Majuli : A world of it’s own
Majuli is the first River District of Independent India. It is the largest fresh Water mid-river deltoid island in the world. Guinness Book of World Records recognises Majuli as the “World’s Largest River Island” It is situated in the upper reaches of the river Brahmaputra in Assam. This Island, with a approx. population of 1.6 lakhs in which majority of the populace belongs to the Mising, Deori and the Sonowal Kochari tribes.
With the advent of Vaishnava saints like Sankardev and his disciples Madhavdev in the island around 16th century BC, the people have made this island a cultural epicenter of neo Vaisnavites (a form of Hinduism) in Assam. Although afflicted with natural calamities which have reduced its size from 1250 sq km once to only around 350 sq km now, the development of art, culture and education from the last five centuries was so vast and immense that it overshadows all other aspects. The main depositories of cultural and spiritual heritage are the Sattras, which are just like Gurukul (hermitages) of yore. Here up to 400 celibates’ stay for life preserving spiritual and cultural heritage, renouncing worldly desires. Shrimanta Shankardev and his ethos of Vaishanavism corresponded in the development of famous Satriya Nritya (Dance) and Ankiya Bhaona (Traditional Drama) which are now internationally acclaimed and nationally honoured.. The ancient Indian “GURU SISHYA PARAMPARA” system of education is prevalent only in the Satra Institutions of Majuli, Assam. This system confines the universal code, humanitarianism, the path of devotion, renunciation, truth, non-violence, well-being of the people, liberation from birth and death, under restrain, charity and compassion. The antique social customs of indigenous Assamese society are in practice in the Sattras of Majuli in lineage system.
Along with the development of Vaishnavism and the Stttras ,Majuli is also the vivid canvas of cultures of the Missing, Deori and Sonowal Kochari tribes of Assam. The rich festivals, lifestyle, heritage and culture of these indigenous tribes along with the cultures of Sattras are experiences that would spiritually enrich any travellers to the region.
Majuli also provides a unique window for bird watching enthusiast and ornithologists. Migratory birds and indigenous bird species flock this island. Some of the birds found on this island are: 1) Little Grebe, 2) Spotted Billed or Grey Pelican, 3) Large Cormorant, 4)Little Cormorant, 5) Gris Heron, 6)Purple Heron, 7) Pond Heron, 8) Cattle Egret, 9) Chestnut Bittern, 10) Great Egret, 11) Little Egret, 12) Open Bill Stork, 13) Black Crowned Night Heron, 14) White Necked Stork, 15) Greater Adjutant Stork, 16) Lesser Adjutant Stork, 17) Graylag Goose, 18) Bareheaded Goose, 19)Lesser Whistling Teal, 20)Darter or Snake Bird 21) Whistling Teal, 22) Ruddy Shelduck Or Brahmin Duck, 23) Mallard, 24) Cotton Teal, 25) Pintail, 26) Spot bill Duck, 27) Red Crested, Black, 28) Winged Kite, 29) Pariah Kite, 30) Brahminy Kite, 31) Pallas’s Fish Eagle, 32) Short-Toed Snake Eagle, 33) White Backed Vulture, 34) Swamp Partridge,35) Coucal, 36) Greater Coucal / Crow-Pheasant, 37) Red Jungle Fowl, 38) Common Crane, 39) White Breasted Water Hen, 40) Purple Moorhen,41) Pheasant Tailed ,42) Bronze Winged Jacana, 43) Indian Moorhen, 44) Redwattled Lapwin,45) River Turn, 46) Black Headed Gull, 47) Common Green Pigeon, 48) Spotted Dove, 49) Red Dove, 50) Ring Dove, 51) Little Brown Dove,52) Large Indian Parakeet, 53) Rose Ringed Parakeet,54) Indian Lorikeet,55) Common Hawk Cuckoo/ Brain Fever Bird, 56) Koel, 57) Jungle Nightjar, 58) House Swift, 59)Pied Kingfisher, 60) Small Blue Kingfisher, 61)White Breasted Kingfisher, 62) Small Green Bee Eater, 63) Chestnut-Headed Bee Eater, 64) Small Green Barbet,65) Blue-Throated Barbet,66) Lineated Barbet, 67)Hoopoe, 68)Indian Pied Hornbill, 69)Black-Backed Woodpecker, 70) Lesser Golden Backed,71) Greater Racked Tailed , 72) Black Drongo Or King Crow, 73) Pied Myna, 74)Bank Myna, 75) Grey-Headed Myna, 76) Jungle Myna, 77) Common Myna, 78) House Crow, 79) Jungle Crow, 80) Black-Headed Oriole, 81) Magpie Robin,82) Redvented Bulbul, 83)Red-Whiskered Bulbul, 84) Grey Tit, 85) Baya Weaver, 86) Black-Breasted Weaver Bird, 87) Shama, 88) Tree Pie, 89) Purple Sunbird, 90) Indian Roller, 91)White-Browned Fantal Fly-Catcher, 92) Grey-Headed Fly-Catcher, 93) White Jora, 94) Stone Curlew, 95)White Wagtail, 96)Grey Wagtail, 97)House Sparrow, 98)Red Munia,99) Spotted Munia, 100)Larger Falcon, 101) Spotted Owlet, 102) Barn Owl, 103)Common Swallow, 104) Brown Shrike, etc . These birds are to be found in the various wetlands or “beels” as they are colloquially called, which are an added tourist attraction.
Travellers can also revel in the display of the local cultural drama show called as “Ankia Naats” (one act plays) or a form of it called “Bhaona” which are set in mythology and conveys socio-religious message to the audience. A corollary craft of “mask-making” which are used in these plays is prevalent there and makes a memorable souvenir for collectors. Visitors can also admire the pottery work of the local artisans famous from the colonial era. The handmade handicrafts and products from local weavers presents the viewers with the different style, fabrics and pattern of the different tribes of the island and actually marketed and desired the world over. Travellers are more than welcome in this hospitable river island.