Majuli the famous pilgrim place in Assam

Majuli is the cultural capital of Assam. Besides being a popular pilgrimage, it is also the biggest river Island of the world. It holds the centre of Vaisnavite Monastery which houses a large number of Satras. The Satras are the centre of religious practice and nucleus of development of greater Assamese cultural society. In this article I am trying to depict a picture of various Satras of Majuli and a glimpse of cultural activities.

About Majuli

Majuli the spiritual centre of Assam acknowledged as one of the biggest inhabited river islands in the world. It is one of the popular pilgrim places in Assam. The place is also considered as the cultural capital of the state. Majuli is widely famous for the Vaisnavite monasteries which are known as Satra. Every year large number of pilgrimages throng in this island to visit the Satras. The Satras grab the attention of the pilgrims with its with spiritual profundity, serene environment, traditional religious art and crafts, literary contributions and century's old antiques collection. Here in this article I try to compile some information about the prominent Satras of Majuli which have been preserving and practicing religious ideals of these pioneer Vaisnavites like Srimanta Sankardeva and his disciples Madhavdeva, Damodardeva, Harideva and Padma Ata, Gopaldeva etc.

About the Vaishnava Satras of Majuli

The Satra culture was laid in Majuli by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva in 16th century. The great social reformer Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva established a new cult of Vaisnavism in Assam along with his chief disciple Srimanta Madhabdeva. This new cult of Vaisnavism acknowledged as Ek Saran Naam Dharma. Majuli stands as testimony of the historic Moni Kanchan Sanjog , a significant union of Assam's pioneer Vaisnavite saints, Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev and chief disciple Madhabdev. These two great saints met at a place named Belguri in 16th century. The first Satra of Majuli was eastablished in Belguri where the two great saints, the social reformers Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev and Madhavdev met each other for the first time. During 16th and 17th century the chief disciples of Sankardev Madhavdev and Damodardev founded 64 Sartras in Majuli. But in present time only 24 Satras remain in Majuli out of the 64 Satras. Each Satra has their leader or head of the Satra. The head of the Satra is known as Sattradhikar. The deputy head of the Satra is called Deka Satradhikar. Each Satra has their own campus with its four hatis(rows of cottage for the bhaktas) where resides the bhakatas (disciples) of the Satras. In some of the Satras the bhakatas (disciples) lead a celibacy life. The Sattradhikar and Deka Satradhikar also dwell within the Satra campus. Satras have a rectangular or square shaped prayer hall located at the middle of the Satra campus that is known as Naamghar. This Naamghar may be called the heart of the Satra where observes all the devotional functions of Satra. Nam Prasanga (prayer), Choidhya (fourteen) Prasangas are routine performing art of Satras which are observed in the Naamghar.

Satra are also famous for the performing arts. The most commonly practised performing art among all the satras is the singining of the Borgeets written by Srimanta Shankardeva and Madhavdeva. These are very melodious classical songs and are sang with great devotion during the morning and evening hours. Other devotional songs which are composed by Vaishnavite saints are Gayan –Bayan (a traditional Vaishnavite religious orchestra), Natua dance, Ankiya Nat, Ojapali etc. Addition to it some Satra's have their own special performing art which have been preserved and practiced in those respective Satras for many decades.

Sri Sri Auniati Satra

Sri Sri Auniati Satra is considered to the greatest among all the satras of Assam. It is located in the western part of Majuli (5 kilometres to the west of Kamalabari). This Satra is founded by the great saint Niranjan Pathakdeva. The most important religious festival of this Satra is Paal Naam. Paal Naam is a continuous event which lasts for 5 days incessantly. This grand Paal Naam festival is celebrated in the month of November in autumn season with great zeal and gaiety. Large number of devotees from every nook and corner of the state partakes the festival with great pomp and devout. Auniati Satra is also famous for Apsara dance, Dsawatar dance. Auniati Satra was patronized by renowned Ahom king Jaydhwaj Sinha. It is also storehouse of some valuable rare antiques. There is a big museum in the Satra where preserves historical relics, handicrafts and ivory work, old Assamese utensils and jewellery etc. Besides these There are total 310manuscripts which have been preserved in this Satra for a long time. These manuscripts are Sachitra Hasti Vidyarnava which was written in sanchipat or bark of trees, Mukta Hastawali, Gopaldevar Charitra, Banaparva Ramayana, Ghunusa Kirtan, Dasham (1693 sakha), Ram Kirtan etc. It is a purely Monastic Satra where both the Satradhikar and bhakats(disciples) spend their life in celibacy. Approximate 450 bhakats dwell in the Satra. Sri Sri Pitambor Dev Goswami is the present honorable chattradhikar of the Satra.

