Cottages, Swiss Tents and Camping tents fixed on bamboo platforms. Okegiga Homes also allows its visitors to have an experience of gardening as well as farming where travellers can try their own hand at these village practices. Okegiga Homes is unique as it is the one and only accommodation with three varity of accommodations viz, Bamboo Cottage, Swiss Tents and Camping Tents in Majuli. It has the river Lohit on the front while on the side you can enjoy the lovely woods.
Okegiga Homes is just 1.5 Km away from the small town area Garamur in Majuli. District Administrative office as well as office of the Superintendent of Police are situated in Garamur. At nearly 4 km away there is the famous Uttar Kamalabari Satras and at nearly 3 KM the famous Garamur Satras.
Some of the main Satras of Majuli Island present today are discussed ~
Excerpts taken from: Majuli – A treasure house of heritage by Keshab Kakaty available for purchase at the Sri Sri Auniati Satra Museum – Majuli Island
1| Sri Sri Auniati Satra ~ Majuli Island
Located near the Kamalabari area of Majuli island, the Auniati Satra is the most renowned Satra in Majuli that belongs to the Brahma sangti order and was established in the year 1653 AD. Sri Sri Niranjan Deva Goswami was the founding Satradhikar and this place was established under the patronage of Ahom King Jayadhwaja Singha. As to why this place in Majuli is called as the Auniati Satra is because during the time of its establishment here the surrounding area was on an elevated land ‘Ati’ and the place was filled with ‘Aunipan’ (a betel creeper) and hence the name ‘Auniati’. Inside the prayer room the idol of Lord Govinda is worshipped. The Auniati Satra in Majuli island follows the Brahma Sangti sect of Neo Vaishnavism wherein all the ‘Bhakats’ and the Satradhikars as well follow a bachelor’s life dedicating their lives in the praise of the Lord and working towards the upliftment of the community. Boys enter the Satra at a very young age and train themselves to become ‘Bhakats’ who are the disciples of the Satra. They engage in prayers across the day and work with certain crafts to sustain themselves. With over a million followers the Auniati Satra receives adequate donations to sustain the Satra and along with it the museum here that illustrates various artifacts from the medieval period in Majuli and Assam including some artifacts from the Ahom kings and generals.
Some of the religious festivals of the Auniati Satra in Majuli island are Paalnaam, Raas Leela, Janmashtami, Bihu and also the birth and death anniversaries of the holy Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva that is celebrated with grandeur by performing Naam and enacting Bhaonas. At the Auniati Satra in Majuli there are three prayer sessions (morning, afternoon and evening) that has fourteen sessions. Some of the forms of music practiced here are Borgeet, Ankia Geet or songs in Drama, Raja Ghoria Geet, Guruvandana, Gopal Vairaga Geet are still practiced in the Satra. Moreover, Bhaona (drama) in Assamese and Ankia Naat in Brajavali language are practiced here.
2| Sri Sri Dakhinpat Satra ~ Majuli Island
Located at the south banks of the river Brahmaputra, the Dakhinpat Satra is another prominent Satra in Majuli Island that was established in the year 1584 by Banamalidev under the patronage of teh Ahom King Swargadeo Jayadhwaja Singha. The Dakhinpat Satra in Majuli island follows the ideals of Damodar Deva and the idol of Lord Jadhav Rai is worshipped here and the ‘Bhakats’ of this satra lead a bachelor’s life. Some of the major festivals celebrated at the Dakhinpat Satra in Majuli Island are Raas Leela, Phalgutsav, Janmashtami, etc. This Satra has been shifted many times due to the floods caused by the Brahmaputra river and has been situated in its present position since 18698 at Majuli island. Some of the ancient artifacts preserved at the Dakhinpat Satra are sword of Lachit Borphukan, brass plates, 500 scriptures on sachipat, mortar of stone, Jolghontila, etc.
3| Sri Sri Bengenaati Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Bengenaati Satra in Majuli Island is located east of Kamalabari about four kilometers in distance and was founded by the grandson of Srimanta Shankardeva’s stepmother Murulidev in 1654 and this Satra belongs to the Purusha Samhati order. The major festivals celebrated at the Bengenaati Satra in Majuli are tithis of Shankardeva and Madhavadeva, past Satradhikars, Janmashtami, Raas Leela, etc that are celebrated with great pomp and vigour.
4| Samaguri Satra ~ Majuli Island
Established in 1663, the Samaguri Satra is one of the very popular Satras in Majuli island renowned for its art and practice of traditional mask making with hand. This satra is located around twelve kilometres from the town center of Kamalabari and also has another branch known as the Notun Samaguri Satra. Dr. hemchandra goswami who is the Satradhikar of this Satra in Majuli is a well known person in the art of mask making. The Samaguri Satra belongs to the Purusha Sanhoti meaning the Bhakats can lead a married life here. The festivals celebrated are death and birth anniversaries of Srimanata Shankardeva, Janmasthami and Raas Leela.
5| Bhogpur Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Bhogpur Satra is situated about 5 kilometers eastwards from Kamalabari. It was established in the year 1528. Sri Sri Duttadev Goswami is the present Satradhikar of this Satra.
The various religious festivals celebrated here are birth and death anniversaries of Sankardeva, Madhabadeva and past Satradhikars.
The various dance forms of this Satra in Majuli Island are Chali, Jhumur, Naubbhangi, Sutradhar, Ozha Pali and Bhortaal Nritya.
6| Garamur Satra ~ Majuli Island
The famous Garamur Satra of Majuli island was established during 1653-1660 under the patronage of Ahom King Jayadwaja Singha and the prominent deity worshipped here is that of Lord Bonti Gopal. The Garamur Satra has contributed immensely towards Assam literature and various books have been published by this Satra in Majuli island. The prominent festivals celebrated are Raas Leela, Holi, Janmasthami, Shivratri, the three Bihus and the death anniversaries of the past Satradhikars. The Garamur Satra in Majuli Island also has branches at Puronigudam, Notun Guwahati, Kuhiarbari and Tukulai in Jorhat. Some of the historical resources preserevd at the Garamur Satra museum in Majuli are A large Sarai of brass with the capacity to keep about 40 kg mungo, silver engrafted sarai with a capacity to contain 20 kg mungo, four storied red sarai made of tulsi wood, plate of eight metals, Mayur ghanta (bell), Gaj ghanta (bell), bell metal Doba, Brass Sorai, Bortop and engrafted silver water vessel given by Ahom king. Among the idols made of wood are Garurah, Borah, Motshya, Kurma, Nrisingha, Joy Bijoy, Ananata Sajya, the idol of the act of bringing the mountain Gandhaman by Hanuman and a few materials of ivory are preserved in this Satra.
7| Kamalabari Satra ~ Majuli Island
Another famous Satra in Majuli is the Kamalabari Satra that was established in 1673 by Bodula Ata who was one of the favourite disciples of Madhavadeva. It is believed that the founding place of this Satra was filled with oranges (kamala) trees and hence the name Kamalabari was evolved.
Many tales are found regarding the foundation of the Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island. The traditional opinions are like this –
1. Among the ten names of Bodola Padma Ata, one is Kamakanta. According to the name, the name of the Satra has become Kamalabari
2. There was a large Orange orchard at the place where Bodola Padma Ata founded the Satra; the name of the owner of which orchard was Kamala Mudoi. Therefore the name of the Satra was Kamalabari.
3. According to another mythology, while Sri Krishna was taking Rukmini away from Kundil, a Kamal (lotus) flower was dropped at this place from the hair of Rukmini Devi. Therefore, the name of the Satra became Kamalabari for being founded at this place. With time, the Satra established by Bodola Ata forked into two and one was named the Uttar Kamalabari for being founded towards North (Uttar); the other was called Natun (new) Kamalabari Satra for being founded newly separating from the original Satra established by Bdula Padma Ata. At present, the Satradhikar of the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island is Sri Janardhan Dev Goswami and Natun Kamalabari Satra of Majuli island is Narayana Chandra Goswami.
8| Uttar Kamalabari Satra ~ Majuli Island
Renowned for the practice of the ‘Sattriya Nritya’ that happens to be one of the 8 classical dance forms of India, the Uttar Kamalabari Satra is located north east of Kamalabari in Majuli Island. Many disciples of the Uttar Kamalabari Satra have been awarded with the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy award.
Ancient Materials in the premises of the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island –
- More than 300 books on Sachipat
- Sofura (a tray on stand with a cover) of Shankardeva where betel nut was kept
- Jopmala of Madhavadeva
- A pot where Bodola Padma Ata took his meal
- Kusha-Argha (a material used in the ritual of puja) used by Hari Ataoi made of horn of rhino
- Jair of Sanjar-Madhab
- Bhringar (a water pot) made of silver
- A small mortar engrafted with peacock
- Royal massage from Purandar Sinha
Cultural programmes at the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island –
The tithi (death and birth anniversary) of Mahapurush is observed for four days in the month of Bhadra at the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island. The prominent dances of the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island are – Ankia drama, Chali, Jhumura, Nadu bhongi, Borprobeshor Naach, Sutradharam Natua, Ozapali, etc.
Contribution to literature and Culture by the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island –
About five bhakats from Uttar Kamalabari Satra have received government pension as artists. The magical performer of Khol Paramananda Borgayan has received Sangeet Natak Academy National Award. Many learners have been able to receive CCRT Scholarship being benefited through Kola Krishti Sangha of Sri Sri Uttar Kamalabari Satra of Majuli Island. The team of artists at the Satra has been praised by performing dance, song and bhauna in national and international cultural programs.
9| Natun Kamalabari Satra ~ Majuli Island
Located about 2 km from the town center of Kamalabari, the Natun Kamalabari Satra is one of the most culturally developed Satras in Majuli Island. One of the Satradhikars of the Natun Kamalabari Satra in Majuli Island was a noted scholar who was awarded with the Sankardev award by the Govt of Assam in 2004. The music and dance art forms of this Satra in Majuli Island is often presented across the World. The major festivals celebrated here are Raas Leela, three bihus, tithis of Satradhikars, tithis of Srimanta Shankardev and Madhavadev, Janmashtami, Falgutsav, etc.
10| Adi Alengi Satra ~ Majuli i Island
Belonging to the Grihasti (allowed to marry) sect of Neo Vaishnavism, the Adi Alengi Satra was found by Sri Sri Bapu Krishna Madan in 1538. The principal deity worshipped here is that of Sri Sri Shyam rai and this satra in Majuli island has always been rich from the cultural side and to propagate this culture further an institution called as Sattriya Sangeet was established in 1968. Some of the cultural activities performed at this Satra in Majuli Island are Sankirtan, Utha Naam, Tini Kirtaan, Bairagi Naam, Gayan Bayan, Ghosha kirtan, etc.
