MAJULI AS A TOURISTS CENTRE


By Dr. Brojen Ch. Neog


1.Introduction
Majuli is the world’s largest river island and 35 no. district of Assam. It is situated within river Brahmaputra in upper Assam and is bounded by the co-ordinates of 260 45 N- 270 10N latitudes and 930 35 E-940 35 E longitudes. Majuli is at present one of the most important and attractive tourist spot of the world. The new district covers a vast area with flat plain, fertile land, sandy lands, Char lands, channels and wetlands etc. The rivers, rivulets, channels, streams, vegetation, avifanna biodiversity and above all varied communities and Satras, make the region a veritable haven for tourism.

Majuli has tremendous scope for practicing tourism industry projects beneficially. It has rich cultural heritage, colourful festivals, scenic beauty, non polluted environment, rich ecology with rare breeds of flora and fauna, large number of migratory birds etc. Bhatt (2006) revealed that there are immense scope for water borne adventure activities like sailing, rafting and boating and also for other activities like cycle tour and trekking in this island.

Majuli is the nerve centre of Assamese culture and rich in traditional indigenous cultural heritage. With this rich heritages of tribal and Assamese Vashnavite culture it has more opportunities for spiritual or pilgrimage and culture tourism (Kalita, 2013). Its pollution free and peaceful atmosphere can provide and ideal escape from the busy, noisy and dairy existence of the city life. The cold breeze and green grasses keep the climate of Majuli as pleasant, which can help development of health tourism into a great extent. As such the island is a hotspot and favourite destination for both native and foreign tourist.

The tribal groups of Majuli namely mising, deori, kochari, sonowal kochari have their rich colourful culture and heritage from time immemorial. It is known that the tribal people are very simple and kind hearted enough having naturally gifted culture. But their indigenous faith and culture have gradually been assimilated with other communities in the island society.

2. Factors of Tourism
2.1 Natural Beauty
In its natural beauty, Serene air, purity and calmness one can abate one’s tormented mind from the monotony of modern mechanical urban life like Innishfree of W.B. Yeats where …………. peace come dropping slow. Dropping from the veils of the morning to where cricket sings.

Majuli, by large, is a place of pure screne and clean environment. Lindsay Hubbard, producer cum photographer of cultural portraits of India, who had visited twenty one countries of the world before she visited Majuli had remarked it as the cleanest place of the world.

Sanjoy Ghosh a social activist who made an enthusiastic approach to protect Majuli had beautifully said “land of the river and whispering wind. Sweet rice and plenty of fish, where the sun rises to the sound of hundred birds and the evening resonate to the music of cymbals and kirtons.”

Majuli is also rich in case of biological resources.  Rivers and wetlands of Majuli are full of different types of flora and fauna. Wetlands of Majuli attracts large numbers of migratory birds from inland and overseas countries of derive, “delight in disorder”, which are the source of attraction of world tourist.

2.2 Cultural Resources
Majuli is a very safe area due to geographical isolation. Due to this the great Mahapurush. Srimanta Sankardeva has established the Vaishnavite monasteries called “Satras” (1522 AD) in Majuli dhuwahat belaguri (Ahatguri Mauza) and preached the doctrines of purified Vaishnavism and salvation through faith and prayer rather than the sacrifice of lives and that emerged as a guiding spirit of a religious revolution called Bhakti movements probably keeping in mind the unique character of Majuli with its composite nature of soil, population, culture, tradition and its most  sustained environment. Sri Sankardeva, a 15th  century Vaishnava saint of undivided Assam and his followers choose this island as a permanent seat for spreading the neo-Vaishnava movement which is a part of the Vaishnava reneissencce throughout India. The concept of this religious movement is intact showing a new way of life which touched upon the vary basis of social, educational, cultural, economical, literacy and linguistic and all other aspects of society. Thus sri sri sankardeva did through the system of “Satras” and keep every components of the society under one fold with this way of life (Mahanta, 2001).

