Majuli River Island | Majuli District of Assam

Majuli River Island

Majuli River Island is the largest river island in the world, situated on the Brahmaputra River in Northeastern Assam. Majuli is the largest river island in the world is Bananal Island in Brazil.

Location of Majuli River Island:

Majuli is situated in the upper reaches of the river Brahmaputra in Assam within the latitude of 26045′ N – 27012′ N & longitude of 93039′ E – 94035′ E with mean height of 84.5 Mt. above MSL. Majuli had a total area of 1,250 square kilometres (483 sq mi), but having lost significantly to erosion it has an area of only 421.65 square kilometres (163 sq mi) in 2001.

Population of Majuli:

With a population of 1.6 Lakhs, majority being tribals, has a very rich heritage and has been the abode of Assamese Vashnavite culture with tremendous option for spiritual and Eco-tourism. The population of Majuli comprises the tribals, non-tribals, and the scheduled castes. The tribal communities include the Misings, the Deoris and the Sonowal Kacharis. The scheduled castes include the Kaivartas, the Brittial Banias etc. The non-tribal communities include Koch, Kalitas, Ahoms, Chutias, Keot, Yogis, etc. The Mising community has the largest population in the island who immigrated from Arunachal Pradesh to Majuli centuries ago. Languages spoken are Mising, Assamese, and Deori. The island has 144 villages with a population of over 150,000 and a density of 300 individuals per square km.

How Majuli Island Formed

Originally, the island was a narrow and long piece of land called Majoli (land in the middle of two parallel rivers) that had Brahmaputra flowing in the north and the Burhidihing flowing in the south, till they met at Lakhu. Frequent earthquakes in the period 1661–1696 set the stage for a catastrophic flood in 1750 that continued for 15 days, which is mentioned in historical texts and reflected in folklore. As a result of this flood, the Brahmaputra split into two anabranches—one flowing along the original channel and the other flowing along the Burhidihing channel and the Majuli island was formed. The Burhidihing’s point of confluence moved 190 km east and the southern channel which was the Burhidihing became the Burhi Xuti. The northern channel, which was previously the Brahmaputra, became the Luit Xuti. In due course, the flow in the Luit Xuti decreased, and it came to be known as the Kherkutia Xuti; and the Burhi Xuti expanded via erosion to become the main Brahmaputra river.

Culture of Majuli

There are several Satras of Vaishnava religious creed. Of these holy seats, Auniati, Daksinpath, Garamur and Kamlabari are the four most prominent. What is of special importance is its satra establishment, consisting of separate structures, built for different purposes. The Vaishnava Satras were founded by Sankardeva, the father of Assamese culture. The historic and auspicious ‘Manikanchan Sanjog’ was the first Satra in Majuli. Subsequently 65 satras grew which propagated the ethnic and sociocultural ideals. At present there are only 22 Satras in Majuli and rest have been shifted to other safer places due to flood and erosion. These Satras are the treasure house of ‘Borgeet’, Matiakhara, Jumora dance, Chali dance, Noyua dance, Nande Vringee, Sutradhar, Ozapali, Apsara dance, Satria Krishna dance, Dasavater dance etc. which were contributed by Shri Sankardeva.

Majuli has been the cultural capital and the cradle of Assamese civilization for the past five hundred years. The satras set up preserve antiques like weapons, utensils, jewellery and other items of cultural significance. Pottery is made in Majuli from beaten clay and burnt in driftwood fired kilns in the same mode carried out by the peoples of the ancient Harrappan Civilisation. Sociologists have stressed on the preservation of these unique peoples, whose culture and dance forms are untouched by modernism. The handloom work of these tribes is also internationally famous.

Economy of Majuli River Island

Handloom is a major occupation among the distaff population of the villages. Although largely a non-commercial occupation, it keeps many of the inhabitants occupied. Weaving is exquisite and intricate with the use of a variety of colours and textures of cotton and silk, especially ‘muga’ silk.

Agriculture in Majuli River Island

The main industry is agriculture, with paddy being the chief crop. Majuli has a rich and diverse agricultural tradition, with as many as a hundred different varieties of rice grown, all grown without pesticides or artificial fertilisers. Among the fascinating arrays of rice produced are the Komal Saul, a unique type of rice that can be eaten just after immersing the grains in warm water for fifteen minutes, and usually eaten as a breakfast cereal; the bao dhan, that grows under water, and is harvested after ten months and the Bora saul, a sticky brown rice used to make the traditional cake known as pitha,. Fishing, dairying, pottery, handloom and boat-making are other important economic activities.

Festivals of Majuli River Island

Virtually every single person on the island is involved in the three-day long raas festival, depicting the life of Krishna. People from hundreds of kilometres away come to celebrate this festival including a number of expatriate members of community. The satras have also honed certain art and craft traditions, which can now be found only here. In Natun Samuguri satra for example, one can still find the craft of mask-making; and in the Kamalabari satra the finest boats are made.

Flood in Majuli River Island

Because of its peculiar location amidst the active floodplains of the Brahmaputra, Majuli gets inundated not only in severe floods but also in normal floods. The summer-monsoon season is the main flooding season for Majuli due to a number of reasons. Throughout north-east India the average rainfall is very high varying between 100 cm to 1300 cm; it coincides with the period of snow melt in the glaciers of the Himalayas, origin of the Brahmaputra River. The Brahmaputra plains are surrounded by hills and mountains and thus the excessive run off from the catchment areas flood the limited area of the plains. Adding to this is the low grade of the Brahmaputra valley slowing the flow of water. The hills and mountains of the region are made of relatively soft rocks, easily eroded and deposited in downstream river resulting in siltation and braiding of the channel. Further, the great Assam earthquake of 1950 raised the bed of Brahmaputra increasing the frequency and intensity of the annual floods.

Erosion in Majuli River Island

Erosion has been a natural phenomenon on every river bank, especially since the soil is sandy and the geological conditions are evolutionary. Erosion on the southern side of the island has increased since 1950 constantly reducing the area of the land, eroding many villages and Sattras. This has greatly affected the demographic pattern, ecology, environment, social structure and economic growth on the Island.

Best time to visit Majuli

The best time to visit Majuli is to coincide with the ‘Rasleela’, at the time of the full moon in the month of Kartik (November); but Majuli can be visited all year around. During the rainy season much of the island is flooded, but ironically, it makes getting around (by boat) easier.

Hotels and Guestrooms in Majuli

Majuli does not have a developed infrastructure for tourism. There are no hotels. Some satras have guestrooms.

Some Basic Questions and Answers on Majuli

Is Majuli an island ?

Answer: Yes, Majuli is the largest river island in the world.

Is Majuli a district?

Answer: Majuli is also the first island district of the country.

Is Majuli a World Heritage Site?

Answer: Not yet. In 2017, the Culture Ministry has decided to send the world’s largest river Island Majuli to be included in the World Heritage Sites of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisaton (UNESCO).

Is Majuli a Delta?

Answer: Majuli Island is a riverine delta, a unique geographical occurrence and a result of the dynamics of this vast river system.

Majuli is famous for?

Answer: Majuli is famous for its Cultural value. There are 22 Satras in Majuli and rest have been shifted to other safer places due to flood and erosion. The satras set up preserve antiques like weapons, utensils, jewellery and other items of cultural significance.

When Majuli declared as district?

Answer: On June 27, 2016 an additional district was announced by Sarbananda Sonowal, taking the total number from 32 to 33 after Majuli was carved out of the Northern parts of Jorhat. It is also the first island district of the country. It is populated by Misings.

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