A brief overview of the cultural side of the Satra is given below –
Utha Naam: In the month of Bhadra (fifth month in Assamese Calendar) Uthanaam is presented in the birth festival of Lord Krishna and Raas festival at Majuli Island, where fifty pairs of Bhortaals (a kind of a big cymbal) are used together.
Karunamay Ghosha: It is the creation of the Alengi Satra of Majuli Island itself. At present, this gosha is presented in the closing ceremony of Bairagi Naam in the month of Kati in the Satra.
Bairagi Naam: It is said that a time of prevalence of disaster the inmates in the Satra changed Bairagi Naam by taking turns. Every year this Naam is presented in the Adi Alengi Satra in Majuli Island.
Ghosha Kirtan: The Gosha kirtan is continued for the whole month of Bhadra in the Adi Alengi Satra of Majuli Island.
11| Adi Bihimpur Satra ~ Majuli Island
This Satra in Majuli Island was established in the year 1635 on the banks of Verk Beel by Chaturbhuj Thakur – the grandson of Srimanta Shankardeva during the reign of the Ahom King Pratap Singha. The presence of a poisonous tree at the entrance of teh Govinda Ata’s residence iN Majuli Island went to be named as Bisonur (Bish meaning poison) and hence the name Bihimpur. Here at the Bihimpur Satra in Majuli Island the main idol worshipped is of Lord Vishnu.
12| Sarjan Na Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Sarjan Na Satra in Majuli Island was established in 1671 by Satradhikar Krishna Atoi away from the township of Garamur and Kamalabari. The various festivals celebrated here are Janmashtami, Gopini Naam, Holi, three Bihus, tithis of Satradhikars, etc. Resource present at the Sarjan Na Satra in Majuli island are twelve scriptures of Sachi Pat, Sixty dramas, Kirtan Ghar, Monikut, Guest house, land, etc.
Social Contributions Sri Sri Sarjan Na-Satra – Majuli Island:
Service to the society is given preference following ideology of the preceptors. It has contribution in bringing the tribal people of the mainstream preventing their changing of religion.
13| Madhya Majuli Kamalabari Satra ~ Majuli Island
14| Notun Samaguri Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Notun or the New Samaguri Satra is one of the most visited Satras in Majuli Island and is renowned across the World for its art of traditional Mask Making. The Samaguri Satra is of Grihasthi Parampora (married tradition). From that day of its foundation some inmates along with Satradhikar are giving importance in making mask. The name of Saisab Chandra Dev Goswami and Rudrakanta Goswami is worth mentioned. These sons of Rudrakanta Goswami Dharmakanta Goswami, Hemchandra Goswami and Krishna Goswami have continued the practice of craft of mask making. The present Satradhikar of this Satra Kushkanta Dev Goswami has received Sangeet Natak Academy Award 2002 in 30th November, 2003 bringing this culture to the National level. The expert artisan Hemchandra Goswami also has organized workshop on mask-making along with giving a new dimension to it.
Religious and Cultural Programme: Holi, Raas, Naam in the month of Bhadra, Tithis, three Bihus, the Tithis of the late Satradhikars are observed in the Satra.
Social Contribution: Establishing post office, Samaguri Satra Rawnapar Higher Secondary School, Primary School and public auditorium in cooperation of people in the ara are its social contribution.
15| Doloni Samaguri Satra ~ Majuli Island
Established in 1890 by Bhairab Chandra Goswami, the Doloni Samaguri Satra in Majuli Island is situated at the corner of Bonia Samaguri and Mudoichuck. This Satra follows the Grihasti (married) tradition and has over 5000 disciples who continue to practice the age old traditions. This Satra in Majuli Island houses a Namghar, Monikut and Korapat (the gate). One of the major attractions here is a Podsila of Shankardeva that has been preserved here as a special property.
16| Bhugpur Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Holy Guru Srimanta Shankardeva established the Bhugpur Satra in 1450. This Satra has 600 bighas of land with four hatis that houses 120 bhakats and it follows the Udasin (the unmarried tradition) here in Majuli Island. The important festivals celebrated in this Satra are Janmashtami, Holi, Raas Leela, death anniversaries of Shankardeva and Madhava Deva, etc. The prominent ‘Nritya’ or dance form of this Satra in Majuli island are Cha Nritya, Jhumura Nritya, Sutradhan, Ozapali, etc. Many books of literature have been published by this Satra and many historic resources have been preserved here at the Bhugpur Satra in Majuli Island like two idols of Lord Vishnu, Bortema of bell metal, barbati of bell metal, Sarai of brass, Kingkhap, mortar, brass idols, etc.
17| Owa Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Owa Satra is located at the Kerela gaon in Majuli island. This satra is named because it was founded by the cutting of the wood of the Ow-Tenga tree (Elephant Apple). The Owa Satra in Majuli island has over 1 lakh followers and the regular worship of idols, naam kirtan and religious teachings takes place at this Satra. The festivals celebrated are Annual Paalam, Falgutsav, Raas Leela, three Bihus, Naam Prasanga, etc. Ancient resources present at the Owa Satra in Majuli island are idols of Lord Vishnu, brass doba, borkah, borkahi, mayur ghanta, bhagjora, etc.
In the devastating earthquake of 1950, a large area of cultivated land of this Satra turned into a wasteland. Again from the floods in 1962, the economic condition of the Satra gradually degraded. At that time, most of its valuable properties were destroyed. At present, the Shankarjyoti high school is situated near the Satra on its own land in Majuli Island.
18| Sri Sri Bihimpur Satra ~ Majuli Island
Situated between Rawnapan and Totoya in the central place of Majuli, the Sri Sri Bihimpur Satra was patronized by Shankardeva’s grandson Chaturbhuj Purush Thakur. This Satra follows the Purush Samhati sect and the main deity worshipped here is of Lord Vishnu. There are over 50,000 disciples of the Sri Sri Bihimpur Satra in Majuli Island. Prominent festival celebrated here are Raas Leela, Falgutsav, tithis of late Satradhikars, Naam, etc.
The Satradhikar acts as the owner of the Satra with the land area of 4 bighas and 3 kathas and there is a managing committee. A healthy environment is created in the Satra by distributing the duties like Naam-loua, Deuri, Barik, etc. Apart from this with the presentation of Ankia Bhaona, contribution of Devotees and disciples this Satra is running smoothly.
19| Adhar Mahara Satra ~ Majuli Island
This prominent Satra of Majuli Island was established by Kamalkanta Dev. The main festivals celebrated are that of Janmasthami, Falgutsav, Three Bihus, Palnaam, Raas Leela, tithis of Srimanta Shankardev and Madhavdev, etc. Ancient resources preserved here at the Adhar Mahara Satra of Majuli Island are: 1. Ancient idol and crystal Shivalinga 2. Ancient Ghonta (bell) 3. Brass bordoba 4. Borkah 5. Bortaal 6. Scripture on Sachipat 7. A golden logun (ritualistic thread) of gold donated by King Sivasingha
20| Sri Sri Bor Alengi Satra ~ Balichapori ~ Majuli Island
Boralengi Satra of Majuli Island is one of the prominent bearers of culture in ancient cultural heritage site of Majuli. Sri Sri Boralengi Satra has been established in Borachuk, Majuli in the year 1752 and 1674 sakas and with time it is founded at its present place Balichapori, Majuli in the year 1845 and 1767 saka. The ancestors of the Satra till the time of Sunbor Deo, had their Satra at Da Gaon of Biswanath Chariali near today’s Charikrishna thana. At the time of Sankar Deo due to family and natural causes, he established the Satra at Borachuck at Kamalabari in 1752 on the banks of the Alengi Beel (wetland) and later it became famous as Bor Alengi Satra. Because of the death of the Satradhikar along with many people and disciples due to tubosis and diarrhoea at Borachuck on the banks of Alengi Beel, his son Madendra Dev founded the Satra at Balichapori Kamalabari in Majuli shifting from Borachuk in 1845. From that time it is at Balichapori with the name Boralengi.
21| Sri Sri Alengi Moderguri Satra ~ Majuli Island
Sri Sri Ramanandadev founded it at South Ahotguri in Majuli Island. The Satra is shifted for eight times for having submerged most of the part of Ahotguri Circle of historical Majuli Sub-Division in the Brahmaputra. At present the Satra is at Kokila Gaon, South Majuli.
Resources: 1. Kirtanghar 2. Monikut 3. Brass Bordoba 4. Bor Kah 5. Brass Bor Sarai 6. Sankha 7. Khol 8. Taal 9. Simghasan 10. Ghanta (beel)
Festivals: 1. Death Anniversary of Sankardev and Majuli Madhabdev and Janmastov 2. Ankia drama in the tithi of the perceptor 3. Culture is preserved although Naam Bhaona
22. Sri Sri Majuli Alengi Satra ~ Majuli Island
Sri Sri Majuli Bor Alengi Satra falls under Purush Samhati. The founder of the Satra is Sotanandadev. Satanandadeva founded the Satra in 1588 at Potigaon near Biswanath Chariali. The Satra in Majuli since 1962 became known among the disciples as Sri Sri Majuli Boralengi Satra.
The Chief deity of the Satra is Gopal. In Spite of decreasing the number of inhabitants in the Satra, the present Satradhikar Sri Bhobananda Dev Goswami has been trying to preserve the Satriya culture and the heritage of the Satra. The present address of the Satra is Sri Sri Majuli Bor Alengi Satra, P.O. Garmur, Majuli.
The Satra is run by a managing committee taking Satradhikar as the president. The tithis of the two perceptors are observed. The Satra is trying to establish a good relationship by giving Sarana (initiation) and religious teachings. The source of earning of the Satra is donation of the disciples and cultivation.
23| Sri Sri Molual Bor Alengi Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Sri Sri Molual Bor Alengi Satra in Majuli Island is staring at a bleak future and may even face extinction from the map of Majuli as constant destruction of this place by the flood waters of the river Brahmaputra this Satra structure is now limited to a space at a small auditorium near the Korotipar high school in Majuli. With the local people preferring not to shift this satra from the area outside of Majuli and also not having found any land from teh govt this satra is now facing a dark future ahead.
It was established in the year 1850 by Sri Sri Sonaram Dev and this Satra belongs to the Purush Sanghati order. The major festivals celebrated in this Satra in Majuli are Janmashtami, Naam Prasanga, Parhoti, three Bihus, tithis of past Satradhikars, etc.
24| Alengi Sri Sri Tokoubari Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Alengi Sri Sri Tokoubari Satra in Majuli was established in the year 1621 by Sri Sri Bapukrishna Dev. This satra came to be known as the Tokoubari satra because the place where this Satra in Majuli was established was filled with ‘Tokou’ trees.
Ancient resources to be found in this satra in Majuli are copper and brass pots, scriptures on sachipat, gold idols, musical instruments made of brass, sarai of bell metal, etc.
