IDEAS to promote Tourism to MAJULI Assam

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MAJULI is worth a visit AWESOME
  • This article has ideas on how Majuli can be promoted as a tourist destination.   

Do you know the name of India’s first island district and amongst the largest inhabited river islands worldwide? 

 

Majuli was formed due to the course changed by the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit. On the north bank is the river Subansiri and on the south bank, the Brahmaputra. It had an area of 1250 sq kms originally. Due to erosion etc. area sq. kms has fallen to about 650 today.

 

To reach Majuli travel to Jorhat i.e. connected to Guwahati by train and direct flights from Kolkata. Drive to Nimatighat and take a ferry to Majuli. The one hour ride is enjoyable, the newly introduced RO RO ferry making it safer.

 

What is special about Majuli?

It is the cradle of the Assamese civilization for more than 550 years. It is here that Assam’s great saint, poet, social reformer ‘Srimanta Sankaradeva’ and his famous disciple Madhabdeva lived in the 16th century. Ever since they established Satras (monasteries), Majuli has become the centre of Vaishavite Culture of Assam.  Here Vaishavism intermingles with tribal ethos.

 

Due to Srimanta Sankaradeva, Madhabdeva and the sukarmas of Satra bhakats (monks), Majuli is an oasis of peace and tranquillity. The island’s cultural traditions, rivulets, streams, vegetation, biodiversity, Satras, masks and hand pot making skills, friendly people and Raas Mahotsav make it worthy of a visit.

 

I visited Majuli in November 2018 to attend the very popular and unique Raas Mahotsav.

 

Performance at Raas Mahotsav 2018

 

What is Raas Mahotvas?

The festival is unique to Majuli. Raas Lila is the story of the life of Lord Krishna presented in the performing art form and as mentioned in the ‘Bhagawata Purana’. 

 

“It is classified mainly into nine Bhakti Raas. It starts with the birth of Krishna, his upbringing at the house of king Nanda, his tending the cows at Gokula along with his fellow cowherds, his childhood activities, his killing of demons like Bakasur, Oghasur etc. and his maternal uncle Kamsa and finally his amorous play with the Gopis. Performance of Raas Lila involves various classes of musical instruments, music and dance, and artefacts, masks and painting.” 1

 

It is held on 22-24th November every year. About sixty-five performances are held simultaneously in Sattras and villages.

 

Performances start about 8.30 pm and go on till wee hours of the morning. Every Satra presents the same story creatively. Acting, dialogue delivery and sound effects are awesome. This author does not understand Assamese but if one knows the gist of the story can relate to easily. Saw many tourists, from India and abroad, enjoying as well.

 

Since Srimanta Sankaradeva and Assam are synonymous it important to know who was Sankaradeva and what were his teachings.

 

Read Teachings of Sankaradeva

 

Bamboo huts enroute to Uttar Kamlabari Satra

 

Here are some ideas to promote tourism to Majuli.

 

One, when tourists get off at Majuli ghat they should be given an Information Primer.

 

It should contain names of Satras worth visiting, where to stay-hotel, homestay, bamboo hut, numbers of - guides, car, bike, cycle car hire co, food/textile outlets and location of sunset point. These could be indicated on a map. Information about Sankaradeva and concepts of Satra, Naamghar must be included.

 

This author met tourists who were clueless about what Majuli offers, when it actually has so much, so a primer would be of great help.

 

Two, how does a tourist know which Raas Mahotsav performance to see? For e.g. Auniati Satra had a unique dance on day one, Dashavatar or the Ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu that this author missed.

 

Therefore, based on previous year performances a panel could recommend performances worth seeing.

 

Tourists can hire a vehicle and visit various satras. Alternatively during Raas Mahotsav, Assam Tourism can organise a four day packaged tour starting Jorhat, the broad contours of which are as follows.  

 

During day visit Satras, village tours, bamboo homes, pottery making etc. In the evening a vehicle, with local guide, takes tourists to say two or three performances across Satras. This way tourists get a true feel of Raas Mahotsav. 

 

Sivadol Mandir Sivasagar

 

The tour can also include a half day visit to the temple town of SIVASAGAR i.e. less than two hours’ drive from Jorhat. It is famous for its 18th century Siva temple, Asia’s first amphitheatre Rang Ghar, Talatal Ghar (underground palace) and see reliefs of Assam’s Lachit Borphukon, a general who, in 1671, defeated the Moghuls in the Battle of Saraighat.  

 

Performance at Sangai Festival Manipur 2014

 

Three, Raas Mahotsav (22-24th November) could be packaged with other festivals in the North east namely Sangai Festival Imphal (21-30th November) and Hornbill Festival Kohima (1-10th December).

 

Travel agents to be encouraged to market these festivals together. This way tourists would have an enviable experience of the rich cultural traditions of north east India.

 

Four, because of Srimanta Sankaradeva and disciple Madhabdeva presence Majuli is very peaceful and tranquil.

 

Thus, position Majuli as a place where you can relax, recharge your batteries or read a book.

The question is does Majuli have such resorts! Not as yet.

 

Five, on river banks, where embankment have been strengthened, and elsewhere the government must encourage setting up of Eco-friendly Resorts. The cottages to be of local design and made of bamboo/cane.

 

The joy of sitting on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra, reading/writing a book or enjoying the sun is an attractive proposition. 

 

Handmade Pottery village Saltoro, Majuli 

 

Six, Majuli has an old tradition of making pottery by hand. It is a unique way of making. The government can help in the following ways.

 

Help villagers also make contemporary designs. Also make pottery products attractive by use of black colour. See products made by Abdul Pottery Kutch

 

This would help them reach out to newer customers and markets. Since few would visit village Saltoro villagers should be allotted a shop in the main market. A villagers co-operative could buy from villagers and sell products in the shop. Assam Tourism and all Satras should tell tourists /devotees about the shop. Once operations stabilise they could open a branch in Jorhat too.  

 

These ideas would expand the scope of the market and improve price realization. 

 

Masks at Chamaguri Satra 

 

Seven, Majuli has a rich mask making tradition. Organise conducted tours for students from Assam and other parts of India for those who wish to learn the tradition of mask making and handmade pottery.

 

If organised well it could be a big driver of students and foreign tourists to Majuli.

 

Two things that should not be done. Liquor should not be sold in Majuli. A bridge from Nimatighat to Majuli would destroy its peaceful environs forever.

 

These are just some ideas to make Majuli an attractive tourist destination. I loved the place and look forward to going there again.

 

References

1 Raas Mahotsav 2018 by Directorate of Tourism Assam.

 

Also see albums of

1 Majuli Satras and Landscape

2 Majuli Masks at Chamaguri Satra

3 Handmade Pottery Majuli

4 Temples of Sivasagar

5 Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalashetra Guwahati

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