So you have heard a lot about Majuli, heard about its ethereal beauty, saw so many pictures on the Internet and now want to visit there. We visited the island this year in January. Before going there, we too had a lot of questions and apprehensions, but once we were there, the beauty of the place simply bowled us over. So here is our complete DIY Majuli Travel Guide – all that you need to know about the place (Well, almost all!)
Recommended Read: Northeast India Travel Guide – Things to Know Before You Go
Where is Majuli?
Majuli is a river island on the Brahmaputra River in Assam. It also happens to be the second largest freshwater river island in the world and the largest in Asia. It is an isolated place. Isolated in terms of the incessant crowd and hustle of the mainland, nature has quietly seeped in here and seduced its inhabitants into a life of tranquility. The Brahmaputra flows to the south of the island while the Kherkutia Xuti joins the River Subansiri in the north.
The island was once quite large spanning an area of more than 1500 sq km. But the Brahmaputra waters have not been so kind and eroded about one-third of the island. Majuli now has an area of only 352 sq km. The Brahmaputra is still eroding this island. But it is large enough to have several small villages within it and it has been now declared as a separate district. The place is the home to a number of tribes mainly the Mishings.
Once you reach Majuli, the first thing that you will see is the stretches of sand that looks like sandy beaches. Once you are in the heart of this island, the green fields and the water bodies will attract you. You will see greenery wherever your eyes will take you. Although the main market places of Garamur and Kamalabari have looks of a town, the more you travel interior, you will witness the simple rural beauty of the place.
You May Also Like: Nongkhnum Island – largest river island in Meghalaya.
The Satras of Majuli:
Some 600 years back during the medieval times, a Hindu saint Sri Sankardev made Majuli his home and preached a new way of life. It was a period of renaissance in Assam; there was a cultural evolution with changes in the art, music, dance and religion. And all these happened in the heart of Majuli. Sankardev propagated Ek-Sarana-Hari-Naam-Dharma, a form of Neo-Vaishnavism. And Satras (also known as Xatras) are the institutions that disseminate the principles and devotional practices of Neo-Vaishnavism. There are officially 31 Satras in Majuli. The noted ones are Dakshinapat Satra, Kamalabari Satra, Auniati Satra, Garamur, Bengena-ati and Samaguri Satra.
Naamghar is the main place of worship at the Satras. You can often see a lone monk chanting hymns or playing cymbals inside a Naamghar. The Satras are also cultural sites and have a huge influence on the life of the local people. Young boys join the Satras at an early age and devote their life to the Satras.
Things to do in Majuli:
Visit the Satras:
Visit the cultural centres of Majuli. Your visit to Majuli will be incomplete unless you visit the peaceful Satras. Each of the Satra has their own unique character. You can also enjoy the morning or evening prayer at the Satras. The locals will be more than delighted to invite you to the Satra to listen to their bhajans.
The mask-making village at Samaguri Satra:
Majuli is now quite famous for its masks. The new Samaguri (Chamaguri Satra) Satra is the centre of mask making culture of Majuli. Once you enter the room, you can see different types of masks. These masks are also used in Bhaona performances. Hem Chandra Goswami is the one-man army behind the masks of Majuli. Now his family members are also making masks.
Read more about mask making in our post “Masks of Majuli: A Vanishing Tradition”
The Pottery Village at Salmora:
Another village in Majuli that is known for its potters. You can simply go there, enter into one of the houses. The hosts will be more than happy to show you their work. Here, they do not use wheels for making pottery.
The Handloom villages:
There are a handful of villages in Majuli that practice weaving. Here the women have form co-operatives and they weave handlooms that are even imported abroad. You can see these ladies at work and even buy some sarees, mekhla chadar or stoles.
Birdwatching at Majuli:
Majuli being an island, it is a good place for birdwatching. You can see kingfishers, egrets and storks here in abundance. Various migratory birds also come here during the winter. The numerous Beels (ponds) at Majuli are good places to watch the birds.
How to reach Majuli:
Majuli is not a difficult place to reach. You have to first reach Jorhat that is well connected to Guwahati by flight, train and road. From Jorhat, you can take an auto or a shared vehicle to Nemati Ghat.Regular ferries ply from Nemati Ghat to Kamalabari Ghat in Majuli. The first ferry from Nemati Ghat is at 8:30 AM and the last one is at 4:00 PM. From Majuli, the first one is at 8:00 AM and the last one is 3:00 PM. The ferry ride to Majuli itself is a ride of a lifetime.
Yes, you can take your car, bikes across the River to Majuli. You just have to drive them up to the top of the ferry.
How to move around in Majuli:
Scooty, bikes and bicycles are available for rent at Majuli. Bicycles are available at INR 100 while scooty and bikes can be obtained at INR 500. Simply rent one, get a map and roam around the island at your own pace. We had rented a scooty for a day and wandered around in glee.
What is the best time to visit Majuli:
The best time to visit Majuli is the winter season.
Where to stay at Majuli:
Majuli has a number of homestays and hotels. Most of these homestays are actually cottages built by bamboo thus giving a rural and ethnic feeling. The homestays beside the rivers are also quite good to live in.
Most of the Satras have guesthouses where the devotees, as well as tourists, can stay. Staying at a Satra will also help you learn about the practices of the Satra. You can also converse with the monks there.
Majuli does not have proper standalone restaurants. Most of the homestays provide good food. Ural Restaurant at Garamur provides good local food. Also, the Risong’s Kitchen is another must-eat place. It provides good Mishing dishes. But keep in mind that you have to pre-order for your lunch or dinner here.
Majuli is a beautiful place having its own charm and pace. The rural beauty of Majuli is sure to enchant its visitors. So here we tried to get together a guide that would help you to plan your trip to Majuli. Plan well, Majuli will definitely not burn a hole in your pocket.
Here are some photographs that will make you appreciate the beauty of the place.