Some of the cultural works practiced at this Satra in Majuli Island are prasangas Naam kirtana, Sarana bhajana, following topics of the idea of the two perceptors, discussion on religious topics, bhaona, congregational prayer (sobha), gayan bayan, religious dances and songs, instruments, practice of Ankia plays, establishing educational institutes, practice of ankia plays, establishing educational institutes for development and stability through observation of religious and cultural festivals, giving aid to social institutions, etc. are worth mentioned functions of this Sata.
25| Sri Sri Alengi Bahjengoni Satra ~ Majuli Island
Established in 1774 by Swarupananda Dev this is another of the Satras in Majuli island located at the Kathoni village. This place came to be known as Bahjungoni as it was founded at a place by cleaning bamboo.
Some of the Ancient resources preserved at this Satra in Majuli Island are 3 idols made of metal, Picturised sinhasana, Kusham Argha, plate, luta of copper, Musical instruments doba, cymbal, sankha, ghanta, khol, negera, etc. 5. 35 scriptures on sachipat including picturised dasam 6. 250 year old 6 wooden masks, etc.
Cultural Works practiced at this Satra in Majuli Island are Naam kirtan and fourteen prasangas are observed in the Satra, Bishnupuja, daily naam prasanga in the morning, noon, afternoon, evening and at night are observed. The death anniversary of the preceptors and Sri Sri Krishna Janmashtami is observed with enthusiasm. Bhaona and Ankia Bhaona are organized in the certain Tithis and festivals of the Satra. On the occasion of tithi Bhaona, Gayan Bayan and Sutradhar Nritya is preseneted with different dhemalis. In this way the cultural activities in the Satra are observed.
26| Alengi Narasingha Satra ~ Majuli Island
Founded in the year 1745, the Alengi Narasingha Satra in Majuli Island belongs to the Purush Samhati order. The primary idol worshipped here is of Kalia Gosai (Mahaprabhu Basudev) and the place in Majuli Island has over 7000 disciples.
Ancient Resources kept at this Satra in Majuli Island are Sixteen angled silver engrafted copper Sarai belonging to the royal family, Silver Box, Wooden Dola with design of a peacock , Two three stories Singhasana, Brass Gagori, 100 year old mask, Brass Negera, etc.
Cultural Activities practiced at this Satra in Majuli Island are regular four prasangas in the Satra, fourteen prasangas and Palnaam in the month of Bhadra along with tradition of Mahapurushasa, Ankia dramas, Nandutsav, Naam by Gopini are performed, etc.
Of the resources kept at this Satra in Majuli Island, many were destroyed in the earthquake of 1950. This place also donated a mask of a tiger to the Jorhat district museum.
27| Sri Sri Dikhowmukhia Bor Alengi Satra ~ Majuli Island
This Satra in Majuli island was founded by late Boluram Dev towards the end of the 16ht century. The essential activities of this Satra are Gayan Bayan, Muktiar, Naam logua, Hatimota, etc. and the Satra is situated on an area of 9 bighas of land.
Festival celebrated at this Satra in Majuli Island are Tithis of late Satradhikars , tithis of the two perceptors, Janmashtami, Namm Bhaona are observed.
Ancient Resources present at this Satra are: 3 brass bordoba, 3 kaah, 2 brass borchoria, 3 bortow, 4 brass sorai, 1 bhogjora, 3 iron gosa, 2 brass gosa, 1 pair of brass negera, 5 idols, Dinner plates of copper, brass and bell metal and many books.
28| Sri Sri Belsiddhia Satra ~ Majuli Island
Founded during the time of 1580-1615 by Sri Nityananda Deva this Satra in Majuli Island is located on 12 Bighas of land and is a prime cultural and traditional Satra in Majuli. This Satra is surrounded by Borbari, Bortila and Dhekiajuli villages.
The Festivals observed at this Satra in Majuli Island are Bihu, Janmashtami, Sivaratri, Phakua, Gopini Naam, Bhaona, Tithis of perceptors, Damodar Dev and late Satradhikars are also observed.
The resources of the Satra in Majuli Island are Dula 4 nos, Borjka 3 nos, Borhanta, Bortaal, Borkah, Rangali Sorai (wooden), Sarai made of Kah, Betel nut try, Scriptures on Sachipat 10 nos, Brass doba, Baorakahi, Brass Borgossa, 2 Metallic idol
This Satra has contributed towards the cultural environment of the people of Majuli by means of dances, songs, etc. Education is imparted through the Namghar and even disputes are settled in the areas around the Satra here in Majuli.
29| Sri Sri Dakhinpat Grihashromi Satra ~ Majuli Island
This Satra following the married tradition and an extension of the Dakhinpat Satra was founded in 1876 by late Banamali Dev. This Satra in Majuli Island is situated at the Nausali Gaon under the Dakhinpat Gram Panchayat of Majuli is located on a huge area with 40 houses and 200 bhakats who work towards the upliftment of this Satra. The principal deity worshiped here is of Sri Sri Jadobani. The Satra has contributed much towards the literature of Assam and Satradhikar Janardhan Dev of this Satra in Majuli Island has contributed by writing books, poems, articles, stories and novels.
Pottery making art is also a renowned art of this Satra and making idols of Krishna, humans and other Gods is also practiced here and these idols are a special attraction to both domestic and international tourists coming to Majuli Island.
Another special attraction of this Satra is an ancient Gurukul Ashram along with a school with the combination of modern education with ancient education system which is unique in upper Assam. One feels at peace while entering the Ashram. There is a possibility of attraction for the tourists because of such an environment.
30| Sri Sri Ananta Kalsila Satra ~ Majuli Island
An interesting history is related to the founding and establishment of the Sri Sri Ananta Kalsila Satra in Majuli Island. It is believed that the place where this Satra has been established at Naag Gosai was a place infested by tigers, dangerous animals and supernatural elements that had led to the destruction of many nearby villages and so the villagers requested Deka Satradhikar of Kabila Satra of Nagaon to make this place safe and later in the year 1954, the youngest brother of the Satradhikar established this Satra with the help of the local villagers.
Festivals celebrated at this Satra in Majuli Island are four prasangas, yearly falgutsav (holi), Paalnaam, the bhagwata, the gita, tithi, bhaona, congregational prayers, etc. are observed. Many times based on cultural, social and moral sides are organized keeping relation with nearby villages. Saran bhajan and training of Borgeet, nritya, khol, sattriya nritya, etc. are organized.
Ancient Resources present at this Satra are Monikut, Idol, Dasam, Singhasana, Cymbal, Khol, Doba, Kah, materials used in puja, the books Sri Raas Kirtan, Bhakti Premlota, etc.
Earning resources of the Satra: The Satra is run with agriculture and minimum donation from its disciples.
31| Sri Sri Anhotguri Bor Satra ~ Majuli Island
Established in 1643 by Sri Sri Rama Ata Dev, this Satra in Majuli Island is situated at the Anhatguri circle. This Satra was destroyed in a fire on 1987 and again devastated by the floods of the Brahmaputra in 1990. This Satra in Majuli Island has contributed immensely towards the social and cultural fields through the medium of Sarana Bhajana. The ancient idol of Sri Basudev is worshipped in the mornings followed by Naam Prasanga during the day and in the evening a lamp is lit followed by Aarti.
Ancient resources preserved in this Satra are preserved scriptures like Bhagwata Bhabartha Dipika – Jogodish Mitra, The Kirtan – Naranarayan, Kans Bodh Drama, Bokasur Bodh Play, Sahashrarjun Bodh play, etc.
32| Sri Sri Chokola Satra ~ Ahatguri ~ Majuli Island
Establishment and existence of the Satra: Among the three circles of Majuli Sub Division, the circle mostly affected by erosion is Anhatguri Mauza. One of the most important Satra of Assam belongs to this circle is Sri Sri Chokola Satra. Sri Sri Narayan Deo, follower of Sri Sri Gopal Ata established Sri Sri Chokola Satra in 1554. Since the time of establishment apart from facing different problems and critical condition the Anhatguri circle is about to be extinct due to erosion by the Brahmaputra. In Spite of that present Satradhikar Bhuban Chandra Mahanta has carried on the tradition.
There is a managing committee along with the Satradhikar in the Satra near Kalia gaon under Majuli Sub-divisional police station for maintaining the pride of the Satra. At present the Satra is situated at Dakhin Majuli on the way connecting Degaon in Jorhat district. Another Satra as New Chokola or Soru Sokola is found for being established separately in 1941.
The resources in this Satra: 1. Namghar 2. Monikut 3. Doba 4. Cymbal 5. Sankha 6. Khol 7. Sachipat 8. Tou 9. Heta 10. Combined idol 11. Singhasana 12. Sarai 13. Picturised Bhagawata
Festivals celebrated: 1. Sri Sri Krishna Raas tsav 2. Doul Yatra 3. Tithis of the preceptors
Social Contribution: There is a provision of Saran Bhajana keeping relation with the people of Mishing tribes and contributing in social festivals, drama and training
33| Sri Sri Sakupura Satra ~ Majuli Island
The root of the Satra was at Lakhimpur. One branch is shifted due to natural calamity. The name of the Satra became Sakupuria for coming here by a Saku (bamboo bridge). At present, the Satra is at Uparkatoni village.
34| Sri Sri Punia Satra ~ Majuli Island
Sri Sri Punia Satra falls under Purush Samhati. The name of the Satra became Punia for establishing it on the bank of the Punia Beel by Parasuram Dev in 1558. The Satra got royal patronage in the days of the Ahom king Jayadhwaj Singha. This Satra is also known as Punia Bor Satra.
35| More details on Sri Sri Auniati Satra ~ Majuli Island
The Neo Vaishnavite Satras of Majuli Island in Assam are the heart of the Assamese society and these monasteries are the source and place of development of the Neovaishnavite culture of Assam as preached and propagated by the great Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva and his disciple Madhavadeva. And among all these Satras of Majuli Island, the Sri Sri Auniati Satra is the one taking an important role in the social life of the people of Assam. This famous Satra of Majuli Island was established in the year 1653 by Niranjan Pathak under the patronage of the great Ahom king Jayadhwaj Singha. The Auniati Satra in Majuli Island falls under the order of Brahma Sanghati and the main deity worshipped here is of Lord Govinda Mahaprabhu. Spread across a sprawling campus with huge temple ponds in the area this place in Majuli Island houses a Namghar, a Monikut, the Residence of the Satradhikar, Huts of Bhakats, Treasury, Store House of rice. There is also a museum here as well as a guest house and open auditorium at this place.
The head of the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island is known as the Satradhikar and the works that happen here are under his supervision. Around 40 bhakats reside in the premises of the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island and they work as a team and engage in the various works of the Satra obeying the instructions of the Satradhikar.
Everyday, Caudhya Prasanga (fourteen prasanga) takes place at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island. Apart from these fourteen prasangas, some of the usual festivals are –
One of the most important festivals of Majuli Island, the Palnaam is celebrated every year during the 25th month of Karthik (usually in November) and thousands of devotees from across Assam come to the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island. Regarded as a symbol of brotherhood where anyone irrespective of caste, creed and religion can join during the Palnaam festival. Prayers are sung at the Satra in front of the Holy Bhagwad Gita.
