Visit These River Islands In India Before They Disappear


There has been a lot of talk on Majuli, in Assam, recently on the internet. It is being touted as the world's biggest river island and Indians are ecstatic. But what is a river island exactly? And why have we only heard about river islands in India now?

A river island, as the term suggests, is essentially an island within a river. Large river islands are formed when large rivers cut through hilly or uneven topography, leaving a large raised section of the landmass exposed. They can also be formed in places where a large amount sediment piles up higher than the water level.

It is important to remember, however, that river islands are not permanent. Rivers continue to erode them, till they are completely washed away. But while they exist, they serve as fascinating pieces of geography, often with very fertile land.

Here are some river islands in India that you must visit before they disappear.

Credit: Kalai Sukanta

Photo of Majuli, Assam, India by Himani Khatreja

Assam's Majuli Island finds a place in the Guinness Book of World's Records as the world's largest river island. This 450 sq feet of land is covered with an explosion of green by way of water meadows full of blooming hyacinth blossoms, and fresh rice fields. In fact, many unique varieties of rice can be found here, owing to the rich soil. The island's residents number around 1.68 lakh people, who belong to the Deori, Mishing and Sonowal Kachri tribes. Some of these people are shifting away, though, as the Brahmaputra River is breaking away parts of the land every year. Many predict that the island may get submerged in the next 20 years.

Top things to see and do: Drink apong or rice beer with the Mishing tribes; take an old-school boat ride along the verdant rice fields; if you are here in November, dance and chant as you do the raas leela with locals; indulge in birdwatching; buy a traditional macabre mask, hand-painted in multiple hues

How to get there: Fly to Assam's Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati. From there, take a bus till Jorhat. Nimati Ghat, is a short shared tax or rickshaw ride away from Jorhat, and this is where you catch a ferry to Majuli.

Best time to visit: Mid-November is when the raas leela is held, making it a great time to visit and dance and celebrate with the villagers. Also monsoon! Though the island is flooded during monsoon (July and October), it makes movement easier in boats, making for an interesting good time to visit.

Where to stay: There are no hotels in Majuli, but the island has 21 satras or monasteries, some of which have guest rooms for travellers. Besides these, you can stay at River View Bamboo Cottage. Find more options to stay here.

Credit: Kushendra Tiwary

Photo of Peacock Island, Baruah Souk, Guwahati, Assam, India by Himani Khatreja

Umananda Island, also called the Peacock Island, is the smallest inhabited island in the world and rests on the Brahmaputra River in Guwahati, Assam. According to popular folklore, Hindu god Lord Shiva was a resident of this island for a few years, which gave Parvati (also called Uma), his wife, much joy or ananda. Hence the name Umananda. Today, the island has a Shiva temple, which is frequented by ardent devotees. Another popular reason to visit this island is to see the endangered golden langurs, though now there are only around five on the island. These animals are considered to be sacred, and their numbers are slowly, but steadily, going up in the recent years.

Top things to see and do: Visit the Shiva temple, which is considered to be one of the five pilgrimage centres of Kamrup; move around to see the other five temples – Hara Gauri, Ganesha, Chandrashekhar, Vaidyanathon and Chalantika – on the island; admire the beauty of the playful golden langurs; walk around to enjoy the greenery on the island

How to get there: The island is located exactly between north and south Guwahati. You can take a quick 10-minute boat ride from Kachari Ghat to the island.

Best time to visit: November to March is a good time to visit Umananda, as the weather is pleasant, making for comfortable sightseeing and walking around.

Where to stay: There is no place to stay on the island, and the last ferry leaves the island for the mainland at 5pm.

This 130-acre island has been created by the force of River Krishna and is situated 4km away from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. It serves as a good place to spend a lazy weekend. You enter on a boat that drops you off on large wooden docks on the island. Once you are here, you can sit by the water and watch the seagulls scurry about, laze in a hammock or set up a picnic to enjoy the cool breeze. There is also an adventure sports centre, where you can indulge in some water sports.

Top things to see and do: Try out all kinds of activities at the adventure sports centre; walk around the island under the cool shade of the tree-lined pathways; buy toys and weaves made by local artisans at Shilparamam, an arts and crafts village; watch the water change colours as the sun goes down

How to get there: Reach Durga Ghat in Vijayawada. From there the official Andhra Tourism Development Corporation's ferry will take you to the island.

Best time to visit: Bhavani Island sees good, travel-friendly weather from October to March

Where to stay: There are a couple of places to stay on the island. Bhavani Island Haritha Resort and Haritha Berm Park are recommended.

Credit: abenteuer

Photo of Divar Island, Tiswadi, Goa, India by Himani Khatreja

Just a short ferry ride away from the colonial churches of Old Goa in Panjim is the quaint little island of Divar. Sitting in the middle of the Mandovi River, this island is home to some interesting, less-explored side of Goa. Not many tourists find their way here, but when they do, it's usually around the time three major festivals take place in Divar. Two of the popular festivals are Bonderam and Potekar. Bonderam is a carnival that takes place on the fourth Saturday of August, when each part of the village takes out their floats for the parade. Potekar, like Halloween, is celebrated three days before Lent and is a spectacle where locals roam around wearing handmade masks and bells!

Top things to see and do: Explore the ruins of Kadamba Dynasty in the village of Piedade; visit the gorgeous Sao Mathias Church, a 400-year old Portuguese church at the heart of Sao Mathia village; witness how a pilgrimage centre turned into a ghost-town at Naroa

How to get there: Take a boat from Viceroy's Arch in Old Goa to the south side of the island.

Best time to visit: November to February, when the hot and humid weather makes way for comfortable days and cool nights.

Where to stay: Casa dos Silveiras and Wow - Romantic Villa are two great Airbnb options on Divar Island.

Credit: Ramanathan Kathiresan

Photo of Srirangam, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India by Himani Khatreja

Formed by the Kaveri river and its distributary, Srirangam is a river island in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu. Unlike the other river islands in India, Srirangam is a well-frequented destination, as this is where the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is located. This temple, which is a primary Hindu-Vaishnavite pilgrimage centre, won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit 2017 for cultural heritage conservation. If history, architecture and religion interest you, then Srirangam should be on your itinerary.

Top things to see and do: Visit the recently-renovated Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple to see it in its restored grandeur; walk around on the island to explore its culture; visit the other temples, such as the Antya Ranga Temple, on the island that are all important Ranganatha temples.

How to get there: Take a train from Chennai Central railway station to Srirangam. If you are in Trichy, take route no. 1 of the city bus service that will take you to Srirangam.

Best time to visit: The winter months see the best weather in Srirangam, offering ease of movement on the island.

Where to stay: Hotel Sri Hayagriva and BSSK Comforts Inn are two popular options to stay in Srirangam.

Do you know of any other river islands in India that is worth visiting? Tell me in the comments section below or write your own article about it on Tripoto.

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