Majuli has been the cultural capital and the cradle of Assamese civilization for the past five hundred years despite the regular devastation, Majuli continues to be home to people and cultures that are quite unique. Being the land of Vaishnavitemonasteries and isolated from the mainland urban society, Majuli forms a distinct geographical, social and cultural entity with a peculiar value system. Island has been the hub of Assam Neo Vaishnavite culture since the 15th century, for which the foundation was laid by Srimanta Shankaradeva and his student Madhadeva. Many monasteries (Satras) were constructed out of them few are still surviving and preserving the colorful culture. These Satras have preserved the dance form, mask making and boat making, and regularly organizes the festivals where almost all people of Majuli are involved in something or the other.
The island is a good learning centre for neo-Vaishnavite philosophy. Majuli is particularly famous for its 22 ancient Satras, which means monasteries or hermitages. Each Satra has a guru and few sub-gurus who are elected through a formal process.
The daily routine of a Vaishnav involves getting up and doing the morning Puja in their rooms and then doing a morning Nam Kirtan and Aarti at the common hall of the Satra temple. Then they all do their respective jobs before gathering again in the evening for the Aarti. Only five out of the 22 Satras are for brahamcharis (celibates), while the rest are for grihasthas (householders).
There are 23 villages scattered all over the island each village is unique in tradition and culture. One can witness many vibrant festivals throughout the year the main festival is Raas dance based on the life of Lord Krishna and mainly performed during Janmashtami. Folklore says that Lord Krishna played with his consorts here. One should visit Majuli during the Raas Purnima in the Hindu month Kartik to experience the magic of this festival.
Then there is the Majuli Festival. Special events are organized during this carnival. Participants from various cultural troupes of Assam and other states come here during this festival.
The Paal Naam at Auniati Satra is a big fair, held at the end of autumn. Bathow Puja is another interesting festival performed by the Sonowal Kachari tribe, where Lord Shiva is worshipped. Ali-ai-ligang festival is also a favorite among the locals.
One can visit the Majuli Island throughout the year any time except the months of April to August it is during this period there are floods, rainfall and island is mostly flooded with Bhramputra’s water and is cutoff from the main land many days and no water transport is allowed. Best time to see the birds are November till February.read more...
Shri Shankardeva when started the Vaishnav Satras ( Monasteries ) he thought of make and depict thevarious characters of Hindu epic text in form of Masks in dance and drama ( Raas ) to associate the people to with the character and expressions of mythical characters and help the physical form to the Puranic characters . At Majuli the traditional art is practiced at the Satras by the Bhakts (disciples) for centuries as integral part of culture.
At present it is only at Nutan Shamagauri Satra and Uttar Kamalabari are continuing the tradition and carrying forward this art along with few villagers who are inclined towards making the Masks. The traditional craft of mask making was by and large a hereditary skill .
Masks ( Mukha ) are now made for religious as well as commercial purpose and Majuli have worldwide acclaimed in making exquisite ones.
Process of making the mask starts with the planting the trees of bamboo and cane as per requirement maintain them until they are mature to be used, bamboo and cane sticks are split into strips and a frame is made for a particular character. Paper, cloth, cow dung and clay is applied to make the surface and contours are made to shape and kept in sunlight and open air to get it dry then the natural colors are used to highlight the facial features of a character, normally two types base of masks are made paper and bamboo. Paper masks are used only for headgear for other parts bamboo, cane, mud and cloth is used. Masks are of three categories 1. The masks with importance to face expressions ( Mukha ) 2. Masks where eyes, eyelids lips and arms have a movement as per requirement (Lotokai Mukha) 3. Masks nearly of life size or even bigger up to the waist the entire depiction of body expression ( Bor Mukha ) .
The Masks for Lord Ram, Lord Krishna and Laxmana are not made were as Bhrama, Ganesha, Hanuman, Narsimha , Jatayu, Garuda ten headed Ravana, Meghnad, Kumbhakarna, Jamvant, Kalia Naag, Suparnakha, Putna and other epic characters are made , weapons Bows, arrows, axes , Trishool, swords mace, Vajra , Chakra and animals like cow, horses and birds as per the requirements are made .
Traditional masks of Majuli are large in size but now they have started making the smaller versions so that the art lovers take with them as mementos .read more...
The potters all over the world use a potter’s wheel to shape the clay but here the clay is beaten and shape is given by hands a unique and lost art, this method of pottery was used in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro civilization, if there was any link with Majuli or it originated here is a topic of research among the Archeologists. The people expert in this craft is called Kumars and they inhabit mostly in the south-eastern part of the Island on the banks of the Brahmaputra as the riverbank soil found in few feet below the surface, as its best source. It is a famous art because it is made from beaten clay that is burnt in ovens fired with driftwood.The pottery industry is probably the single most important heritage of Majuli, which is vying for a World Heritage Site tag.
Weaving is the prominent cultural part of Majuli, every house irrespective of status have a loom and homemade cloths are worn by men and women in Majuli. Homemade Gamcha worn by men and Mekhla worn by ladies, Gamcha is also offered to the guests and elders as a sign of respect is part of Assamese cultur...
Ladies are taught the every aspect of cloth making at an early age. The weaving of type of cloth cotton or silk depends upon the season, rearing of worms is done in pre monsoon period while the Yogi Community do the rearing and threading throughout the year. Pat silk cocoon is reared indoors takes 30-35 days in winters and 15-20 days in summers kept in bamboo sieve , the cocoon is boiled in water and then the threads is pulled out .
Weaving by ladies starts in the month of February. after March when weather becomes hot and humid the cotton weaving starts , during the monsoons and floods the weaving is not done , month of October November when water recedes the castor plants grows in plenty the leaves of castor are fed to the Endi worms reared indoors , the cocoons are formed on dry banana and beetle leaves .
Satras of Majuli are the hub of Neo Vaishnav culture of Assam since its foundationin 15th century by the saint Srimanta Shankardeva and his disciple Mahadeva, as many as sixty five satras monasteries were established and constructed out of which only twenty two are still surviving and preserving the colorful Assamese culture.
They are not only seat of religious importance but also honed certain artand craft traditions, which can now be found only here like mask making and boat making, villagers come here not only to seek spiritual guidance but also villagers decide here on issues concerning the village such as auctioning of fishing rights, what to do with money raised, and other topics of significance to the community as a whole and to settle minor dispute where the decision of Satra is final and binding to all.