People of Assam have serious concern for the islands as it is the hub of the assamese culture. In the hay days of satrya culture there were more than 65 Satras spread across the island. Now only 22 Satras exist in the island. It is also reputed as the largest inhabited fresh water river island in the world. 

Mahapurush srimanta sankardeva introduced his vaishnava movement, a unique cultural heritage in the island which centered around the Satras that he and his followers established and which encompassed varied individual cultures of different section of society into a composite whole. This are done by bringing all sections of the society irrespective of their caste, creed, religion and social status and evolving a new way of life. Keeping in conformity with the natural environment of the island all activities were centered on god and the relationship of eliminate the clash of self interest so that men could live with each other and surrounding in perfect peace and harmony. This novel concept of living, not only embraced all human beings but also lower forms of life such as animals, birds etc. although basically the concept originated in India Vaishnava philosophy and thought. Sankardeva’s philosophy was unique in the sense that it touch all aspects of human activity, such as social, economical, cultural, literary linguistic etc. Sankardeva brought different schools of Vaishnava thoughts and practices prevalent in the country in his time and introduced the same in the Satras.

Satras are not only centers of excellence for music, art, drama, architecture, literature, education, schools of thought, research centre for physical and spiritual upliftments but also are strong controls on all on social and economic spheres of activities of the islanders in particular and large Assamese society in general (Kakati, 2011). The Satradhikars who are head of Satras enacted as magistrates for settlement of dispute, crimes etc. The rulers of that time who were disciples of the Satradhikars even offered executive powers to the Satras. Hence, the harmonies of these Satras were unchallenged Satriya culture is now spread all over the world – Many tourists come to Majuli for learning and enjoying Satriya dance, Borgeet, Bhaona etc. Vaishnava of Uttar Kamalabari Satra visited many countries of world like France, England, Indonesia to spread the Satriya culture. Recently Satradhikar of Auniati Satra – (Dr. Pitambardeva Goswami) tour to USA to take part of religion meet there. These are few examples only (Acharyya, 1985).

The Satras represent a unique culture many respects as the main theme of these Satras were revive of man’s external relationship with god and with naturally all activities of Satras centered on this theme.

2.3 Common Festivals and Cultural Activities of Satras
Rashlila , Palnam, Nam-Kirton, Bhaona, Akashbanti, Janmastami, Phalgutsava are some special festivals of Satras in Majuli. The Satradhikars inmates of most the Satras keep themselves engaged in creating spiritual atmosphere in Majuli. Besides these festivals, they keep themselves in writing holy songs, plays, charit puthis, religious books, articles etc. Nam prasanga, charitpath, bhagawat path, singing of borgeet, bhatima, totoy, sopoy are some of the important cultural activities regularly performed in the Satras of Majuli. Some other skillful functions are also regularly exercised as follows. 1. Art   2. Music  3. Dance  4.Gayan Bayan  5. Mati- Akhara  6. Apsara Dance  7. Jhumura dance  8. Natua dance  9. Chali dance  10. Mridanga OjaPali  11. Rash Nritya above all some other dances of Majuli engage in different communities living in the islands are – Deuri Bihu Dance, Mising Bihu Dance, Bihu Dance, Drama (Ankia Nat or Bhaona) and the Satras are the store house of a large number of valuable religious and cultural documents and articles of great historical values.

2.4 Different Cottage Industries
Cottage Industries are small scale Industries which the worker carry on in their own homes, with simple and cheap tools and with a small capital. Handloom weaving, cane work, toy making, rope making, mask making, boat making are some of the Cottage Industries of Majuli. The goods produced by them, not only satisfied needs of local people but also satisfy the tourist visited Majuli. They provide work during spare hours to the villagers and they can add to their incomes.

