Saturday, February 11, 2006

Majuli

Majuli is flat as a pancake, has no roads, no public transport to speak of and is very very dusty during the dry winter months. But Majuli was still worth every bit of the dust that coated our Sumo, our hair, eyes, clothes and luggage when we went there.
In Assam, Majuli is known for its Vaishanavite monasteries. There were more than a 100 of them and now there are just 20 or so because the river Brahmaputra has been gnawing away at the island, which is now half the size it was in 1950. These monasteries are called satras and the monks, most of whom are celibate, are called bhakts.
Just to make things clear, Majuli, despite the fact that erosion is such a serious problem, is a HUGE island. It is one of the largest river islands in the world. So it is not like the river can be seen from every part of the island. You have to travel at least 45 minutes from the center of the island to any of its banks.
We went to a monastery called the Dakhinpat Satra, situated in the southern part of the island. The journey to Dakhinpat was painful. Like I said there are no roads so it was one long, bumpy, dusty ride from the circuit house where we were putting up.
The local population is very helpful and very inquisitive. Before they give you directions, they all want to know where you come from.
To be fair, the journey to Dakhinpat was also very beautiful. I saw more birds in the forty-five minutes it took us to get to the satra than I have seen in my entire life. Majuli is dotted with ponds and marshes and bridges that are left hanging forlornly in the middle with the ends having been washed away by the river during the monsoons.
Floods are a common phenomenon. During monsoons, people move bag and baggage to embankments or any other high ground they find. You want to go to your neighbour’s house in the monsoon? No sweat, just row your boat across to their doorstep. We met a family that said they live on a boat during monsoons because of the floods.
Coming back to Dakhinpat, the monastery was pretty much empty when we went there because most of the bhakts had gone for a function organized for the CM who was vesting the island that day. But we found one really old bhakt who must have been well into his eighties.
It is hard to describe Dakhinpat’s beauty and tranquility. Vast open skies, exotic birds dotting the marshes next to the monastery, clean air and monks who are so kind and warm to absolute strangers.
These monasteries earlier used to be very strict. They would not allow women on their premises after five in the evening, but that is not the case now. We reached at 5.30pm, strolled around the monastery and capped it off with some payokh (kheer) offered by the very kind monk Benudhar sarmah.
All in all, it did not matter that we did not know anyone, by the time we left Majuli we had made a lot of friends. That is the beauty of Majuli, more than its natural beauty, it is the hospitality of the people that is so touching.

13 Comments:

Blogger MellowDrama said...

A picture speaks a thousand words, put 'em up. hey I wanna go to AP. I really want to travel man, am serious about driving ard..considering did Delhi to Visag which was quite a haul. Planning a madras- pondicherry-mysore (wedding to attend)-coonoor-coorg drive, wish me luck. Not much experience driving in hills unless you could the ghats :P. Hehe oh well what the HELL

11:51 PM  
Blogger MellowDrama said...

btw why dontcha come here when you can, we could head to kerala or something what say?! Pondicherry not too far one day drive to Madras and Pondy right there?!! Hmm..

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Payal said...

After reading this, now I am regretting cancelling the Dharmashala trip...

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Hathirpithi said...

yo Mellowdrama: how about we drive in the Himalayas?
Payal: Dharamsala will happen. not canceled darling, merely postponed!

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Navnita said...

The simplicity and the warmth of the people of Majuli did indeed leave a lasting impression. But I wonder why it is so hard to control the river there when other monstrous rivers have been previously tamed....just a thought...

10:02 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

PICTURES...PICTURES... WE WANT... PICTURES... PICTURES...PICTURES... WE WANT... PICTURES

2:53 AM  
Anonymous Hathirpithi said...

Rama, Anti: If I put up pictures, then you will have to go to Majuli. So don't insist too much :-)
Nitu: Too much corruption. That is why the river is hard to tame.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Hathirpithi said...

Rama, Anti: If I put up pictures, then you will have to go to Majuli. So don't insist too much :-)
Nitu: Too much corruption. That is why the river is hard to tame.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous shilpa said...

second Anti: where r the PIX????

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Payal said...

*cough* Can't we get Mellowdrama to drive us there?! (Dharmsala, I mean!)

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all

visit www.majuli.info


and know this largest river island in the world in Assam.

www.majuli.info

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all

visit www.majuli.info


and know this largest river island in the world in Assam.

www.majuli.info

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all

visit www.majuli.info


Majuli, world's largest river island


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8:40 PM  

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