Sisters of the Northeast: Majuli, the mid point of Brahmaputra

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Photo of Majuli, Assam by Amritha

" What does Majuli mean?"

" it means the mid point"

" of what?"

" The mighty Brahmaputra", said my driver for two days, in the world's largest inhabited river island-Majuli.

Rahul, was to be our driver and our guide to explore Majuli. He belongs to the Mishing tribe, which forms a major part of Majuli's population.

" Remove the 'H' from Mishing and we will be 'missing'," he quips. We are told the language of this tribe is written using English alphabets as they are yet to find it's written script.

But Rahul has managed to trace his ancestors, or so he believes. " We did some research, our ancestors can be traced to as far as China," he says.

For us city dwellers, who always try to be politically correct, locals like Rahul bring great humour respite. Our conversation steers to places I have travelled and of course Japan will be mentioned. " Oh, we do look a lot like the Japanese and Chinese," he says and laughs out loud.

Rahul is happy with his island life and does not aspire to live in the cities. One look at Majuli and you will perfectly understand his life choice. Frame any part of this beautfiul island and it is bound to look like a perfect post-card. The island is surrounded by the Brahmaputra river and is accesible only through an hour- long ferry ride taken from Johrat town in Assam.

News articles and Rahul both suggest the island is shrinking.

Shrinking or not, Majuli has a lot to offer- one of it is spotting Bamboo houses. Couple of home-stays also offer a Bamboo house experience.

Photo of Sisters of the Northeast: Majuli, the mid point of Brahmaputra by Amritha

A large number of houses on this island have been built on a raised platform and using bamboo. The raised platform is to keep the house from flooding during rains.

" Where do the tribes live during the floods"

" They take shelter on the slightly raised parts of the river bank "

" And the house and its belonging remain dry because built on a platform?"

" Exactly"

" Tribals are smart"

" No, we just follow our well researched traditions"

Part of this tradition, is the kitchen floor of such houses. with the gaps left between the bamboo, one simply washes his or her hands wherever its pleases them. The water just seeps through. See pic for details

Photo of Sisters of the Northeast: Majuli, the mid point of Brahmaputra by Amritha

Not just Rahul, our host at Majuli also has his share of stories to tell. He points out to a burnt down Bamboo house while we are on our morning walk.

" The tribal couple had a fight two days back," he says.

" So?"

" The drunk husband burnt down the house"

" How serious was this fight?"

" It is so easy for them to build it back again that burning it is like breaking a glass during a quarrel"

" Fair point."

Not just Bamboo houses, Majuli has a lot to offer- its beautiful satras, green pastures, the ancient art of making masks, sunsets, tributaries and bamboo bridges.

Photo of Sisters of the Northeast: Majuli, the mid point of Brahmaputra by Amritha

This is the first part of Sisters of the Northeast series. These are safe-keeps for myself to remember my nine-day trip to two of the seven sisters-Assam and Meghalya. The second part will look at what I did in Majuli and you can do it too.

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