i) Bamboo and Cane based Industry
Apart from the rich cultural heritage of Satras posses a handful of artists, skillful in making fans made of cane and slandering bamboo. The aquatic vegetation viz, tora, patidoi, cane are used for making mats. Inhabitance of the island can engage themselves in making handicrafts by using these indigenous raw materials and can also their products to the tourist visited Majuli each year. The handcrafts of Satras like Auniati and Natun Kamalabari have a worldwide acclamation.

ii) Handloom and Weaving Industry
Majuli is inhabited by different tribes and communities Weaving culture of these Assamese women of the island deserves immense popularity even in the international level. Weaving industry is the main occupation of 90% of tribal women (Mising, Deori, Sonowal Kachari). According to government report (cited from Majuli) 7,079 families are engaged in weaving industry and accumulating 150 villages, the name “Sericulture village” has been declared. The artistic uniqueness of Gamosa, Chaddar, Ribi–Gaseng, Mibogalak, Mirizim made by tribal and non tribe women has attract the tourist India and abroad.

iii) Mask Making Industry
Mask culture is a traditional culture of chamaguri Satra. But now it has been expanded to other Satras also. This culture represents a kind of brilliant exposure to the tourist. A mask of RAWANA made by Chamaguri Satra has been preserved in Kolkata museum which can attract the tourist to Majuli from abrad. This is a traditional culture of Kayastha community. However this mask culture needs more interest to creat more employment ability.

iv) Boat Making Industry
The Kumar Kalita community of Salmara, the Bhakata of Kamalabari Satra, Auniati  Satra and Mising community of Borgaya are very expert in making boat and big ferry. In this flood prone area boats are very essential as the means of communication during the flood season as such industry is very important to fulfill the demand of boats at flood times as a means of communication. The Kumar Kalita community ,specially, makes big boats for exporting their products of pottery to different parts of the state. If the department of tourism introduce boating for entertainment in a number of wetland ecosystems by developing these as tourist spots then these communities will be economically benefited.

v) Pottery making Industry
Pottery making industry plays an important role in rural economy of Majuli. It is secondary occupation of Kumar Kalita (MOBC) community of chinatali and Salmara areas. This industry has given the engagement of 580 families out of 675 in said areas and also gives the means of livelihood to 5000 people. The Pottery making industries of Majuli fulfill 40% of the total demand of potteries in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The average income of each family engaged in this industry is Rs 20,000/= per year. There is a tremendous scope for further development of pottery making industry. They can make use of their skill by making various show pieces for the expansion of the market. This is one of the most important means for development of tourism in the island.

The raw materials for pottery are special types of mud, locally known as “Kumar Mati” and fire woods (which are available in chor and Chapari areas). The items of pottery industry of Majuli are Tekeli, Kalaha, Nadia, Udhan, Mothia, Gasa, Dol-Tekeli, Anwa Tekeli, Oven etc. The potteries are produced three times in a year known as “Khep” namely – Ahu Khep (May to August) Shali Khep (November to March) Besa Khep (March to April). The products of first two are exchanged with commodity and the rest is for earning money. So pottery has played good role in rural economy of Majuli.

3. Conclusion
There are abandon scope for tourism industry. For rapid expansion, the government should play more attention by funding and taking proper planning to develop this.

References
  • H. Bhatt. Island Tourism. Guwahati: EBH Published (India), 2006.
  • K. Kakati. Majuli, The Paradised of Sattriya Culture. Majuli: A.K. Prakashan, 2011.
  • K.C. Kalita. Majuli. Guwahati: Directorate of Information and Public Relation, Government of Assam, 2013.
  • N.N. Acharyya. North East as viewed by Foreigners. New Delhi: Omsons Publication, 1985.
  • P.K. Mahanta. Majuli. Jorhat: Greater Sanskriti, 2001.

About the author: The author, Dr. Brojen Ch. Neog, Head of Department of Economics, Majuli College, is a writer of text books of degree levels of Dibrugarh University. A Life Member of Asam Sahitya Sabha (A literary organization of Assam), Dr Neog regularly writes in newspapers and journals about various issues on the subjects from economics to social science including topics of contemporary events sometimes.

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