2| Festival of taking Nirmali or coronation ceremony:
The coronation ceremony of the Satradhikar here at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island is another important festival of this Satra. This festival is celebrated when a new Satradhikar takes his seat at the Satra and the coronation is given by the Satradhikars of the three major Satras (under the Ahom patronage) viz. Dakhinpat, Garamur and Auniati Satra.
3| Kati Bihu:
Out of the three Bihus that are celebrated , the Kati Bihu is a prominent festival celebrated at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island and during this festival time 21 pairs of Akash Banti (earthen lamps on stand are lighted around the Satra) to celebrate this festival.
4| Raas Utsav:
The most prominent festival celebrated across Majuli Island with great pomp and vigour, the Raas Leela us the life of Lord Krishna depicted in an art form. On the Raas festival day after the Puja is performed, a play/Drama in the form of a Bhaona in enacted and on the second day it is staged at the auditorium.
5| Guru Tithi: Guru Tithi is one of the other prominent festivals of the Auniati Satra. Apart from the gurus including Shankardeva, Madhava Deva, Domodar deva, Bonsi gopal eva, the tithis of preceding Satradhikars are also observed.
Bhaonas and various dance forms are practiced here at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island. The Bhaonas are cultural plays depicting the story of various mythological characters and are performed during prominent festival celebrations at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island. The various dances and songs that are practiced at this Satra like Sutradhar, Apsara, Jhumur, Dasawatar, Gayan Bayan, etc. has enriched the culture of Assam and the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island had contributed a lot towards it.
Another art form practiced here is the tradition of drama writing. The many Satradhikars of the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island have written numerous dramas and have contributed immensely towards the field literature of Assam as well. Not only by this but the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island has been working towards the welfare of society by donating to many educational institutions towards the upliftment of quality education in their fields.
To commemorate the establishment of 350 years of the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island a huge Samaroh was organized from the 27th to 29th March 2010 where lakhs of devotees attended the ceremony. The various dimensions of Neo Vaishnavism was displayed at this Samaroh that was attended by the Satradhikars of most of the Satras of Majuli Island. To spread the message of cultural harmony through Neovaishnavism the Auniati Satra has 14 branches across Assam. Apart from the main branch here in Majuli Island, other branches have been established at Teok, Kaliapani, Puronigodam and North Guwahati where the Satra Bhakats hold regular communication with their disciples.
Historical Resources of the Auniati Satra:
Ivory Mat, Sri Hosta Muktawali, Gagendra Chintamoni, Borkah (a kind of bell metal), Bor Taal, Dish and pot used by Godadhar Singha, Silver flower vase, Silver Bota (a kind of tray on a stand), Ivory chair and desk, Ivory hand and Lakhuti (stick), Ivory chess, Pinewood fan, fan made from cane, Maan Safura (a kind of tray on stand with lid), brass khorahi (a kind of pot), pinewood khorom (a kind of chappal), Ivory chappal, wooden maihang (a kind of pot), Barkahi (a dish on stand), savings box decorated with ivory, ivory decorated Jopa (a kind of box), decorated silver dish, brass bhortal (a heavy dish made of silver and brass), Soki Luta, Lou Luta (a water pot of different shape), Man Tema, Man Safura (a tray in a stand with lid), Kiris, Nagaalathi (big stick), Naga da (a big knife), Kahi, Rangoli Sorai, Khanti Da, Hengdang, Ow Bakholia Bota, Outola Bhaona Arhi (sample of toy bhaona), Betor Bota, Jori, Maihang of silver, Silver luta, Amita Thasor Luta, Barkahi, Kerengi taal, Paalnaam Nouka (boat used during paalnaam), etc.
Sattriya Shilpa (Art forms practiced at the Satras of Majuli Island) ~
1| Mask Making
Since ancient times, the people of Majuli Island have practiced the traditional art form of mask making with hands. As the majority of the people in the island practice agriculture as their profession so they used to make man shaped scare crows to protect their crops from birds and animals. However, in the 14th century, the holy saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva found a unique way of using these handmade masks of Majuli to establish its use in the art form of drama. Today the Samaguri Satra of Majuli Island is renowned across the World for this mask making art. Apart from the Samaguri Satra few artisans of the Alengi, Bihimpur, Natun Kamalabari also practices this art of mask making by hand in Majuli Island.
In the earlier times these masks used in agricultural fields were simply a pot or the shell of gourd hung on top of a tick with the use of limestone to paint a human stone on the pot and these would scare away birds, insects and animals thinking of the presence of a human being in the paddy fields. Srimanta Shankardeva found a way to refine this practice with bamboo, betel nut tree wood and the beauty of these masks become incomparable. The basic raw materials used in mask making in Majuli Island are bottle gourd, pot, bark of betel nut. The base of the mask is made however with bamboo sticks.
Three types of masks are made namely:
These types of masks built in Majuli Island consist of two parts – the first is the facial part and the second is the middle part of the body. Usually these masks vary in sizes from 6 – 8 feet and are used to represent mythological characters like Ravana, Kumbhakaran, Narakasur, Narasingha, etc.
This is a smaller variation of the Su Mukha and consists of two parts where the actors wearing the Lutukai masks can move their organs. And the mythological characters depicted wearing these masks are Putona, Sankhachur, Taroka wear such masks.
This type of mask contains only the face of the character (above neck). Actors like Aghasura, Bakasur, Dhenukasura wear such masks.
2| Fan made of Cane
Another one very famous Sattriya art form of Majuli Island is the craft form of fan made with cane by hands. Traditionally practiced as an art form only at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island, later a few Bhakats from the Kamalabari Satra learnt this art form as well. The processes involved in this form of fan making art are:
Prastuti Parva: The first stage in the preparations the cane is cut into pieces of even 14 inches post which it is put into a water bucket for 30 minutes and later put out in the sun to dry.
Skill of stick making: In the second stage of the process, the cane sticks are further sliced into thin sticks with a sharp knife. To prepare one fan atleast 400 thin and smooth sticks are needed.
Making the base of a fan: The fan without decoration is called “Lati”. A Ghila (round seed), a bamboo stick and water are essential for this work. With the help of the bamboo stick the artist weave it and by putting water and pressing with the Ghila gives the fan a brighter look.
Finishing Stage: A handle (betel nut stick decorated with hengul-hiatal, traditional Assamese color), soft clothes and a few decorative items are necessary for a good looking fan. With the help of these things the artist ties the Lati to the hanle with a cotton rope. Thus a beautiful fan is prepared in approximately eight days. The demand of this type of decorative fans have been increased with a value in the International market nearing INR 1500.
Later the base of the fan is made with bamboo and the artists weave these bamboo sticks to give the fan a brighter look as well. To complete the fan the artist ties the base to the fan and decorates the fan with handles, colourful natural dye and bright colours wrapped around the handle and the edges of the fan. These fans have a huge demand in the International markets because of the handmade finesse and bright organic colours. These fans of Majuli Island have an International repute and these fans have been gifted to renowned people like Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Mountbatten. One such fan from the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island is also put on display at the London Museum.
Art of Boat making: The use of boats across Majuli Island is utmost necessary for the local people especially during the monsoon season when the floods of the Brahmaputra cause havoc across the Island drowning places and disrupting the communication from one place to another via movement. So prior to the arrival of the monsoon season these boats become a major demand across the people of Majuli Island. However as this is an intensive craft the number of craftsmen is few and so the demand is greater than the supply. Boat making as an art form of Majuli Island is practiced across the Salmora village along with the Auniati Satra, Bhogpur Satra, Kamalabari Satra, Notun Kamalabari Satra, etc.
Bamboo and Cane industry: The decorative art of bamboo and cane made by the people of Satras in Majuli Island attract tourists from across the World.Wooden Sorai, Singhasana, boxes of cane, etc. colored with Hengul-haital are prominent among these.
Making Sachipat and Writing:
Sachipat are dried leaf of trees and even barks on which hymns and verses are written continuing from the times of the olden days when paper was not available and instead Sachipat was used to preserve the literature. The artists of the Satras in Majuli are expert in the making as well as writing on Sachipat. The Satradhikars of the Satras have conducted many workshops to train people to write on these Sachipat as well as to preserve this art form as well.
Making Mats of Gogol:
Mat of Gogol is an integral practice of the Satras of Majuli Island. Generally there is no tradition of sitting on high seats in the Satras. This type of mat is essential in serving guests, place of Satradhikars and cottages of Bhakats of the Satras of Majuli Island. The mat of gogol is made by cutting Gogol grass and binding them in a special way after drying in the sun. This mat, made across all the Satras of Majuli Island is very attractive and adorable.
Prominent Festivals of Majuli Island
1| Sri Sri Krishna Raas Leela Festival ~ Majuli Island
One of the widely celebrated festivals across Assam and Majuli Island, the Raas Leela festival is observed every year on the full moon night of the autumn season (October-November) and this is a festival of joy of the people of Majuli Island who take part with full heart and joy after the end of a tough monsoon season. The Raas Mahotsav festival in Majuli Island had a special charm to it and every year it attracts thousands of visitors to this island who come to witness the various celebrations that depict the life of Lord Krishna in an art form. The eternal meaning of the Raas Leela festival is the union of the human soul with the eternal soul. In the sequence of events that takes place across the festival it mostly demonstrates the fun and frolic of Lord Krishna in order to fulfill the wishes of his Gopis on a full moon night of the autumn season happens to be the basic theme of the Raas Leela festival of Majuli Island.
The Raas Leela festival is held across 50 stages across Majuli Island drawing visitors from across India and abroad to this heavenly island who are left mesmerized by the attractive settings of the stage, musical compositions and the expert authors of Majuli Island. The people of Majuli whole heartedly take part in the preparations of this festival as this is a way of celebrating after a long rainy season. The various Satras across Majuli Island have different celebrations that host the Raas Leela festival wherein at the Auniati Satra in Majuli the Laxmi Puja and Raas Leela both are observed. At the Auniati Satra in the drama of the Raas Leela the deeds of Sri Krishna as a cowherd and also a Maharas is presented.
2| Falgutsav (Holi Festival) ~ Majuli Island
The festival of Falgutsav is celebrated widely across the Satras of MajulI Island. Across India this celebration is known as Holi – the festival of colours. Holi is a belief that is of a great luck for the human life to be coloured with the colours that was used in the worship of the Lord and the festival os basically of the belief of the activities of fun and frolic of Lord Krishna with the Gopis. The Falgutsav festival of Majuli Island is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the lunar month of Fagun and it is observed across the major Satras of Majuli Island. The Falgutsav festival is observed for four days at the Bengenaati Satra and for 3 days at the Garamur and Dakhinpat Satras of Majuli Island.