Sri Sri Dakshinpat Satra

Sri Sri Dakshinpat Satra is situated in the eastern part of Majuli. This renowned Satra is one of the four important Satras of Majuli which was founded by Sri Banamalidev during the period of Ahom king Jayadhwaja Singha. This monastery is exactly located on the south bank of the mighty river Brahmaputra. Sri Sri Dakshinpat Satra is famous for its Raasotsav (Sri Krishna Raas leela) and Indrabhishek Nitrya, the Rajagariya Chali dance which is performed with khol and dholak. Raasotsav is the chief festival of the Satra and it has been said that Raasotsav of Dakshinpat Satra is the oldest in Majuli. This festival is celebrated here with lots of zeal and enthusiasm. In this festival Raas Leela play is staged at the Naamghar which was written by Sri Vasudev Goswami the tenth Satradhikar of the Satra. Generally this play is performed on the full moon night during the autumn season. Thousands of pilgrimages congregate in Majuli during this auspicious time to offer their prayer to the God. This Satra preserves various books of medicine. Besides these some rare antiques have been preserved in this Satra for ages. These are the jalghari (an ancient water clock), the ancient sword within a stick, judgment paper of the East India company, weapons like Bortop (canon) of Ahom period, some books like The Trantasar (a manuscript about worshipping rituals), Charit-Puthi (a biographical manuscript on saints) and Purana (Hindu scripture) etc. It is also a Monastic Satra. Sri Sri Nani GopalGoswami is the present satradhikar of the satra.

Sri Sri Natun Kamalabari Satra

Sri Sri Natun Kamalabari Satra is located at the heart of Majuli, to the south west of Kamalabari. The founder of the Stara is Badala Padma Ata, the chief disciple of Madhavdev. This Satra is eminent for its rich heritage of art, culture, literature and classical dance. This Satra has got recognition in worldwide for its Rajagharia Chali Nritya (a kind of classical dance) and mati Akhara (ground rehearsal), Gayan bayan, Ankia Bhaona (dramas of Sankardev and Madhabdev). Different types of decorated hand-fans are made here. Normally bamboo is used to make the hand-fans. The birth and death anniversaries of the pioneer great saints Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev , Madhabdev and Badala Padma Ata are observed here with lots of devote. It is one of the Monastic satras of Majuli. Pilgrimages should not miss to see some rare antiques like the comb of Shankardev, the rosary and turban of Badala Padma Ata which are preserved in this Satra. Sri Sri Narayan Chandra Goswami is the present Satradhikar of the Satra. He has received the prestigious Srimanta Sankardev Award in 2004.

Sri Sri Uttar Kamalabari Satra

Another influential religious and cultural monastery of Majuli is Sri Sri Uttar Kamalabari Satra. This Satra is also located at the heart of Majuli, at a distance of one kilometer to the north-east of Kamalabari. This Satra is famous for performing art like Gayan bayan, Sutra Naas, Ankia Bhaona (dramas of Sankardev and Madhabdev). Numerous stage programmes have been performed by the Satra inside and outside of India. The most appealing dance form of the Satra is matiakhara. This Satra has been preserved different types of valuable antique like the rosary which is used by Shankardev and Madhavdev, footprints of Madhavdev on stones and the manuscript like the Nam Malika, Ratnawali ( a scripture written by Madhavdev), Dasam (a scripture written by Sankardev). In this Satra both the Satradhikar and the Bhakats (disciples) spend their life in celibacy. Sri Sri Janardandev Goswami is the present Satradhikar of the Satra. There resides approximate 115 bhakats (disciples) inside the Satra.

Sri Sri Garamur Satra

Lakshmikant deva founded this Satra and this Satra obtained royal patronage during the period of the Ahom King Jayadhwaj Sinha. Sri Sri Garmur Statra was located at Garamur, the sub-divisional headquarters of Majuli. This Satra preserves and exhibits some rare things like bartop (canon) used by the great Ahom Rulers, the royal robe of of Ahom king Swargadeo Gadadhar Singha. Raas leela is chief festival of the Satra and every year Raasleela is observed here with lots of pomp and gaiety. Raasleela festival is the most famous festival of Majuli. This festival lasts for three days and normally celebrates at the end of autumn season, in the Assamese Kati month. Majuli becomes colorful with the joy of Raasleela festival. Thousands of domestic and international tourists rashe to Majuli to enjoy the festival. Sri Sri Haridev Goswami is the present Sattadhikar of the Satra.

Sri Sri Bengenaati Satra

Sri Sri Bengenaati Satra is significant centre of religious practice of Majuli which is located at a distance of 4 kilometers to the east of Kamalabari. The founder of the Satra is Murari Dev who is the grandson of Sankardev's stepmother. This Satra received royal patronage during the reign of Ahom King Lakhmikanta Singha. This Satra is famous for its rich culture and heritage. Sri Sri Bengenaati Satra is well-known in worldwide for its Bhortal, Uthanaam Nritya, Nammangal. Phakuwa, the festival of color is celebrated here with lots of pomp and gaiety. Normally this festival is celebrated here in month of February. Another noteworthy festival of this Satra is Paalnam which is celebrated in whole Assamese Kati month (October-november). This festival is also popularly known as Akhanda Paalnam. This Satra has been preserving some rare antiques for many decades. Royal robe of Ahom king Gadadhar Sinha (which is made of gold) and the golden umbrella are some major attractions of the Satra. Present Sattradhikar of the Satra is Sri Sri Bhabananda Dev Goswami.

