Being the largest river island of the world, Majuli is a famed name today. Situated amid the potent Brahmaputra River, Assam, Majuli is also known as the first island district in India. At the beginning of 20th century, the total area of this river was around 1,250sq.kms. Over the periods, Majuli has lost around one third of its total area due to frequent flooding in Assam and soil erosion. In the month of September 2016, the 880 sq.kms Majuli was declared as the world’s largest river island by Guinness World Records. To bag the world’s largest island crown, Majuli has superseded the Marajo island of Brazil.
Prior declaration as the island district, Majuli was a sub-division under Jorhat district. Located around 300-400kms east from Guwahati, this river island can be reached by ferries from Jorhat city, Assam.
Visitors rush this islet to witness its gleaming paddy field and water meadows. Majuli island is also in the process of getting world heritage site status under the tentative list of UNESCO.
Historic Chronicle of Majuli
It is said that every success story comes across plenty of anguish happenings. Majuli has also faced several such devastating calamities before it came into a famed existence. Repetitive tremors during 1661-1696 resulted into ruinous flood later in 1750, which stayed for 15 long days. Consequently, river Brahmaputra had a major cleft dividing the river into two branches. One of the branches was flowing with the original channel of river Brahmaputra and the other part was with Burhidihing channel, which formed the Majuli Island.
This eminent island has been the cultural capital of Assamese civilisation since 16th century. As per ancient tales, on this islet Sankardeva has sermonised a monotheism form of Hindusim known as Vaishnavism based on which he further established monasteries called Satra. For his neo-Vaishnavite movement, Sankardeva is still admired as the pioneer of Vaishnavism on this islet and in Assam. Before independence Majuli was under British rule. Today, people know this place as the world’s largest river island.
The People and Culture
It is estimated that Majuli river island is the residence of around 1, 60,000 inhabitants from different groups (neo-Vaishnavite culture). More than 140 villages are here in Majuri islet. Most of the inhabitants in Majuli are the immigrated tribes of Arunachal Pradesh who started residing here centuries back. In addition, you will also find the dwellers from Sonowal Kacharis tribes and Deori. Mising, Deori and Assamese are the common languages spoken here by the local inhabitants.
Though the island has lot many inherent pitfalls but, with gradual set up of academic institutions and therapeutic centres, novelty has touched the wet land to a great extent.
The inhabitants of Majuli Islet are rich by religion and culture. Villagers gather to the local Namghar and Satras to perform their rituals and prayers. The people here celebrate various festivals like Ali aye ligang, Christmas and Rass. Local inhabitants perform their traditional Gumrag Soman dance during the festivals. If you happen to visit this wetland, mouth-watering dishes and beverage like purang apin and apong is a must try. Apong is very popular beverage here made of rice. Most of the delicious dishes are made of pork, chicken and fish, and served with rice wrapped in special leaves. If you wish to give your mouth a sugary taste after the spicy purang apin, then you must try the traditional pithas (cake) here in Majuli. The traditional pithas are made of sticky brown rice.
The economy of Majuli Island is primarily based on agriculture. Pottery, dairying, fishing and boat-making are some other integral source of income here for the villagers. A major percentage of village women are involved here in weaving activities using a blend of colourful Muga silk and cotton texture.
What brings you in Majuli Island
Despite of its continual soil erosion at the river bank, the wetland is well-blessed with an astounding ecosystem. Presence of 22 satras turned this island to an eminent destination for the pilgrims. You can witness some of the ancient satras here, which were built back in 1600s. For Hindu devotees some of the worth visiting satras on the world’s largest river island are Uttar Kamalabar, Garamurh Satra, Dakhinpat Satra, Benegenaati Satra and Auni Ati. Visiting satras will add an enlightening experience to your voyage here, as the religious tradition of Assam can best be revealed from here.
In addition to the cited staras, the existing museum at Auni Ati also pulls lot of visitors frequently. This museum can be visited from morning 9.30 to 11.00 and in the afternoon till 4.00. The entry fee for Indian visitors is Rs.10 and for foreign visitors is Rs.50 per person.
One more tourist puller attributes of this wetland is bird watching area. The southern part of Majuli is known as the paradise of migratory bird watching. Pelican, Siberian crane, adjutant stork and whistling teal are some of the prominent birds that the visitors can see here. The best view of migratory birds can be witnessed from the southeast, the southwest and the northern tip of the island. In addition to viewing some splendid migrated birds, you can also see some ducks and geese after dark. The best time to visit this bird watching site is from November to March.
Visiting Majuli Island in the months of January and November could be the best of anything. If you happen to be in the town of Garamur during January, you can witness the greatest Majuli Mahotsav celebrated here by the local inhabitants. Plenty of tourists rush to this place during Majuli Mahotsav and experience a blend of traditional dance, delicious foods and local crafts made by the tribe women. Amongst other eye-catching stuffs, the vibrant textiles and bags made of cane are some of the handloom items that you must try here.
If you plan to visit here during November, do not miss the Ras Mahotsav, which is celebrated in the month of Kartik during full moon. Pilgrims flock to this islet during November to make their visit more praiseworthy. Ras Mahotsav is celebrated here for three days dedicating the life of Lord Krishna. The local inhabitants take part into various religious activities during the Ras Mahotsav. You will find various colourful crafts at local road stalls during Ras Mahotsav.
Getting mingles with a soothing environment and traditional fiesta gives you a valid reason to step into the wondrous river island.
