Majuli, the largest freshwater island in the world, is located in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra River just 20 km away from the cultural capital of Assam – Jorhat. Now, the entire island has been declared a district.
This island district can be reached only by ferries from towns like Jorhat. It is a seat of Neo-Vaishnavite culture, unique to this island. Dry months do not spell danger to the people here, however, the wet months are difficult to pass through. Though they bring in plenty of rain, it is fraught with dangers due to major flooding.
The vast island, formed by the River Brahmaputra and its tributaries, is subject to shaping and reshaping (geomorphological process of denudation and deposition) with each major flood; eroded landmass is transported and redeposited as sediments elsewhere downstream.
1. Home to exotic Birds
- Massive flooding in 1750 was the main cause of the formation of this huge island in the middle of the big river. This serene island is not yet polluted, it supports a unique biodiversity system and is home to numerous exotic birds, including migratory birds.
- Among the 248 villages on the island, 166 are facing threats due to flooding. A couple of thousand families are living on the embankments and their homes are prone to destruction during major floods. The total area of 875 sq. km in midstream of the delta system is a nature’s wonder.
- Since 2001, according to media reports, 3,000 plus families have lost their land to erosion and safely relocated elsewhere. Embankments are still home to more than 2,000 families.
4. No Educational institutions
- There are neither major educational institutions nor employment opportunities on this island.
5. Largest river island
- In September 2016, the island was declared the largest river island by the Guinness Book of World Records toppling Marajo in Brazil. The government has a proposal to lay concrete roads covering many areas and improve other facilities on the island.
- The government has recently allocated Rs 1200 crore to preserve and improve amenities on the island of Majuli. This includes a cultural university and a post-graduate college.
7. The building of a National Highway
- The union government has a proposal to build a 121-km long national highway connecting Majuli with two major towns — Jorhat and Lakhimpur. This will bring in lots of tourists from India and abroad as this place is rich in fauna and flora. Yet other attractions are the festivals, art, culture and spirituality.
8. Saint Srimanta Sankardeva
- People here follow the teachings of saint Srimanta Sankardeva who propagated the Neo – Vaishnava tradition; it is a variation of Vaishnavism.
- The island is inhabited by the Missing tribes, Deori and Sonowal Kachari tribes and they speak Missing, Assamese and Deori language.
- Because of massive erosion, the number of ‘Satras’- Vaishnavite monasteries came down from 65 to 32.
- In the last three or four decades, one-third of the island is lost due to flooding. Steps are underway to dredge the Brahmaputra and its tributaries and remove silt deposit which in turn would control flood and erosion.
Connectivity with the outside world – the arrival of more tourists should not affect the pristine purity and the cultural sanctity of this place. The people are very particular about safeguarding the unadulterated Majuli culture and spirituality.
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