3| Paalnaam Festival ~ Majuli Island
In this unique festival of Majuli Island, at the various Satras succession of prayers are chanted in a continuous sequel. Observed across the Garamur, Dakhinoat, Bengenaati, Bihimpur Satras of Majuli Island, the Paalnaam festival celebrated at the Auniati Satra is special and draws thousands of devotees here.
Celebrated from the 25th to 29th month of Karthik, the traditions of Paalnaam was introduced by Srimanta Shankardeva and has been observed since long at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island. The main resource used in the Palnaam festival is that of the prayer book (Gosha) by Madhavadeva and the Bhakats recite prayers across the five days of the observation of the Paalnaam festival. Across the five days of this festival, the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island becomes a place of congregation of Bhakats, Vaishnavas and disciples.
4| Janmashtami Festival ~ Majuli Island
Janmashtami is another widely celebrated festival across Majuli Island that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. The Janmashtami festival is celebrated across the villages and Satras of Majuli Island during the 8hth day of the lunar month of Bhadra. In the celebrations of the Janmashtami festival in Majuli Island the religious prayers are sung across the month of Bhadra and these prayers are called as the ‘Bhadomohia Naam’ Along with the birth anniversary celebrations of Lord Krishna, the tithis of Shankardeva and Madhavadeva are also observed across the Satras. In some of the Satras of Majuli Island the festival is observed for one day while two days across some. At the Auniati Satra stories of Janmashtami are enacted in the form of a Bhaona as well.
5| Bihu Festival ~ Majuli Island
The festival of Bihu is the state festival of Assam and there are three major Bihu celebrated widely across the state namely Bohag, Kati and Magh Bihu that are each celebrated as a mark of the various stages of the harvest season. Across Majuli as well Bihu festival is celebrated with great pomp and vigour and the spiritual touch offered at the Satras of Majuli has given Bihu a completely different dimension.
6| Gurukirtan Festival ~ Majuli Island
The Gurukirtan festival is an occasion to commemorate the death anniversaries of Srimanta Shankardeva and Madhavadeva. At the Kamalabari and Bhugpur Satras, the Gurukirtan festival is observed for four days with grandeur. The festival is also observed across the other Satras as well.
7| Ali Ai Ligang Festival ~ Majuli Island
Considering the first Wednesday of the month of Magha (the 10th month of the Assamese year) as the day of Goddess Lakshmi, the Mishing tribes of Majuli Island observe this festival starting with the sowing of seeds. The agriculturist Mishing people of Majuli observe this festival with their own traditional customs and rituals.
How to Reach Majuli Island
Majuli is the World’s largest river island and is the holy place of Vaishnavite religion and culture, the place of assimilation of different tribes and races is Majuli. The geographical location, natural environment, richness in archaeological wealth and biodiversity denotes Majuli Island a unique identity. Majuli Island is also a district of Assam and is the only river island district of India. Towards the north of Majuli Island the towns of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji are located, Jorhat and Golaghat towns are located in the south, Sivasagar is located on the east of Majuli and towards west is the town of Tezpur.
Being a place with diverse culture due to the presence of various indigenous communities, Majuli Island now occupies a very important place in the cultural field of Assam. The craftsmen of Majuli Island have since ages practiced various artforms by hand like mask making, boat making, etc. and their art finesse could be seen across various handicrafts of ivory, large bowls made of brass and many other hand made things that have glorified the cultural heritage of Majuli Island. The people of Majuli Island have propagated the art of Bhaona culture across the World that has allowed it to receive patronage from various countries and this had led to some fine acting talents to emerge from Majuli as well.
The Satras of Majuli Island are often referred to as ‘School of culture’ and they have played a very important role in the promotion of the Sattriya Nritya. The practice of playing the ‘Khol’ (a traditional drum) has become a daily routine for some of the people of Majuli along with the practice of some dance forms like Mati Akhara. The Sattriya Nritya dance form which happens to be one among the eight classical dance forms of India is practiced across the Satras of Majuli Island has received global recognition and slowly this dance art has moved out of Majuli Island to other parts of Assam as well. The increasing number of the Sattriya dancers has contributed widely to the Sattriya culture of Majuli Island.
The handicrafts and handlooms of Majuli Island have also received global recognition and these art forms have also played an important role in preserving the traditions of Majuli Island. Making various idols, fine arts, carving books on the bark of Sasi tree, making of Gosa (lamp stand), khundana (mortar), thoga (stand to keep book) the artists of Majuli are expert. The hand fan of cane of Auniati Satra work of coloring with hengul hiatal (colors), mask making of samaguri satra – these are preserving the heritage. Pottery industry of salmora village is also representing a heritage of the Majuli Island.
Problems of Majuli
Being located amidst one of the major rivers of the World – the mighty Brahmaputra, Majuli Island has since years faced the problem of erosion by the strong currents of the river. With constant erosion, Majuli has lost a lot of agricultural as well as habitation lands to the river. The Satras of Majuli too have faced constant threat because of this and numerous Satras have had to be relocated to higher grounds to save their existence while some Satras have been completely lost due to floods. It is time the government ensured to take adequate steps to save this centre of Sattriya culture and provide geographical safety to Majuli Island or else Majuli would cease to exist in the map of Assam.
Due to floods, every year one third of the paddy fields are lost and this creates havoc to the agricultural farms of Majuli Island. Not only the fields but a major problem happens as communication comes to a standstill as the roadways get inundated by the floodwaters. Hence concrete efforts need to make Majuli island flood ready during the monsoon season. During the flood season, the people of Majuli Island often lose their property and domestic animals. The need of a boat often arises but the thought of having to feed the family refrains the people of Majuli from spending money to buy a boat. Due to this the slogan of ‘Save Majuli’ has become very important not only to the people of Majuli but also to the people of Assam as well and the administration and local government have taken measures to save the rich heritage and culture of Majuli Island.
Come autumn, these problems of Majuli gradually begin to fade away and the woes of the monsoon are forgotten by the people and the festive environment starts here. As the agricultural fields start becoming green again people light the Akash Banti in 21 paris that brings in joy after the spell of darkness. Across the entire month of Karthik, the Auniati Satra lights the 21 pairs of Akash Banti here in Majuli Island. The festival of Raas Leela and Paalnaam are scheduled during this season and the people of Majuli come in the mood of celebrations. Apart from the Raasleela festival, Paalnaam in the Auniati Satra of Majuli is also a special festival for the people of Majuli. Lakhs of devotees gather during the five days of Paalnaam. In these five days, Paalnaam starts after the regular prayers in Satras (prasangas) and ends before the prayer in the evening. But on the fifth day prayer continues across the whole day and night.
Paalnaam of Majuli – Its History and Tradition’
One of the very popular festivals of Majuli Island after the Raas Mahotsav is the Paalnaam festival that is scheduled after the Raas Leela festival drawing devotees in thousands from across Assam who believe and practice the ideologies propagated by Srimanta Shankardeva. Paalnaam is a festival when a succession of prayers is performed continuously across the Satras of Majuli Island but most popularly at the Auniati Satra here and these prayers arouse a religious feeling in the minds of the people who come to visit the heavenly island of Majuli. As per mythology, the idea of Paalnaam is mentioned in the various Puranas. It is believed that the idea of Paalnaam is derived from Lord Shiva’s continuous chanting of the Brahma mantra in order to achieve Brahmonic essence In Satrayug.
In the Assamese traditions, Paalnaam was introduced by the great Saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva who helped establish the great Sattriya culture of Majuli Island as well along with his disciple Sri Madhavadeva. It had so happened that Madhavadeva and Hari Juai were held captive by King Suhungmung Dihingia and Paalnaam was organized continuously for 7 days for their well-being in captivity and since then this tradition of observing the Paalnaam festival has been organized at the Satras of Majuli Island.
The Paalnaam festival is observed with great fan and fare at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island and this has become one of the chief festivals of this Satra. In a unique story it is believed that the Paalnaam was organized continuously here when the Satradhikar of this Satra had gone into hiding to escape the wrath of the then Ahom King Gadadhar Singha and only when the wrath calmed down the prayers had ended when the Satradhikar had returned back to Majuli. Since then the practice of Paalnaam had been continuing here at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island. As of earlier the Paalnaam used to be organized every month but later to accommodate the convenience of the people it became a yearly ritual. The Paalnaam festival of Majuli Island is observed in the month of Karthik that is considered to be a very holy month.
During the festival of Paalnaam a strict set of prayer rituals are undertaken wherein the Vaishnavas after seeking persmission from the Satradhikar of the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island start the session of conducting the naam at the Satra premises. The Vaishnavas consider the Monikut of the Namghar to be as heaven and start their prayers with auspicious chants. On the other hand the Vaishnava’s of Majuli Island sing prayers establishing Sri Modbhagwata in front of Hari Naam in the form of a noted that in this prayer clap and cymbal is not used. Only verses from Naamghosha by the Madhabdeva is sung in regular interval for a few moments. After continuous enchantment of prayers in a day and night on the month, the festival ends with Hiyanaam, Dihanaam and Gayan-Bayan after regular prayers of the day in Majuli Island. A festive environment is created at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island during the days of the Paalnaam. The inmates at the Auniati Satra of Majuli Island regard the work of looking after the guests as holy duty and enjoy it. Manusha yogya (serving human being) falls under the five great yagyas and is completely projected by the members of the Auniati Satra of Majuli Island.
As a per of the rituals of the Paalnaam festival it is a practice to donate salt along with the lighting of earthen lamp by the devotees who come to the Auniati Satra of Majuli Island during the Paalnaam festival as it is a belief that donating salt is equivalent to the donating of gold. It is also said that when Madhavadeva and Hari Juai were imprisoned by the King it was directed by Srimanta Shankardeva to donate rice and salt after their return and hence the importance of donation of salt remained at the Auniati Satra of Majuli Island’s Paalnaam festival. During the Paalnaam festival prayers are recited for three times a day and the Vaishnavas from the directions of east, west and north sing these prayers thrice a day. There are three types of Paalnaam namely Brahmapal, Bishnupal and Rudrapaal.
Apart from the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island, the festival of Paalnaam is also observed at the Dakhinpat Satra. At the Dakhinpat Satra the Udayasta Paalnaam is observed with the motive of well-being of everyone not only in Majuli Island but across the World. The Udayasta Paalnaam is observed from sunrise to sunset.
In the Garamur Satra in Majuli Island, paalnaam is observed for one day. Here one thousand verses of Madhavadeva is enchanted. In the Bengenaati Satra of Majuli Island, Paalnaam is observed for the complete month of Vadra. The characteristic of Paalnaam of Bihimpur Satra observed for one day is that the beginning of Namacharya (chief singer) explains the origin of Paalnaam of Majuli Island. In the prominent Satra of Kamalavari also Paalnaam is observed for one to seven days.
