The Eroding Beauty
Sometimes we travel to see new places, sometimes we travel to see new people, and sometimes we travel to see our soul. Have you wondered how life would be if all you had to do was, wake up, take a swim in the river, go sunbathing later in the day, perhaps spend some time fishing or listening to songs that are not only devotional but ensures that you’re at peace with yourself and finally eat locally grown vegetables and rice before heading to sleep in cosy tents? Well, in our opinion, no luxury is more satisfying than the luxury of being amidst nature. To be able to witness the enchanting experience of living life just how we mentioned, will leave you with not only memories worth a lifetime but also the time to feel your breath and live in the moment and see your soul. It is this soul-searching that always leads us at ChaloHoppo to the land between two parallel rivers.
Majuli, once the largest mid-river deltaic island in the world, is the first river island district in India and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Staff). Recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest river island, it is the nucleus of the Vaishnavite culture and houses several ‘xatras’- Vaishnavite monasteries. Shimanta Sankardeva, the exponent of Vaishnavism in Assam and a social reformer, established these xatras that are centres of traditional performing arts. Lord Vishnu is worshipped through the Naam Prasangna, a ritual based on the performing arts. The Choidhya Prasanga (fourteen prayers), Borgeet (devotional songs), Gayan Bayan (playing of drums and cymbals), Satriya (classical dance) and Bhaona (theatrical performances), etc. are also performed in the xatras. These performances left us enthralled during our stay and took us back to the time where we didn’t have to turn on the television to be entertained and informed. The Raas Festival and the Ali-Aye-Ligang Festival celebrated in Majuli are also said to be festivals that fascinate everyone! (Assam Tourism )
The ferry is the only way to reach the islands, though the current Chief Minister of Assam has suggested plans of building four bridges connecting the nearby districts to the island. Unfortunately, given the experience of bridge construction in Assam, it won’t be wrong to assume that these bridges will take not less than a decade to be completed. In the meantime, what actually could be done is that the existing ferry services can improve manifold. The ferry carries humans, animals, agricultural products, vehicles, to and fro the island throughout the day, till the sun sets. A peaceful boat ride to see the sunset in the sparkling water of the mighty Brahmaputra River is a sight to behold. Talking to the people in Majuli helps one know so much about the tradition and the culture of the beautiful island. We have always maintained that it’s the people who make any place feel like home. Trust us, Majuli does feel like home. The diverse ethnic tribes who reside on the island contribute to its rich heritage. Fishery, mask making, pottery, handloom and weaving, cane bamboo and woodcraft, boat-making, sericulture are some of the major occupations of people here. (Chand)
Blessed with rare flora and fauna, Majuli is ideal for birdwatching. With hills, valleys, farmlands and the river on all sides, Majuli, a pollution-free wetland, should be on the list of your holiday destination for sure! ‘If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet…’ This adage by Rachel Wolchin has time and again inspired us to keep walking and observing what nature has to offer. In Majuli, the mere joy of hiking around the island, and letting the wind run through the hair, and being in the lap of earth, is a riveting experience. What we also learned from the people in the island is how the island used to be larger than what it is today and the health infrastructure in the island needs to be developed and improved on an urgent basis. A lot of people have lost their lands due to the incessant flooding every year and aren’t adequately rehabilitated.
Majuli is soon becoming a fast disappearing land since the floods inundate the lands and cause excessive soil erosion (Sengupta). According to Majuli Island Protection and Development Council- a non-profit, the rate of erosion is so severe, that if proper preventive measures are not put to place, it is likely to submerge the island in the next 15-20 years (Baruah). Many villages have been washed away over the years and the embankments built have only worsened the situation. The preservation of the island that is one of the star tourist destinations of the North East, is and should be the priority of the government at the moment. In our own experience, the road we took to reach the island was broken by the time we returned two days later. The local people are waiting for the government to save their lands and as Khaled Hosseini wrote, ‘Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting’, indeed, these people have been waiting for way too long. We ardently hope that their land that is soon becoming the eroding beauty doesn’t fade away. Nonetheless, no matter what hardships the people face here, they will welcome you with warmth and greet you, as you sit next to the bonfire at night. Come visit the island that welcomes your wandering soul with open arms and let us plan your trip and give you a comfortable camping experience. We promise you’ll go back with memories and stories that you’ll remember forever. Let yourself get lost amidst the greenery in Majuli because according to Henry David Thoreau, ‘not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves’!