As the mighty Brahmaputra envelopes, this island from all sides,
With caresses, too deep to erode its essence slowly, slowly;
The accentuated hues spread across the sky, battling tides,
Under the mesmerising chants of the Vaishnavite Satras,
Dances the river, which has found parallels and imprints, as a movement artiste.
Majuli, which means the land between two parallel rivers, is beauty enshrined in the purest form, in nature. This Island located in Assam, amidst the Brahmaputras, is the largest riverine Island in the world. The meandering character of the river-often quiet and often raging- links its interaction to the people in innumerable ways through knots, tied too strongly for a story to resurface.
Predominantly inhabited by the Mishing Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, Majuli has not been the best of the places to live at, considering the steady degradation and eating-away of the riverine island. Despite its contentious claim to fame of being the largest riverine island, Majuli is shrinking, and at a fast pace. But what is fascinating about this place, is not just its geography, but its people, whose steadfast beliefs hold this sanctum of centuries-old culture and traditions. A blending milieu of traditional practices pave way for thousands of visitors flocking to visit this island. Majuli- is not just a story of a fading away island, it’s a story about survival. There’s nothing worse than seeing your houses and loved ones being washed away by torrential currents, and yet these people, with untold strength move forward. One step at a time, even when poor conditions push them miles back, relentlessly and these people persist. They move inland and rebuild and have continued this never-ending cycle, along with standing steady with fastened beliefs strapped to their shoulders.
When HT Brunch interviewed people there, some responses were truly heartbreaking. “You see how high our houses are built? Even so, the river floods our homes every year. We travel by boats then. In the 14 years that my husband has been dead, I’ve moved house five times. Still, the river won’t stop chasing us.” The bamboo, which builds the foundations of their homes is crippled with fear of being quelled by the raging rivers, and the people fear for the safety of their children as their livelihood is endangered by any unsuspecting flood.”
Religion- An ode to संस्थिति (Persistence)
A place where religion is of paramount significance, there are about 64 sattras in Majuli, the largest concentration gradient so far. These sattras are kendras of devotion where the bhakts propagate their devotion towards Lord Vishnu through mediums of artistic excellence. The meaning of the holy Bhagvad Gita is discussed with great regard and its often said that these sattras are centres of piousness where monks and sages from different parts of the country, come, to worship Nature and bequeath knowledge to those in aspiration.
The Unfortunate Shore
“We’re still river people. We love the river despite everything. It waters our farms, feeds our families with its fish. It is so grand to look at too,” he says fondly. “Sometimes though it gets angry and creates havoc. The river created this island, and only the river has the right to destroy it.” -Say the inhabitants of the island when interviewed by HT Brunch.
Often, Nature plays a detrimental role in ushering what the future looks like. As comforting as its enveloped folds of calmness and tranquility can be like, its fury cannot be negated. MIPADC is an NGO that has been working and promoting the protection of the alluring beauty, this riverine island is. Do go on their website (www.majuli.org) and see if you can help in any other way.
Completing this blog post by a poetic structure;
In a loop of infinite beginnings, and infinite ends,
The Mighty Brahamaputra seems to fold the Sun falling to my west,
In whirlwinds of its own dark humour;
The malady, that it serves on the people, on Majuli
Is a sweet but a terrible one,
Till it ceases to wrought vexation and usher in lullabies of a promising sunrise,
I’ll wait, I’ll wait, I’ll wait.
-Source for Interviewee information- Hindustan Times