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a glimpse of majuli, Assam

A Glimpse of Majuli | A photo essay

2. Majuli Pottery
Artisans load handmade pots onto traditional boats at Majuli. These pots will be ferried upon the Brahmaputra to various villages in exchange for paddy, their staple food or sold in the local markets. The very fact that the pottery is handmade without the use of a wheel, suggests an ancient origin. It is also inspiring to see people still practicing the barter system and mud pots will return to mud once used ! There is so much to learn about sustainable living from the simple, kind people of Majuli!
Scriptures of Vaishavite Culture in Majuli
Ancient writings preserved at Majuli. This river island is at the center of the Neo Vaishnavite philosophy propounded by Srimata Sankardeva, a marvelous poet, social reformer and one of the shining gems of the Bhakti Movement. In the 16th century, when Indian culture was wrought with untold discrimination based on caste, creed and gender, the Bhakti Movement spread across the land speaking of unity and love, promoting dance and song as a form of praise and giving rise to some exceptional poetry. It was like the Renaissance of Indian culture. The worthy contribution made by Srimata Sankardeva to this movement is well preserved in the Satras (monasteries) on this island, propagated and maintained for ages to come, a message of unity, love and praise that is timeless and equally relevant in the world today.
4. Mask making
One can learn mask making from expert artisans at Majuli, an art that has been passed down for generations and forms an integral part of their culture. The main center for mask making is the Chamaguri Satra. The masks are made of bamboo, cane cloth, jute, mud and cow dung. Natural colors from rocks are used to paint them into vibrant colors. The islanders hold many a theatrical performance, enacting scenes form the Hindu epics, in an art of storytelling that brings mythical heroes to life. The artisans freely share their knowledge of this craft with travelers from all over the world, many of whom come from afar especially to acquire this exceptional skill.
5. Sunset Majuli
Sun sets over marvelous Majuli as fishermen sail home with the prized catch of the day. The Brahmaputra provides fish in bounty, deposits rich nutrients into paddy fields when it swells, provides soft clay for making pots and pans, art and crafts, it even brings driftwood to the shores which is made into rafters and boats or used as fuel for cooking. The lives of the islanders are so intertwined with the river that one cannot see them apart. And yet the river takes as it gives, it takes in bounty. The island of Majuli once measuring 1256 sq km now stands at approx. 515 sq km and gets smaller in size by the day in the face of extensive erosion. There is much effort being made to contain the river from flooding the shores and yet the challenge looms large and on this depends the very survival of the island.
A woman uses a shovel-shaped basket net to fish for crabs among lilies
We end our photo essay on Majuli with a quote by the eminent social reformer and Bhakti poet of the 16th Century- Srimanta Sankardev, fondly known as the Father of Assamese Culture.
“Thy palm is like the lotus, Thine eyes are like the lotus petals,
Thou art the consumer of worldly afflictions, 
Thou art the sleeper in deep forest,
Thou art omnipresent and inner soul of all.
Thou constantly removest my fear and vouchsafest my safety,
Thou art the wielder of large swift arrows, 
Thou art the destroyer of the ten-headed demon,
Thou art the rider of the bird (Garuda) and the uplifter of the mountain, 
Thou art the reposer on the hooded serpent (Ananta).
Thou art the dispeller of worldly sins,
Thou art the saviour from earthly grief,
Thou art the giver of final beatitude, 
O lotus-eyed Lord (I pray thee).”
– Srimanta Sankardev

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