I fell in love with the vibe on Majuli Island. It was so easy, simple and so far away from the chaotic reality of the 21st Century. Everything was hand made and hand cooked, there was no quick fix, it was just as God intended. A natural paradise in the middle of the Brahmaputra river.
If you’re looking for places to add on your North East India adventures, I would urge you to bump Majuli Island to the top of your list. This beautiful oasis won’t be here forever, it’s slowly eroding away and in 15-20 years it will completely disappear.
As it is a river island which is relatively new to mass tourism and not highly written about in travel guides I feel there is quite a few important things to know before you visit.
I’m just going to cover some important travel tips in this post, but if you were after a more detailed guide for travelling to Majuli in 2018 – make sure you click here and read my ultimate guide!
1. It rapidly erodes due to floods each year
Majuli Island sits slap bang in the middle of the Brahmaputra River. Each year the river levels rise higher and causes major flooding which consumes a massive part of the island. Hundreds of homes washed away and lives taken in the process. The tribes here are at risk.
When I visited Majuli Island, the track roads which we were driving along in December would be completely flooded in the rainy season. Everywhere, you could see where people had left flood level markings. It was scary to think of, let alone imagine the fear people would have every year.
With this in mind, the best times to visit Majuli Island is between October – March which are the ‘dry’ winter seasons. If you’re visiting from April – July it’s summer and if you’re visiting from July – September you’ll be visiting in sub-tropical monsoon. These are the months you don’t want to be caught in freak flooding.
So, plan your visit wisely. Always check for advise before you visit.
2. In 20 years time it may not exist
The future of this beautiful riverine island is uncertain for the Majuli tribes. This is because the Majuli Island Protection & Development Council estimate that the island is at risk of completely submerging in 15 – 20 years time.
If you see below in the last 100 years, a massive chunk of the island has completely been washed away.
The council trying to make amends by raising embankments and installing geo-bags but, some believe that this is making the issue worse. Desperate actions needs to take place to ensure this island doesn’t disappear completely!
What can you do? Your contribution through tourism can help these people ensure their houses are well prepared for floods and help contribute to the government to fund for improvements.
With all this in mind, it’s important to visit now before it becomes uninhabitable! It’s heartbreaking to know as this island has been the heart of Assamese culture for centuries!
3. You can only access the island by ferry…and it’s not 24 hours
The only way to reach Majuli Island is to catch the ferry that runs 20 kilometres out of the main nearby city of Jorhat.
To make your way over to the Neemati Ghat ferry dock, you need to catch one of the many government rickshaws (30 rupees) or a private taxi.
From here, you can catch the ferry with locals and vehicles all crammed in. You’re not paying for luxury though, it’s 15 rupees a passenger!
It will take around an hour to reach there from Jorhat but will take 2 hours to return due to the current.
For a full guide of catching the Jorhat to Majuli Island ferry with up to date times and prices doe 2018, see here.
4. It’s traditional in it’s values and culture
Majuli is pitching to be Assam’s capital of culture as it hasn’t really got with time times yet. The island preserves a lot of its heritage through Satras which are home to traditional religious practices, art, literature, dancing and theatre.
Here, you can see the ancient art of hand looming to make Assamese tribal patterns, Clay pottery being made my hand, masks made by world famous craftsmen and wander around the unqiue Hindu monasteries.
You won’t find sky high buildings, TV dishes, wifi or wires just a natural oasis full of nature, wildlife and untouched villages.
5. The hospitality of the Majuli people is breath taking
Majuli certainly has a strict open door policy! Every one was curious to meet you and greeted you with open arms and a smile.
I would be invited in for tea almost everywhere. Whether it was with the world famous mask maker Hemchandra Goswami or the devotees at the monasteries, it was amazing to get to meet the local people and know their stories.
7. It’s an island of traditions…extended even to their guesthouses
You won’t find 5* hotels or luxury on this island but you will find friendly, cosy, traditional bamboo huts to stay in for a while and that’s so much better in my opinion!
One of the guest houses that caught my eye was La Maison d’Ananda! Bought and built by a French couple who fell in love with the island in the 80s, it was officially the first guest house that opened on Majuli!
You can still see the deed framed in their hut with local newspaper clippings!
Everything about the place was Assamese to the core. For dates and rates available, see here.
7. You can visit their world renowned Satras
The Satras of Majuli island have been a sacred part of their culture since the 16th century. There were originally 64 in the heyday of the Neo-Vaisnavism of Sankardeva ideology movement. Nowadays there are 31 in use.
Many say if you haven’t visited the Satra’s here, your visit to Majuli Island will remain incomplete.
These aren’t just religious institutions on Majuli island, they also provide a home to promote traditional culture, literature and arts.
There are two sides to Satras one is the Grisathi Satras which are liberal, allowing people to marry and promote arts. The others are Udasin which is more of a conservative celibate monastic order. Both are interesting to visit and provide some amazing insight to Assamese culture.
The main monastery which should be highest on your list is an Udasin Satra called, Dakhinpat Satra. This is the chief satra that is patronised by the Ahom ruler or the head of the satras. Here, you’ll be visiting a Hindu monastery full of religious temples and artwork.
Kalamabari Satra is mainly used as a theatre for religious tales performed on the stage and the Natun Samaguri Satra is where the famous masks are made for festivals like Ras leela.
Make sure you visit as many as you can while you’re here.
8. It’s the largest river island in the world and it’s recently been declared Assam’s 35th district
Did you know that Guiness world records class Majuli Island as the world’s largest river island?! It’s huge at 352 kilometres squared.
Quite honestly, when you’re travelling around the island, it’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of the Brahmaputra river! It totally feels like you’re just in another town in India. Some parts of the island have well laid roads and others are just dirt tracks.
But, it is something to keep in mind when you’re planning how to get around. Most of the attractions are spread far and wide all over the island. Personally, I think a private taxi is your best bet. The Majuli taxi association has a locked in price of 1600 rupees for a full day.
Sumos Jeeps are available for hire. My taxi driver that picked me up at the ferry dock also doubled up as my guide for my tour!
It’s also recently been classed as Assam’s 35th district as there are now over 160,000 living on it! Crazy.
9. The masks made here are world famous
I was dying to go and meet the world famous Mr. Hemchandra Goswami at his workshop Natun Samaguri Satra. He is well known for his amazing crafting process of masks and religious characters for festivals and events.
The mask designs, depending on the complexity, can take anything from a few weeks to months. They’re firstly made out of paper and clay, then painted.
People from all over the world write in for orders due to the quality and history of the profession and Mr. Goswami’s amazing skills.
What was even more amazing is that Mr. Goswami doesn’t draw any designs down, it’s all in his head!
You have to visit this amazing workshop while you’re here. It’s fascinating. To see them in action, try and visit for Rasleela festival when they all come out to play!
Fooling around with the masks – really not comfortable to wear!
10. It has a certain magic that will stay with you forever
Majuli was captivating in every way. It just goes to show that some places don’t need to speed up and get with the times. Why change something that has worked for hundreds of years? The traditional values that run through this Island are strong and aren’t leaving anytime soon.
It’s a real shame because if this Island is going to disappear, so is everything that goes with it. The culture, religious temples, satras, houses and history will all be washed away. Centuries gone in a decade. I really hope that more can be done to save it.
There is a certain magic here and you’ll fall in love with the vibe. You can switch off, relax and bask in the beauty of it’s natural surroundings.
Make sure you add this jewel of an island on your North East India bucket list!