Introducing Majuli Island
Beached amid the mighty Brahmaputra River’s ever-shifting puzzle of ochre sandbanks is Majuli, which at around 452 sq km is India’s largest river island. For a place continually ravaged by the primal forces of nature (much of the island disappears under water every monsoon), Majuli flaunts unparalleled scenic beauty. The island is a relaxed, shimmering mat of glowing rice fields and water meadows bursting with flowers. Aside from relishing the laid-back vibe that permeates island life, highlights of a visit include birdwatching and learning about neo-Vaishnavite philosophy at one of Majuli’s 22 ancient satras (Hindu Vaishnavite monasteries and centres for art). If all this makes Majuli sounds like your kind of place then don’t waste time getting there – surveys indicate that at current levels of erosion the island will cease to exist within 20 years.
The two main villages are Kamalabari, 3km from the ferry port, and Garamur, 5km further north. The most interesting, accessible satras are the large, beautifully peaceful Uttar Kamalabari (1km north, then 600m east of Kamalabari) and Auni Ati (5km west of Kamalabari), where monks are keen to show you their little museum of Ahom royal artefacts. The best chances of observing chanting, dances or drama recitations are around dawn and dusk or during the big Ras Mahotsav Festival.
To add to list of Majuli's attractions, birdwatchers would love the fact that the island is home to nearly 100 species of birds. Majuli Tourism Information Centre, manned by the friendly and knowledgeable Jyoti Narayan Sarma, conducts birdwatching tours.