Sri Sri Bhogpur Satra

Sri Sri Bhogpur Satra is located to the east of the Sri Sri Bengenaati Satra. The distance from Sri Sri Bengenaati Satra to Sri Sri Bhogpur Satra is approximate half a kilometer. This Mahpurushiya Satra is famous for its Bhortaal Nritya. In this Monastery Satra resides 90 bhakats (disciples). The present Sattradhikar of the Satra is Sri Sri Duttadev goswami.

Sri Sri Natun Chamaguri Satra

This famous Satra is founded by Chakrapani Ata, one of the followers of Srimanta Sankardev and Madhavdev. This Satra is situated to the east of Kamalabari. The distance between Kamalabari and Sri Sri Chamaguri Satra is approximate 12 kilometeres. Sri Sri Chamaguri Satra receives recognition throughout the world for its traditional art of mask-making. The adept craftsmen make the masks using clay, bamboo, cloth etc. This Satra has been patronized the mask craft for a long time. These unique handmade masks are generally used in Assamese traditional theatre known as bhaona. The present Sattradhikar of the Satra is Sri Sri Kushakanta Deva Goswami. He received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 2003. Mukha Nritya is famous dance of the Satra. Raas leela is one of the important festivals of the Satra. Numerous pilgrimages gather in the Satra during time of the festival. This is a Grihasti Satra where lives the disciples with their families.

Sri sri Narasimha Satra

This Satra is one of the primary Satras of the Elengi group which is situated near Silikhaguri, Majuli. This Satra is well known for the idol of Kalia Gosain as well the old manuscripts and relics. Like the Sri Sri Chamaguri satra this Satra also patronizes the Mask making craft.

How to reach Majuli

The nearest domestic airport of Majuli is Rowriah at Jorhat and Lilabari at North Lakhimpur. Gopinath Bordoloi Inernational airport is the nearest international airport of Majuli. This airport is located at Guwahati which is around 250 kilometers away from Jorhat.

The nearest railway stations of Majuli are Morioni, Jorhar and Lakhimpur.
Nearest bus stand of Majuli is the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) station at Jorhat, ASTC station at North Lakhimpur, Public bus-stand at Jorhat, Public bus-stand at North Lakhimpur.

After reaching at Jorhat or at Lakhimpur one has to cross the mighty river Brahmaputra to arrive at Majuli. Government operated ferry services are available to reach the island which run from Nimatighat (located 13 kilometers away from Jorhat) to Majuli or from Louit khabalu ghat(Lakhimpur)to Majuli. Bus and taxi services are available from Jorhat city to Nimatighat or from Lakhimpur city to Louit khabalu ghat which provides help to the tourists to get a ferry in time to go Majuli.

Where to stay at Majuli

Pilgrims get available accommodations to stay at Majuli. All The Satras have provided accommodations with ample facilities for comfort of the pilgrims. Some of the noteworthy places to stay for the tourists at Majuli are
  1. Sri Sri Uttar kamalabari Satra Guest House,
    Phone no-03775-273392

  2. Sri Sri Natun Kamalabari Satra Guest House,
    Phone no-03775-273302

  3. Krishi Bhawan Guest House,
    Phone no-03775-274560

  4. Sri Sri Garamur Satra Guest House,
    Phone no- 03775-27467

  5. Circuit House
    Phone no -03775-274439

  6. PWD Inspection Bunglow at Bongoan

Some other important information of the place

  1. Area of the island is approximate 650 square kilometers

  2. Geographical Location of Majuli is 26045' N -27012' N, 93039' E -94035' E

  3. Population is approximate 160000

  4. Climate is sub tropical climate

  5. Language – Assamese, Mishing, Deori (Local dialects), English, Hindi

  6. Best time to visit the place is autumn and winter season

  7. Literary rate very good approximate 77.9%

  8. Primary Rainy season starts from May to early September.

  9. Temperatures-During Summer 15 degree Celsius to 28 degree Celsius
    During winter: 7 degree Celsius to 18 degree Celsius

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Guest Author: rupjyoti sarma27 Oct 2016

I have gone through the article on Majuli. I am planning to visit on 12th Nov. I am trying to contact the authorities on phone but is finding problem regarding accommodation for 13 ladies up to 4th Nov. Can anybody provide me an easier way to book proper accommodation?

Guest Author: Tulika11 Dec 2016

Hello, I am bit late to reply to your message as I am engaged with some other work and have been visiting ISC sporadically. However if you still want to get the information please do let me know, I will find out and let you know.

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