Situated on the Brahmaputra, Majuli is the world’s largest river island. Recently decreed the 35th district of Assam, the island is famous not just for its size but for its rich culture. The tribes of Majuli are far removed from modern-day, urban life and have thus preserved traditions and a rich heritage.
The island is indeed huge at about 350 sq kilometers. It can only be reached via a ferry ride from Jorhat, and one that doesn’t operate 24 hours. Nevertheless, the ferry ride across is a beautiful experience, especially during sunset when the skies take on a burning hue. Jorhat can be reached by air, road or rail with regular flights from Guwahati and Kolkata.
We are always on the lookout for places that we can unwind at truly, not just tick off our checklists and Majuli, with its lush greenery and welcoming locals, is one such place. The locals are warm and friendly and disposed to invite any new visitor into their homes over a cup of tea. It is most saddening that this gem of a place is eroding away at startling speed. The island has been the target of floods year after year and loses land to the wrath of the river. Every year, several houses are destroyed and lives lost. The island is full of markers for flood levels and it is heart-wrenching to think of the indigenous tribes who bear the very distinct possibility of losing their island entirely within a matter of two decades. The Government has been trying to counter the problem, but it is believed that the measures taken are further exacerbating the problem.
It is advisable to only visit Majuli during the dry season between October-March.
As can be expected, there are no real hotels in Majuli. However, there are cute and cozy bamboo huts used as guest houses that only make the entire trip more authentic, without leaving behind a huge carbon footprint. One of the guest houses, La Maison D’Ananda was started by a French couple who visited this island and fell in love with it. This was the first guesthouse opened on this island and is definitely worth staying at.
Eating in Majuli is a bouquet of local dining experiences. Being so cut off from the rest of the world, there are not too many multi-cuisine options. Food is more or less a simple affair served in the accommodation one stays at. The local fare is a combination of rice cooked in a leaf along with vegetables, fish or chicken cooked in banana leaves. A trip to Majuli is incomplete without a visit to Risang’s Kitchen. A part of the La Maison De Ananda, which is run by the Risang family, this restaurant attracts visitors due to the authentic Mishang food it serves. The food of the local Mishang tribe is served along with their rice beer called apong.
Wherever you decide to stay in Majuli, the culture and traditions are all around.
There is the concept of Satras, that are home to traditional arts, theatre, dances and religious practices. People weave the renowned Assamese looms, make pottery out of clay and also make the masks. The Satras are of two categories – Grisathi Satras which are more liberal and allow marriage, promote arts, theatre etc and the Udasin Satras that are more conservative and a celibate order. The most famous is the Dakhinpat Satra of the latter variety.
This little known island village, however, is famous for its time-honoured art of mask making. Hemchandra Goswami, the revered mask-maker of Majuli and the Satradhikar of the Natun Samaguri Satra, is an artist extraordinaire and it is apparent in the details and intricacies of the masks crafted by him. The Natun Samaguri Satra has been carrying on this practice of mask-making since the 17th century. The masks are used for Ras Leela festival and the Bhaona, a street theatre style of Assam. The mask-making process begins by making a 3D framework out of bamboo. Strips of cloth dipped in the clayey soil of the Brahmaputra along with cow dung are used to layer and create depth. Once complete, the mask is painted using vegetable dyes and takes on the grandeur of the formidable characters it represents. Goswami’s family has been in this profession for over a century and one cannot skip visiting his workshop while in Majuli.
Majuli, like most little-known gems of the country, is a repository of culture and the grassroot ways of living. Everyone needs a reminder of what that is like from time to time. If you’d like to book a tour to this vibrant island, contact us and we’ll make it happen!
Thank you very much to you and your team for arranging this fantastic tour. One of the best pick from this tour was your meticulous planning and promptness of service. All arrangements were fantastic, be it a delivery of vehicle at Chandigarh airport, hotels particularly at Chandigarh, Leh, Nubra, Pangong. However the best was at Jispa, Kargil and Srinagar for different reasons. Jispa was simple but authentic with very tasty food.
Rajesh & Gauri Natu
Graphic Designer, Apple
Sunil, after I ran 21k Marathon I bragged about it for years. The same is being repeated again, with my ambition to drive across the Himalayas, which was almost faded with Srinagar under curfew. You and Chetan were the spark to our fire that we could do this drive and without a single trouble. Driving is a passion but driving thru places where there are no roads is trouble, but your breakup of program and awesome car condition helped us actually sail thru. Three cheers and five stars.
Absolute Networks, Mumbai
Wow. wow, wow. What a experience! We took the route of Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar - Leh - Sarchu - Manali - Delhi. Sunil Kapoor gave us excellent service which includes his next to new 4WD in immaculate condition and all hotels were top class. Coming from Australia, we were bit nervous in start but when we met Sunil, we had full trust and all went very positive. Sunil gave us perfect instructions and everything was according to plan. Thank you Sunil and your team for our one of the best experience in life you have provided us.
Director, Webential, Australia
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The itinerary was so crisp and so very well laid out that there was no reason for us to worry other than coping up with nature’s fury.
Clifford Chance, Delhi
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Ashish & Neha Thadani
Great to see the know-how of the Unwind Outdoor team regarding every aspect of the Srinagar - Leh - Chandigarh self drive trip. From weather conditions, to road conditions, to health/clothing requirements, and also driving instructions - Sunil and Manpreet are warm, meticulous and knowledgable. Villa Himalaya in Sonamarg surpassed all our expectations and ensured that our expected standards for the rest of the trip were extremely high.
Symbiosis Law School, Mumbai
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We had an amazing 9-day from Manali to Leh. Serene, breathless and picturesque. High altitude sickness was a big issue for us but we were in good hands.
Unwind Outdoor was superb in arranging and coordinating the trip. Taking care of all arrangements and checking-in on us. Kudos to Sunil and his team.
Assistant Director, Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore
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Nikhil & Neha Mazumdar
Manager L&T, Mumbai
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