The Sands of Time

Discover India|March - April 2020

The Sands of Time
The world's largest river island, Majuli, located on the River Brahmaputra in Assam, is a magical world grappling with the threats of erosion.
POONAM BINAYAK

MAJULI, THE WORLD’S largest river island, rests in the bosom of the mighty River Brahmaputra, which flows through the Northeast Indian state of Assam. Measuring 900 square kilometres in the early 1990s, Majuli is now down to 352 square kilometres, yet it’s bigger than 11 sovereign countries. If Brahmaputra’s wrath continues, Majuli, continually eroded by the moving waters, will disappear in the next 20 years. Despite the impending existential threat, Majuli strives to preserve and share its cultural heritage.

THE LIFELINE

Life in Majuli is serene—a perfect antidote to the often unsettling city life—unless the Brahmaputra is hungry or the rain god is angry. From July to September, during the monsoons, Majuli gets flooded. The local bamboo huts built on stilts seemingly float then. Locals use their dinghies to travel within the island. When it’s not flooded, people in Majuli go about merrily on their bicycles and motorbikes.

While most men here are into farming, fishing, and boat-making, women indulge in weaving, pottery, and handloom weaving. Majuli never fails to indulge guests, though. Locals welcome visitors with a warm smile and are always up for a quick chat. They love inviting visitors home for a delicious traditional meal that includes purang apin (sticky rice wrapped in plantain leaves) and apong (rice beer). You can even learn the art of pottery from local artisans. Cycling along the dirt roads that cut through paddy fields, while watching the locals go about their daily lives, is bliss. Rent a bicycle at Majuli Cycle Cafe in Garamur village for `200/USD3 per day. This cafe also has a library, an art gallery, and a coffee shop.

CULTURE TRIP

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March - April 2020