Glimpse of Tourist Pullers:
Best Time to Visit
Though you can this wetland through the year, but the best time to explore the rive island is during November and March. This is the time when the water levels reach near to the shore level and migrated birds starts pulling the tourists. Winter season lasts here till February and the average temperature can be felt somewhere around 7OC to 18OC. This is the time when the Majulians get themselves into lot many cultural activities. One more reason to step into the islet during winter is to reveal the traditional fests and fairs celebrated by the local inhabitants.
During monsoon on the other hand, the wetland experiences a high density of rainfall due to which, major part of the island gets disappeared under water. Heavy rainfall leads to massive flood and soil erosion every year. During flood, the villagers create bamboo bridges and boats to cross various parts of the river island. From March to July the climate becomes very humid here and the temperature reaches up to 34OC. Hence, it is advisable to the visitors not to visit here during monsoon and summer. Once the land starts turning to be arid, the villagers use bicycles to traverse to different parts of the nearby areas.
Convenient ways to explore the site
In order to traverse the roads and wetlands, you can hire a bike or get into the wooden boats. Riding through the bike will give you a close picturesque view of the villages and the paddy fields.
Stepping into the largest wet islet is often misinterpreted by many tourists. However, availability of various modes of transports can get you there in a convenient way. The following are the various available modes of commutation:
One of the most convenient ways to reach there from Jorhat is via ferris. You can board at the ferry from Nimatighat, which is merely 12km bus ride from Jorhat town. Ferries are available every day, but the timing may vary from time-to-time. It is advisable to take an early morning ride between 7am to 9am and return by 3pm. Ferry ride may charge you Rs.30 per person (may vary) and the charge may climb up to an amount of 700 bucks (may vary) if you are accompanied by any additional vehicles.
Before getting into the connecting bus from the ferry, your first ferry ride will consume an hour of yours. Thereafter, another 10 minutes ride by bus will take you through Major Sapori, which is another wetland located in Majuli. From there, you will take a short ferry ride and another bus ride till Kamalabari, which is the hub of the island. The ferry ride may cost you merely 20-30 bucks.
If commuting through bus is in your voyage plan, Jorhat town is well-connected with its nearby locations like Sivasagar, Kaziranga National Park, Dibrugarh, Tezpur and Guwahati. The ASTC bus service is very frequent from these locations to reach you till Jorhat. Then you can scale the remaining distance by ferries. From Guwahati it will hardly take 7-8 hours to reach you till Jorhat town. However, the newly constructed highway can complete your journey from Guwahati in merely 6 hours.
In addition, you can also hire a car or taxi from Jorhat or from Majuli. From the nearby locations of the island you can also hire a bicycle at reasonable fares to traverse around the island.
Similar to the road connectivity, Jorhat is well-connected with Guwahati by Shatabdi train.
For air travelers, flight connectivity is also quite convenient from Kolkata, Shillong and Guwahati.
Places to stay
Well, finding an accommodation in Majuli Island is bit challenging than getting there. It is advisable to the visitors to book a decent lodge or hotel in Jorhat, as accommodation could be a scare in this wetland. However, one of the best recommended accommodations for you is La Mansion de Ananda, which is located in Garmour area. This is famed as Danny’s hut and it was built by two French architects with bamboo. At La Mansion de Ananda, you can relish quality food and pleasing hospitality. You must try the tribes thaali here for supper at Rs.250. You can also try the local rice beer here spending merely Rs.170.
Keeping in mind the requirements and comfy level of visitors, La Mansion de Ananda caters you a wonderful staying experience. Hot water is available here round the clock. Rooms are also very hygienic and well maintained. A double room may pocket you around Rs. 800 or more.
If you are visiting there as pilgrim then you can stay in some of the satras that will cater your accommodation with some basic facilities.
At the end of your trip to Majuli Island, you can also try visiting some nearby places like Kaziranga National Park (154.9 km), Sibsagar (84.2 km), Tezpur (205.4 km) and Dibrugarh (165.9 km).
Tips: Following are few useful tips for a convenient trip to the first island district of India:
- Avoid visiting during summer due to the divergent climate. If you still make a plan to visit Majuli Island during summer, do not forget to carry your skin care kits containing sun screen lotion and creams. Also, carry sunglass, cap and water or energy drinks to boost up your aridness on the go. Prefer wearing loose and comfortable wears during summer.
- During winter also, do carry your useful warm cloths and carry all your essentials that you feel you will require.
- Select an appropriate time of your visit when you can reveal the best out of it.
- Prior booking of hotel or guest house is a must due to scarcity of accommodation facilities.
- Try to return back to your ferries within the stipulated time.
- Little study about the place before your visit may help you to build a quick rapport with villagers.
Make your visit everlasting by:
- Boating and bicycling
- Visiting Vishnu monastery
- Tasting the traditional rice beer
- Watching the bird site
- Being a part of the Majuli Raas Mahotsav
The soothing beauty of this wet islet will never let you realise how fast the time flies here. And while returning back, you will just feel like to extend your trip and hang around here for few more days. The more you spend your time on this wet land, more you will come to know about the culture of local people here.
Hope this post will emerge your voyage extinct and rush you soon to witness the world’s largest island, which is also the strongest contender of UNESCO world heritage site. Thus, it can be said that Majuli Island is one of the thriving tourist destinations in India to rejoice your perfect vacation.