History of Raasleela and Majuli Island
Raasleela festival of Majuli is a once in a lifetime visit experience of any person coming to visit Majuli Island in Assam. This unique festival is a step wise detailed life of Lord Krishna depicted in an art form that draws visitors from far and near. The eternal meaning of Raas Leela is the union of the human soul with the eternal soul and it is displayed as the fun, frolic and deeds of Lord Krishna at Vrindavan during the full moon night of the autumn season to fulfil the visits and desires of his Gopis. The Raas Leela festival of Majuli Island is observed for three days during the month of October-November and this festival is an auspicious occassion in the assilmilation of the elements of Vedic rituals and dramatic presentation. Majuli Island turns to Baikunth (dwelling place of Lord Vishnu) during the days of the Raasleela festival.
As per the history of this festival, God takes incarnation across times on earth to prevail over evil and sustain good over the planet. As per mythology, Lord Krishna resides at the Gokul Baikuntha and when he saw the rise of evil and degradation on earth he had decided to come to earth and put things in order and at that time the Gopis prayed to Lord Krishna and he had allowed the Gopis to come along with him from Baikuntha to earth and thereby the deeds of Lord Krishna prevailed on earth. To celebrate this win over evil, the Raas Leela festival is observed across Majuli Island and across the various Satras the festival is observed with different Vedic rituals and decorative presentations.
The Raas Leela festival is widely celebrated across the various Satras of Majuli Island and the festival is observed with certain Vedic rituals and drama presentations called as the ‘Bhaona’ that illustrates the various stages in the life of Lord Krishna and the artists wearing masks and elaborate costumes to appear in the character of the mythological characters they represent. Among the Satras of Majuli Island, the Dakhinpat Satra is believed to be the oldest in the following of Vedic traditions and drama enactment and it is said that one of the Satradhikars of this Satra in Majuli Island wrote the drama of the Raas Leela festival including various songs and dramas as he believed it was an instruction from God who had come in his dreams and asked him to narrate this presentation in this form. Since that time this drama was popularized across the various Satras of Majuli Island with dramatization of devotional dramas.
At the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island, the chief function is that of the Raas Puja and on the day of this festival a combined statue of Radha Krishna is worshipped and various other prayers like the Naam Prasanga, Dihanaam, Hiyanaam, Gayan-Bayan, Natua and Ujapali, drama of Raasleela performed in the Namghar parallel to the Puja.
In addition to the first day of the prayers at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island, Raas Leela festival is observed for another 2 days. On the first day however women are not allowed to participate as the prayers take place inside the main Namghar areas. In addition to the presentation of the Raas Leela at the main Namghar premises, the scene of Gokuldham is also presented at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island.
At the Samaguri Satra in Majuli Island, Raas Leela is observed for 2 days where in a festive environment greets visitors at this Satra and the use of wonderful handmade masks are a special attraction to be witnessed here. A festive environment takes place with the Awahan kirtan, thionaam, naam prasanga, borgeet, songs of play keli-gopal, ujapali, etc. Use of wonderful masks is a special characteristic of the Samaguri Satra of Majuli Island.
The Bengeenati Satra Raas Leela celebrations is another of the attraction of Majuli Island and various enactment are performed at this Satra and a lot of local people of Majuli Island come to witness the Raas celebrations at this Satra. The Garamur Satra Raas Leela festival is one of the main attractions and the tickewts are pre-booked a month prior to the celebrations here. The Bhaona enactment at the Garamur Satra is of a special dimension and the Shankardev Krishna Sangh of Majuli Island has been presenting the Raas Festival here in 1960.
It may be noteworthy to mention that two different forms of Raas Leela are performed at the various Satras in Majuli viz. one is presented with Vedic traditions in an open space and the other presented on a stage. Presented across over 20 stages across Majuli Island where large number of people gather to witness the festivities the festival of Raas Leela in Majuli Island has been able to grab a World audience and every year visitors from India and abroad come to witness the open enactment with Vedic traditions of the Life of Lord Krishna depicted in an art form.
Holi Utsav – Its History and Traditional in Majuli Island
Another important festival of Majuli Island is the festival of Falgutsav or Holi – the festival of Colours as it is celebrated across India. Holi is an ancient festival of India and it is observed across the country with a lot of fun and merriment. In Majuli Island, Holi is celebrated during the spring season on the full moon day of the month of Fagun. It is widely observed across the Satras of Majuli Island and people feel themselves to be lucky to be coloured with the colour that was used in the worship of the Lord. As to why this festival of colours is celebrated an interesting mythological story is behind it that states that Lord Krishna wanted to know from his Mother Jasodha as to why he had a dark complexion while Radha was fairer and mother told him that if colour would be applied on Radha’s face, then the skin colour would change and so paying heed to this advice Lord Krishna smeared colour on Radha’s face and the other Gopis as well and the mood became festive. Hence holi is celebrated as a fun filled activity among the people today. The Holy guru and saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva started the ritual of Holi celebrations at Borduwa and Barpeta Satras and later the rituals spread across various places. Today Holi celebrations are observed at the Dakhinpat, Bengenaati, Kamalabari and the Garamur Satras of Majuli Island. It is however not observed at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island.
The first day of the Falgutsav celebrations is called as Meshdah, the second day is called as the ‘Fakua’ Puja and the third day is the ‘Puja Mahaprabhu Poribhraman’. The Falgutsav celebration of the Bengenaati Satra is quite famous and it is observed for four days.
To conclude, if you want to witness a calm and pristine environment away from the hustle and bustle of a busy city life then a visit to Majuli Island is a must on your bucket list. Majuli is the largest river island in the World and also the only river island district in India. A very sought after ecotourism destination in North East India, Majuli is a hotspot for abundance of flora and fauna harbouring many rare and endemic species including thousands of birds that migrate to Majuli Island during the winter season. Inhabited majorly by the Mishing people of Assam who are dependent on agriculture as their primary profession along with fishing the river Brahmaputra serves as a lifeline to the people of Majuli Island. In addition, the people are adept in the weaving of exquisite bamboo and cane handicrafts and handlooms as well. The bamboo handicrafts of Majuli Island are renowned across Assam and the craftsmen use bamboo to weave various items of furniture and build homes as well. The weaving by hand is an exquisite artwork and use of cotton and silk is abundant in Majuli including the Muga silk of Assam.
In addition to these activities the people of Majuli Island also practice fishing, dairying, pottery, mask making and boat making. Within the area of the largest river island of Majuli there are about 144 villages inhabited by over 1,50,000 individuals belonging to both the tribal and non-tribal communities of Assam. The tribal communities comprises of the Mishings, the Deoris and the Sonowal Kachari people of Assam who have made Majuli island their home and live in the 1250 sq. km area of this riverine island.
It will not be wrong to state that Majuli Island has been the cradle and cultural capital of Assam for the past several hundred years’ country with the legacy and ideologies preached by the holy saint reformer and Guru Srimanta Shankardeva and his disciple Madhavadeva who established the various institutions called as the Satras here in Majuli Island. In addition to carrying out the principles and ideologies of the great guru these Satras also preserve various artefacts like weapons, utensils. Jewellery and other items of significance from the Neo Vaishnavite movement along with the items of the Ahom Kingdom as well. Few of the prominent Satras of Majuli Island are Auniati Satra, Dakhinpat Satra, Garamur Satra, Samaguri Satra, Bengenaati Satra, Kamalbari Satra and these Satras of Majuli Island are a treasure house of various arts and dances like Borget, Matiakhara, Jumora dance, Nande Vringee, Sutradhar, Apsara Dance, Satriya Krishna dance, etc. which were contributed by the Holy Guru and Great reformer Shri Shri Srimanta Shankardeva.
It was during the time of the late 16th century that the Holy guru and saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva had met with Sri Madhavadeva at Dhunahat Beluri in Majuli Island and this famous meeting is often called as the ‘Monikanchan Union’ and it was post that Srimanta Shankardeva and his disciples laid the foundation of the Satra culture of Majuli Island going on to establish 65 Satras in and around Majuli Island. However, every year floods are a major concern and due to the rise in the waters of the Brahmaputra and people lose a lot during these floods. Even the Satras were not spared with the wrath of these floods and now only a few remain in Majuli Island.
The Neovaishnavism cult of Majuli Island was founded and propagated by Srimanta Shankardeva who in addition to being a saint reformer was a saint, visionary, poet, musician, dramatist and painter as well. With the kind of hatred based on caste system prevailing in India during the medieval times, Srimanta Shankardeva was disappointed with the system and he believed that human beings were to be treated equally irrespective of caste, creed and religion. He propagated the principle of Bhakti – One God cult and with this he was able to bring an extraordinary resurgence in the life of the people of Majuli Island as well as Assam. The Bhakti movement had simple ramifications like spiritual, social, Cultural, literature and artistic. At that time people had religious ceremonies very complicated and the Brahmins who were considered to be the upper caste had laid down various rituals to be offered to the Gods and so the poor people or rather the people from lower castes couldn’t even afford to hold such ceremonies. It was with Srimanta Shankardeva’s Bhakti cult that had simple preaching’s and was monotheistic being a one God cult that people irrespective of their birth, caste or status started to believe that they also could attain salvation by taking refuge in God.
The Bhakti Worship was a congregation of devotees in a simple prayer hall without any elaborate rituals. In the practice of Neovaishnavism that was prevalent at the Satra of Majuli Island, young boys would enter the premises of these Satras at a very young age and dedicate their lives towards serving God and practice the principle of Bhakti wherein they would surrender to the Gurus of the Satra and spent time in meditation an learning of various arts and crafts to sustain themselves and spent time in the worship of Lord Vishnu. The nearby village contributes to the food requirement oat these Satras all according to their personal capacity and if they couldn’t contribute anything it was a fine as well. The disciple of a Satra would be working at other places would once in a year visit the place and contribute eatables from their produce from gardens. The Bhakats inside the Satra would work according to the rule of using one’s own hands and do all necessary cooking, working and miscellaneous works. They would also collect firewood, husk paddy that they have collected themselves from the paddy fields.
To finally conclude Majuli Island has a very rich heritage and culture and has been an abode of the Neovaishnavite cult of Assam with a tremendous potential of spiritual and ecotourism. Having varied species of flora and fauna along with the gift of migratory birds that arrive to the winter season, Majuli is an island gifted with all requests of Mother Nature to enthral an ecotourist.
While at Majuli Island ~
- Visit the Neo-Vaishnava Satras founded by Sankardeva at Majuli
- Visit the colorful culture of the tribes at Majuli
- Sight Migratory birds by the Brahmaputra River at Majuli
- Visit the Traditional Ali-Ai-Ligang festival of the Mishing Tribes at Majuli
- Learn the art of Pottery making at Majuli
- Revisit the Lost Art of Traditional Mask making at Majuli
- Visit the Raas Leela in November at Majuli
- Savor Traditional Tribal Food and Local Wine at Majuli
- Cycle across the Calm and Pristine Island of Majuli
- Enjoy the beauty of sunset in winter by the Banks of Brahmaputra at Majuli
- Witness the Exotic homespun Handicrafts and Handlooms at Majuli
- Enjoy the natural beauty of the Largest River Island in the World at Majuli
Exploring Majuli Island ~ a Road Trip from Guwahati to Majuli and back…..
