The Ultimate Guide to travel to Majuli, a river island in Assam

July 27, 2019

by Enid Judith

Majuli, a river island situated on the Brahmaputra river is the first island to be made a district in India. The river island, home to the Mishing tribe holds the title of the ‘World’s Second Largest River Island.’

The World-famous river island is frequently visited by locals, tourists from other parts of India and foreign tourists, especially young backpackers looking for affordable yet memorable travel experiences. The life on the island is simple – they grow their own crops, rare cattle, live in clustered communities and family means everything. The locals are hospitable and welcome visitors (tourists) with open arms, including preparing and eating a meal with them.

Personally, Majuli has been a home away from home as I’ve lived on the island for close to 5 months. I’ve had the privilege to meet people from different countries and live with them with days where we’ve walked together on the island, eaten meals together and gone meeting locals to buy apong (rice beer) to celebrate nights of friendship, laughter, and bonding with strangers turned friends.

If you’ve added northeast India to your travel list, its time Majuli finds its place at the top of the paper and here are a few reasons:

  • This mesmerizing island will be wiped off maps in the next 15-20 years owing to soil erosion
  • The island boasts of beautiful sunrises and sunsets

A local man ferrying a passenger boat

  • Befriend a local Mishing fisherman and enjoy the sunset while boat riding at smaller water bodies within the island
  • Eat a meal & drink homemade alcohol with the locals
  • Take back experiences and memories to last a lifetime

How to get there?

  • Board a state transport bus from Guwahati City (locations include: Paltan Bazar, ISBT or Khanapara) and get off at Jorhat town. The journey will approximately take 6-7 hours with a stop for meals at a local dhaba.
  • Board a shared auto or four-wheeler to Nimati Ghat for anything priced between Rs.20 to Rs.50 for approximately 14kms. (Note: There are two wharfs from which one can board a ferry to Majuli, Nimati Ghat Ferry Service is the most frequent & convenient choice for travelers.)

The Neamati-Kamalabari Ferry Service

  • The boat service ferries you across the Brahmaputra river to Majuli island, a total ferry ride for 1hr 15mins (Note: The ferry service starts at 6 am and ends by 3.30-4pm. There are no services post-sunset.)
  • Another option to reach Majuli from Guwahati City is to take a direct bus from Paltan Bazar or board a train from Guwahati Railway Station to Jorhat Railway Station.

While there are many places left to explore in the northeast, I tend to return to the serenity island life to laze away and indulge in some of the best experiences Majuli has to offer

Tip: Rent a bicycle for Rs. 250/day (gear cycle) or you can hire an ordinary bicycle for about Rs.100-150/-. You can easily rent a cycle from your homestay/lodge/hotel and cycle to your heart’s content around the island.

Visit the world-famous Satras

Auniati Satra

The major attraction of the island is the world-famous Satras dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Founded in 1584, Dakhinpat Satra is the famous and oldest Satra on the island. The pandits in this Satra also double up as tour guides of the island. Close to this Satra is the Uttar Kamalabari Satra, a place where you can request to learn the traditional dance form and witness pandits give worship to the deity when large tourist groups visit this Satra.

Mask Making

Another tradition on the island is the mask makers who have been making traditional masks for Satra celebrations for generations. The process of mask-making involves a bamboo structure followed by molding masks into various characters which are used for dramas based on Hindu mythology. Mask-makers are hired by Satras to create unique masks, which are not repeated for other celebrations. There are several dramas that take place at multiple locations on the island throughout the year.

Pottery

We’re well versed with the process of pottery but in Majuli, pots are made of mud available at the banks of the river. These pots are called matkas which are used to make and store curd. The mud pots can be used only once and are supposed to be broken after use. The potters live near the banks of the river as it gives them easy access to collect mud for these special mud pots.

Watch the sunrise & sunset

The island boasts of jaw-dropping sunrises, sunsets, and cloud formations. If you’re looking to experience one, it’s ideal to wake up at 5.30am and cycle towards the bridge leading to Nimati Ghat. Stand on the bridge and experience one of the best sunrises of your life.

Learn to make a traditional Mishing saree

A traditional Mishing saree in progress

The state of Assam wears saree in a different way compared to the other parts of India. The traditional outfit consists of two-piece garment that is draped from the waist downwards and folded into pleats called the mekhela. The chador is another garment placed on the upper body with triangular folds, an art which needs practice to master. While strolling through the narrow lanes of Majuli, you will see Mishing women weaving their traditional garments on a wooden sewing machine. The traditional garment is recognized by the imprints of flowers woven into the garments.

Meet the Devri & Kosari tribes

Famously known for the Mishing tribes of Majuli, the popular river island have two other tribes living on the island, the Devri and Kosari tribes. While it’s easier to meet and interact with Mishing people, you’ll have to hire a bike and ride for about 22kms to the other side of the island to meet and have a cup of chai (tea) with the other two tribes.

Devri tribe preparing for a family wedding

I was fortunate to visit a family from the Devri tribe during the preparation for a wedding in their family. It was beautiful to see the women of the house come together and prepare traditional dishes, apong (rice beer) and help in the celebrations.

I also happened to visit a family belonging to the Kosari tribe while nearing sunset, had a cup of chai (tea), some munchies with tea and interact with members of the family – 3 generations.

Attend Ali A:ye Ligang festival

A couple getting blessed during the festival

If you don’t attend a festival on the island, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. During one of my visits to the island, I happened to fall in the middle of a festival without prior knowledge and it was a celebration. The Mishing tribes celebrate paddy cultivation on the island by organizing fairs across different parts of the island.

If you don’t visit Majuli, you’re missing out on an adventure 🙂

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