All about Majuli Island

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Ever since I arrived in Tezpur, a small city of Assam located on the banks of river Brahmaputra in August last year I was somewhat attracted by the name of fifteenth century Saint, Shri Shankaradev who was born and lived in areas around.

This pulled me to his birth place Bordowa 
(Town in Nagaon district, Assam, India). 

His personality is a gigantic one. He was an Assamese *polymath*;  a saint-scholar, poet, playwright, dancer, actor, musician, artist social-religious reformer and a figure of importance in the cultural and religious history of Assam, India. 

He is credited with building on past cultural relics and devising new forms of music (Borgeet), theatrical performance (Ankia Naat, Bhaona), dance (Sattriya), literary language (Brajavali). Besides, he has left a literary oeuvre of trans-created scriptures (Bhagavat of Sankardev), poetry and theological works written in Sanskrit, Assamese and Brajavali. The Bhagavatic religious movement he started, Ekasarana Dharma and also called Neo-Vaishnavite movement influenced two medieval kingdoms – Koch and the Ahom kingdom – and the assembly of devotees he initiated evolved over time into monastic centers called Sattras, which continue to be important socio-religious institutions in Assam and to a lesser extent in North Bengal. 

Sankardev inspired the Bhakti movement in Assam just as Guru Nanak, Ramananda, Namdev, Kabir, Basava and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu inspired it elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent.

It's an amazing example of how one person can transform the whole society.

I have been very interested in reading his works and understanding his teachings. Alas I couldn't get any clue or lead. It was then I heard about the MAJULI ISLAND which has pristine vaishnavite monasteries.

Thus I set out for a three day trip to Majuli island from Tezpur.

Though the first day was quite disappointing due to the long drive and not finding anything exotic.

*However the goosebumps moment was when I was extremely fortunate to have a look and feel the original manuscripts of books written by Shankaradev himself on the second day.*

I got what I sought.

I happened to get a good guide Mr Nitul Dutta, who himself has been a monk for the last three decades in one of the Chatras.

Interesting points, that might not be available on the internet are given below. These points give deeper insight into the pristine island.

1. Majuli literally means land in between rivers. On analysis of Google map we find two majestic rivers, on three sides and a small river on one side.

2. Other data
-Area 350 sq km only left after centuries of erosion.

- Population - approx 2 lacs

- 90% literacy rate

- Agriculture's main occupation

- Vaishnavite and Mishing tribes constitute a major chunk of the population.

- It's a popular bird sanctuary .

3. As you enter and travel in the island, 2-3 things cannot be missed to be noticed. They are:

* The indigenous people have not allowed other communities to proliferate. You will find the pristine temples 

* There are no open bars or liquor shops

* Extremely clean and zero percent open defecation 

4. Before the fifteenth century the island was a wild forest. Saint Shankaradev came here and met Madhavdev. The new island became the home of his followers. 

It also provided geographical security from the hostile royal forces.

5. I didn't find any beggars in the whole trip

6. Earlier there were over 85 Chatras. However most of them have vanished due to land erosion. Only 22 chatras exist as on date.

7. Chatras are basically monasteries. Chatras have a huge following and patronage. They have agricultural lands for income.

8. Most of the Chatras have resident monks who are bachelors. A few chatras have married monks.

9. Some chatras have idol worship of lord Krishna and some have only the Bhagavad Gita as the deity.

10. The largest chatra called as Auni ati chatra has over 1800000 followers. The chatra has been shifted five times due to erosion since the 16th century. The present one is seventy years old.

11. There's one Chatra by the name Dakhin pat Chatra, which exist in its original form since sixteenth century. One can find huge pine wooden pillars. These pine trees are from Himalayas and were collected from the Brahmaputra river.

12. They say that the secret of the Dakhin pat chatra being untouched is the Hanuman ji blessings 

13. The same Chatra has the original Bhagavat manuscript written by Shankaradev himself. We were very lucky to see it and touch it 

14. The MAJULI ISLAND has also Mishing tribe substantially. Mostly they follow *Doni Polo* faith. They worship Son and the moon. 

15. The food is simple Assamese food. No liquor is available. However locally made rice beer is available.

16. Majuli also has a bird sanctuary. One can find huge population of birds, both migratory and local

17. The government is providing all the support for the benefit of the people

18. People are simple and friendly and helpful

19. One can find good homestays, cottages. Govt tourism hotel is also a good option

20. If you don't have local guide, you will find yourself quite disappointed

21. Mask making is an ancient art form in Majuli. Visiting the workshop of padmashree award winner Shri Hemachandra Goswami is very interesting and insightful. If you are lucky you can get to meet him

Keep traveling. 

They say *"when you travel far enough, you will meet yourself*

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