On the day of October 21st, 2018 two of my friends had called me and told me that they wanted to explore Majuli Island. As I own and operate a Backpacker focussed Eco Camp – the “La Lolat Eco Camp” at Majuli and also after having conducted various tours to Majuli with foreign as well as Indian guests they believed that no one could guide them around Majuli better then me from Guwahati. I did not have any plan on visiting Majuli until November 2018 for the annual Raas Leela Festival (to look after the workings at my camp and to welcome our visitors) but still they continued to request me to take them over and I finally agreed to take them out exploring Majuli Island from Guwahati on October 28th, 2018 as I had some earlier tasks scheduled on the next couple of days. As winter season was approaching and night time at Majuli Island could get quite cold so I asked them to pack few warm clothes along with them.
It was the morning of October 28th and we started at 7 AM from Guwahati to Majuli Island. I took my own car as we were only three of us travelling to Majuli. It is always better to start on your drive from Guwahati to Majuli as there is a ferry to be boarded to cross the Brahmaputra river to reach Majuli and the last government operated ferry that plies from Neemati Ghat near Jorhat to Majuli is at 3.30 PM and it is advisable to reach by 2 PM to have sufficient time to board the ferry and cross over to reach Majuli. The roads are good upto Nagaon as it is a four lane highway and we continued on our drive. We halted at Sonapur to fill petrol in the car and after checking the tyre pressure we started again on our drive. Our very next stop was at Jagiroad to have breakfast. We stopped at the very old Jain hotel at Jagiroad. About a 50 year old hotel, the Jain Hotel at Jagiroad serves delicious hot puri sabji to its guests. It was a short break for about 20 minutes and then we started on out drive again.
We did not make any further halts and continued on our drive to Kaziranga National Park after crossing Nagaon, Amoni and Jakhalabandha. We reached Kaziranga National Park at around 10.45 AM and continued our drive crossing Bagori safari range to reach the view point midway between Bagori and Kohora safari range. We parked our car and got down to sight the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros of Kaziranga National Park. From the viewpoint we could see around 4 adult rhinoceros grazing on the grasslands. Along rhinoceros there were asiatic wild water buffaloes, deers, wild boars, sambars and various species of birds located at slight distance. There were young boys renting out binoculars to visitors to get a better glimpse of these magnificent animals. After 15 minutes we started on our drive to Majuli again. After crossing Kaziranga National Park we reached Bokakhat.
After Bokakhat driving further we reached the town of Numaligarh. Famous for a fort constructed here during the reign of the Ahom kings we halted at Numaligarh for lunch at the Numaligarh dhaba. One of the most popular food joints on National Highway 37, the Numaligarh dhaba serves authentic Assamese cuisine. We ordered for Assamese Veg thali and fish curry for us. The food was amazing and after paying our bills we headed out again on our drive. We crossed Dergaon and Jorhat to reach the Neemati Ghat at 1.45 PM. We were on schedule and as there was not much rush we successfully boarded our vehicle on the government ferry boat that was scheduled to depart at 2.30 PM to Kamalabari ghat in Majuli Island. The ferry boat started and we began to cross the mighty Brahmaputra river on our way to the Largest River Island in the World – Majuli Island. By the time we reached Kamalabari Ghat is was 3.30 PM. Slowly we started to offload the car from the ferry boat and continued on our drive to Garamur in Majuli after crossing the Kamalabari township in Majuli Island. Our stay was arranged at my camp – the La Lolat Eco Camp at Majuli and we had a bamboo cottage and a swiss tent booked for us with attached bathroom facilities. There were four other guests at our camp 2 from Bangalore and 2 from Israel and they were staying at the Chang cottage in our camp. All of them were backpackers and as they wanted a budget option to stay, they choose to halt at the Chang Ghar with bamboo cottages that have a shared bathroom option at nominal rates of INR 400 per night per cottage.
The caretaker of my camp Anil greeted us and allotted us our rooms. I had called my local friends from Majuli who informed that they would come over shortly and we would go out to a nearby village where a local family had invited us over for evening snacks. I asked Anil to go to a nearby market and get some fish and fresh vegetables to be cooked for dinner for everyone. By around 5.15 my two friends from Majuli came over and I introduced them to my friends from Guwahati and we headed out to explore the nearby village. We reached by 6 and the family welcomed us into their home. We gathered at their kitchen and we could see the wife cooking pork for us over fire. Pork is a delicacy here in Majuli Island and guests are offered pork along with the traditional local rice beer “Apong”. We sat down on the bamboo floor and were served apong with a special black dal to begin with. Slowly the pork was being roasted and the owner was telling us about the preparations going on for the upcoming Raas Leela festival. My friends from Guwahati immediately fell in love with Majuli with the people and culture here. In sometime the pork was served and it was simply lip-smacking! Roasted to perfection it was mixed with freshly cut onions, green chillies and coriander leaves and fresh lemon juice was squeezed over it.
After finishing the rice beer and pork we thanked the host for this wonderful evening and headed back to our camp. It was 7.30 and Anil was preparing dinner back at the camp. We sat down by the fire and discussed how beautiful Majuli island was and planned our visit to the various Satras of Majuli along with other local villages. A short while later we were joined by the other guests. We discussed how they felt being here in Majuli island and they all loved the place as well. They had been staying here for more than 3 days and were exploring the various parts of the island on bicycles we had rented them out. Dinner was served at 8.30 and it was a simple meal of rice, dal, fish curry with gourd and brinjal roasted on fire along with salad and papad. It was a sumptuous meal. After dinner we spoek for a while and then retired to bed.
The next morning I was up by 5AM and I went out to take a short walk around. My friends were not yet up and so I went out alone. It was surprising to see here that people get up very early in the morning. By around 5.30 AM everybody was out at the local market and people were busy setting up their shops here. The meat shops already opened and people were busy buying pork from the vendor. It seems that the pork stocks gets over by 7 AM everyday. The fish stock had also arrived and so did the chicken. The tea shops had opened and I went in to have a cup of black tea. People were busy discussing about their day and I silently listened to their conversations. I decided to head back to the camp to get ready for our day of exploring Majuli Island. Everybody was up and ready and Anil was preparing tea for everyone. I sat down chatting with the guys from Israel who told me that they wanted to check out the Sattriya Nritya dance performance at the Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli. As they didn’t know whom to approach I informed them that the performance is arranged only upon prior request and an amount has to be paid to witness the Sattriya Nritya performance in person. As we too had planned to see this dance performance in Majuli we all agreed to split the cost of the performance and I told them that we could go to watch the performance in the evening today.
My friends were up and ready for the day. As there was some left over rice from the previous night I asked Anil to cut vegetables and prepare fried rice for all of us for breakfast. At around 9 AM we set out to explore our first destination for the day here in Majuli island – the Auniati Satra. One of the most renowned Satras of Majuli Island the Auniati Satra is famous for the Paalnam festival and the Raas Leela festival. We reached the Satra entrance where we had to remove our shoes before going inside. We bought a thali with puja offerings to be offered at the Namghar here. The prayer hall area at the Auniati Satra in Majuli Island is a big area and monks keep reciting prayers throughout the day here. We lit incense sticks and dia and seeked blessings here. Next we came to see the huge tree trunk of a tulsi tree kept inside the premises of the Auniati Satra. Next we came to visit the Museum of the Auniati Satra. Various ancient relics from the time of the Ahom kingdom is kept in this museum. We saw various artefacts made of ivory and costumes of the Ahom kings. We even saw the sword which was used by the brave Ahom general Lachit Borphukan kept here. After a while we left the Auniati Satra to go to the Samaguri Satra.
We reached the Samaguri Satra after about half an hour. The Samaguri Satra is renowned across the World for its practice of traditional mask making of Majuli Island. Exquisite masks all made from bamboo, cloth and clay are demonstrated here at the Samaguri Satra in Majuli Island. The members of this Satra have travelled the world displaying this heritage art form. Also visitors from various countries come to the Samaguri Satra to witness and learn the art of mask making. The Samaguri Satra in Majuli Island is located 12 kilometers eastwards from Kamalabari. Chakrapanidev, son of Keshabpriya, daughter of Purushottam Thakur and Niranjan Gabhaugiri alias Petphala Ata (her husband) established this Satra in the year 1663. Afterwards this Satra was divided into another branch namely Notun Chamaguri Satra which is now located near the marketplace of Rawanapur. This Satra belongs to Purusha Sanhoti and the present Satradhikar is Dr. Hemchandra Goswami. Once we entered the Satra we could see various artists preparing the traditional masks. The Satradhikar Dr. Hemchandra Goswami was also present. We were then guided to the room where a monk demonstrated us the use of these traditional masks. It was a wonderful experience witnessing it. After paying our contribution towards the development of the Satra, we bid goodbye to the Samaguri Satra in Majuli Island.
After the Samaguri Satra we headed to visit the Dakhinpat Satra. The Dakhinpat Satra was built under the Ahom patronage of Swargadeo Jayadhwaja Singha and Banamalidev established the Dakhinpat Satra in 1584. The Dakhinpat Satra in Majuli Island is located on the south bank of the Brahmaputra river. The name ‘Dakhinpat’ is derived from two words ‘Dakhin’ meaning South and ‘Pat’ means a port. From this we can come to a conclusion that the Dakhinpat Satra is situated on the south bank of the Brahmaputra river. This Satra of Majuli Island belongs to the Brahma Samiti and its Bhakats lead a bachelor’s life. It follows the ideals of Damodhar Deva. The idol of Lord Jadav Rai is worshipped here. As we entered the Dakhinpat Satra a sense of calm and peace filled our minds. The fresh breeze from the Brahmaputra river kept flowing and we took a little time to relax on the lawn area here. We explored the area around the Satra and took time to visit the Namghar of the Dakhinpat Satra. After offering our prayers we took leave from the Dakhinpat Satra.
Later we went to the local village of Salmora which is famous for the dying art of pottery making here in Majuli Island. One of the local boys here who was my friend had invited us over to his house for lunch and we could also get an opportunity to witness pottery making at one of the local homes here. My friend at Salmora village asked one of his aunts to show us the art of pottery making while his mother was cooking our lunch. It was interesting to see how the lady used the special clay to create a very interesting art work of pottery. An interesting part of the pottery making of Salmora village in Majuli Island is that the people do not use a pottery wheel and instead they shape the pots with their hands and later dry them out in the sun and the pots are finally ready for the markets. We thanked the lady for allowing us to witness this art form of pottery making here in Majuli Island. Lunch was ready and it was already 3 PM. It was really surprising how we spent 6 hours without realizing how time passed away. Lunch was simple yet very delicious. We had rice, black dal, local chicken curry and local ferns sabji with potato. It was really very delicious and healthy too! We thanked the family for all the trouble taken for us and offered them some money for the pottery demonstration which they refused to accept and we bid them goodbye.
