Situated deep in the heart of the mighty Brahmaputra river in the north-eastern state of Assam is the island of Majuli. India’s first island district, it is also the largest river island in the world. Majuli is located 200 km east from the state capital of Guwahati and is also the cultural capital of Assam.
To reach Majuli, travellers have to first reach the town of Jorhat which is situated in upper Assam. The city of Jorhat is well connected to the rest of the country and state. Travellers have all three options of air, road and rail to reach Jorhat.
Neamati Ghat is the gateway to Majuli and there are plenty of shared auto rickshaws which are easily available outside the Jorhat bus stand and railway station. The ferry services to reach Majuli are available daily between 7 am and 5 pm and the journey takes around 90 minutes.
The first thing one will notice on the island of Majuli is the way the houses are built there. The houses are made of bamboos and placed on concrete pillars at a height of about two feet from the floor. The architecture of the houses are such due to the heavy rainfall in this area. Post-monsoon, locals get together and build houses manually with fresh bamboo canes.
The main attraction in Majuli are the tribal villages and the satras (monasteries) which are dedicated to Lord Krishna and signify different forms of the god. Dakhinpat satra, Uttar Kamalabari satra and Aouniati satra are few of the famous monasteries in Majuli.
These satras are taken care of by different sects, tribes and sub-tribes and have a head priest to carry out the daily rituals. It is a common practice for everyone entering the monastery to burn a diya (oil lamp) while inside the monastery. These satras are culturally very rich and one can also witness local monks dancing and depicting various mythological stories during festivals.
A number of festivals are celebrated on the island and the main festival is known as the Bihu festival. This is celebrated thrice a year during the months of January, April and October. The Assamese folk dance is known as Bihu and during the festival, the locals offer food and dress up in their traditional attire and perform traditional folk dances.
The main occupation of the inhabitants in Majuli is agriculture and the main cash crops are rice, potato and cabbage. Weaving is also practiced as an occupation in the missing villages. Majuli is very famous for its mask making and pottery villages which are known as the Samugari and Salmara villages, respectively. One can witness the fine art of the craftsmen while exploring these villages.
Accommodation options in Majuli are the bamboo hut home stays in the villages of Kamalabari and Garamur. Nearly all the home stays provide food which mainly comprises of rice, dal, one vegetable and grilled fish. The best time to visit Majuli is during the dry season from November to mid-May. Light woolens are recommended since the night temperature drops well below 10°C.
Majuli has very good mobile phone coverage and a good number of ATM’s are located in the town areas. The best way of getting around the island is by either hiring a geared bike or renting a car for the day. Nearly everything on the island can be covered in a single day.
The island of Majuli is an ideal place to visit for anyone looking to find some time away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Being the cultural capital of Assam, Majuli is the perfect place to spend a couple of days if not more just chilling.