By the time we arrived at the camp it was 4.30 PM and we were scheduled to go to the Uttar Kamalabari Satra at 7 PM to witness the Sattriya Nritya performance. After having a cup of tea all of us went to the Satra. The monks were reciting their evening prayers at the Satra premises inside the Namghar area. The Uttar Kamalabari Satra is located near the Kerela gaon area of Majuli Island and is renowned across the World for its practice of keeping alive the tradition of the Sattriya Nritya of Majuli Island. The Sattriya Nritya is one of the eight classical dance forms of India and is performed by the Male members of the Uttar Kamalabari Satra and they perform unique dance movements to the beating of the Drum and the Khol. We watched the performance with a lot of enthusiasm. The performance lasted for 20 minutes and the young boys put up a brilliant performance of the Sattriya Nritya dance form here in Majuli Island. We thanked all the boys and then offered our contribution to the Uttar Kamalabari Satra that would help them to sustain and keep this dance form alive.
At around 8 PM we returned back to our camp. Anil was doing the final preparations for dinner and I asked my friend to get some rice beer for everyone. There is a home in the nearby village where they brew fresh rice beer and of good quality. They also keep a stock of smoked pork which is available for purchase. My friend arrived back shortly with the rice beer a little amount of pork that we put up in front of the fire in skewers to roast for around 15 minutes. I served the rice beer to everyone and it was quite good to drink. We discussed the evening with our guests from Israel and bangalore about heri future plans in North East India. They were leaving tomorrow morning and heading towards Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh where they would spend the next couple of days and then head back home. At around 9.30 Anil served dinner to everyone. He had prepared rice, dal, mixed vegetable sabji, soya bean curry, roasted fish, tomato chutney and all this was served with a traditional Mishing chutney called as ‘Namsing’. The food was simply amazing and I take pride in saying that it was one of the most flavorful meals I had ever had across all of Assam. We thanked Anil for the wonderful dinner and later retired to bed.
The next morning I was up again at 5 AM and today my friends were up too. We headed for a short walk around the camp. We had a cup of black tea each at the nearby shop and then headed back to our camp to bid goodbye to our guests. I bought Maggi noodles and eggs to be served for breakfast and asked Anil to prepare it quickly as our guests were getting ready. By 7 AM breakfast was served and the guests were ready with their backpacks. After a quick breakfast we bid them goodbye. Today there were another four guests checking into our camp. Two of them were from germany and two from France. Today we had planned our day to visit the nearby Luit river and spend some time fishing there with a few local boys. We left our camp at 8.30 to reach the bank of the Luti river in Majuli Island at 9 AM. Our local friends were already there with a boat and they tied it to the river bank and we set up our equipment for a day of fishing. The river luit of Majuli island is a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra river and it is a major source of fish supply to the people of Majuli Island. We started fishing with traditional fishing rods here in Majuli. After about 30 minutes one of my friends got lucky and he caught his first fish. It was a small catfish and we all were very excited. We released the fish back into the river. We continued fishing until afternoon at around 12 Pm and then we decided to call it a day and returned back to our camp.
We went and got fresh at the camp and later headed out to my friend Rupam’s house for lunch. He had ordered for fresh cut pork for us in the morning and he had also caught fish from a pond near his home so he had invited us over to his home for lunch. We reached his home at Phutuki village in Majuli at around 1 PM. I met some of my other friends from Majuli here and they took us out to explore the nearby village. We saw the lush green paddy fields, the various local Mishing homes constructed using bamboo. At one of the local homes we saw a Mishing lady weaving exquisite handlooms. It was an interesting sight to watch them weave out such beautiful and colorful hand woven clothes. At 2 PM we returned to Mr. Rupam’s home and lunch was ready. His wife served us with a different local wine this time called as ‘Sai Mod’. This is made by brewing of a local black rice grain and has a smokey flavor to it. It was very interesting to watch it being brewed freshly in front of your eyes and there was also a traditional Mishing rice wrapped up in banana leaves called as ‘Purang Apin’.
Normally these Mishing dishes are prepared only during the Mishing traditional festival of Ali Ai Ligang which is celebrated every year in the month of February. But since we were their guests Mr. Rupam had arranged for this special meal for us. There was roasted pork and pork cooked with ‘Lai Xaak’ – a special green leafy vegetable. There was also ‘Dhekia Xaak’ – another local jungle fern that was fried with potato, roasted brinjal over fire with potato chutney. Perhaps the best part about Majuli is the food. Everything is grown organically and freshly plucked and cooked which makes it so very delicious! The meal was a perfect blend of taste and nutrition and we thanked the entire family for making this elaborate arrangement for us.
After finishing lunch we explored the village a little more and went to drink tea at another friends home. Here we got to witness how they prepare rice beer – ‘Apong’. Also we visited a local granary called ‘Bhoral’ where the people of Majuli store their rice harvest. It was really very interesting to witness rural life after spending your life in the city. You come to know how people lead a simple life not in the greed of money just living a healthy and peaceful life away from the city noise and pollution. By the time we finished exploring the village it was almost dark. We thanked everyone for their wonderful hospitality during our stay here in Majuli Island and headed back to our camp. Anil was at the camp with our guests who had arrived in the early evening. They were already in their rooms by the time we had arrived and they had asked Anil for an early dinner by 7.30 PM. Anil was busy with the dinner preparation and as they were all preferring a vegetarian meal we had bought vegetables for them with soya bean. We went inside the cottages to welcome everyone and all of us gathered at the kitchen area of our camp by the fire as evenings in Majuli starts to feel a little cold during this time of the year. They told us about their stories of travel across India and how they visited various hill stations and covered various destinations across the entire country. They expressed their interest for tasting the rice beer and so I asked one of my friends to get it for them from the nearby village home.
The rice beer arrived shortly and I serve everyone with the rice beer along with freshly cut tomato and cucumber salad and some fried potatoes. We continues with our discussion as Anil cooked dinner for us. We were scheduled to return back to Guwahati from Majuli the next morning and so I guided the guests on how to explore the island. At 7.30 PM dinner was served that had rice, dal, soya bean with potatoes and peas curry, mixed vegetables sabji, potato fry, roasted tomato chutney, pickle and papad. food was again simple yet very delicious and our guests enjoyed it. We spend a little more time discussing and then returned to bed.
The next morning we were scheduled to catch the 8.30 AM ferry so we left the camp at 7.30 after bidding goodbye to our guests and Anil. We reached the Kamalabari ghat in Majuli island at 8AM and boarded the 8.30 AM government ferry boat. The journey upstream the river Brahmaputra from Majuli Majuli to Neemati ghat takes 1 hour and 45 minutes as we go against the river current. We reached Neemati ghat at 10.15 AM and then started on our drive back to Guwahati. At Bokakhat we halted to have puri and sabji very famous in Assam. Next we crossed Kaziranga National Park, Jalukbari, Amoni and reached Nagaon where we halted for lunch. By the time we arrived at Guwahati it was 5 PM. I dropped my friends at their home at Khanapara and then reached home with beautiful memories from the Largest River Island in the World – Majuli Island!
Majuli Island – Further Reading…..
When it comes to the history of Neo Vaishnavism cult of Majuli Island, there has been numerous books on the great saints both the holy saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva and his disciple Madhavadeva and the studies related to both these holy gurus is called as Hagiographical studies of Assam. The need for such a detailed study was needed because there was a time coming when the Ahom kingdom was gradually losing its patronage and even their kingdom due to lack of proper leadership and the advent of the British into India who were a very powerful force trying to gain control over the entire country establishing colonialism in India. So during the time from 1720s to 1740s various written works were undertaken and biography was published by the head of the Sundariya Satra that details the life of the holy saint reformer and his disciple and how they preached and established the Satras not only across Majuli Island but across Assam as well. As can be seen across Majuli Island, the spread of Neo Vaishnavism cult very deep and the saints here have continued to practice the legacy and preaching’s of the holy guru and dis disciple since many hundred years and this is what makes Majuli Island the centre of the thought of the literatures based on the life of the holy saint reformer and his disciple.
Most of these books were published by the various Satradhikars of the Satras across Majuli Island and Assam and some of these names were Purushottam Thakur, Chaturbhuj Thakur, etc. In addition to publishing noteworthy materials about the life of the holy guru and his disciple numerous works were also published about Chaturbhuj and Purushottam Thakur. And as the cult of Neo Vaishnavism started to spread from the places it concentrated like Majuli Island, Barpeta, etc. across Assam and even places in current West Bengal like Cooch Behar. More books started to appear and being published both in terms of verse and prose. Hence it would be noteworthy to mention that one of the most prominent books that came to be published about the Neo Vaishnavism cult of Majuli Island and Assam was that of Guru-Charita-Kathat that not only spoke about the great Saint and his disciple but also about the two Thakurs, nine Atas and the twenty five Mahantas who lives in sometime were spent at the numerous Satras in Majuli Island.
There works were every important to be published to keep the cult of Neo Vaishnavism and the Ek Sarna alive across Majuli Island and Assam as well because with the British came the Christian missionaries who were gaining control over the minds of the people in North East India and the missionaries helped the local indigenous people with education and a promise of a good life that helped the missionaries to convert many of the indigenous communities across Assam (during the time of the British rule, the entire North East India was one state called Assam with its capital in Shillong (present day capital of the state of Meghalaya)). The alarming rate of conversion worried the various Satradhikars of these Satras not only in Majuli Island but across Assam who had to keep the concept and ideologies of Neo Vaishnavism alive and do not allow the people of the state to convert to Christianity and to spread the word of the holy Guru and saint reformer they had to document their preaching’s and spread it across the masses so they are not influenced by the Christian Missionaries. Their efforts paid in the long run and the people of Assam (present day) who were devout followers of the Neo Vaishnavism cult of Srimanta Shankardeva, Madhavadeva and the various Satradhikars of Majuli Island and Assam held on to their faith.
Many other indigenous communities adopted Christianity like the Nagas, the Mizos and the Khasis and even the Nishys and Adis of Arunachal Pradesh. Today the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram are states with almost 90% of its population who practice Christianity as their faith. This was something that was quite different from the times of the Ahoms who were responsible for uniting the various ethnic groups who lived in North East India since time immemorial and when the founder of the Ahom King Swargadeo Sukapha came from the Shan Kingdom and established the Ahom Empire in 1228 AD he created a strong army and brought the entire Brahmaputra and Barak valley under the control of his kingdom and their power was mostly concentrated in the East while the Koch kingdom has control over the west and both these kingdoms were responsible for bringing in a synthesis among the various ethnic groups that led to the formation of the Assamese society and the dharma of Ek Sarna.