Majuli is a fluvial island in the Brahmaputra river. Majuli is the one of the largests riverine islands in the world and the largest freshwater island in South Asia. Majuli had a total area of 1,250 square kilometers (482.6 sq mi), but now having lost significantly to erosion it has an area of only 650 square kilometers (251.0 sq mi).
The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri river in the north. The island is about 200 kilometres east from the state’s largest city — Guwahati, and is accessible by ferries from the town of Jorhat. The island was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit. Majoli is also the abode of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture.
About 25—26 Satras are remaining now in Majuli of which the Satras of Kamalabari, Auniati & Garmur are worth mentioning. These Satras are propagating the religious ideology of great Assamese medieval Vaisnavite Saint Sankardeva & Madhavdeva, preaching Satria culture.
The dwellers of Majuli are mostly tribal folk. These tribal are the mishing tribes from Arunachal Pradesh and who immigrated here centuries ago. Apart from them, the inhabitants are also from the Deori and Sonowal Kacharis tribes. Languages spoken here are Assamese, Mishing, Deori. The island has one hundred and forty four villages with a population of 150,000 and a density of 300 individuals per square km. The only mode of association to the outside world is through a ferry service which operates only twice a day. Despite inherent drawbacks faced, modernism has touched this island, with the setting up of medical centres and educational institutions. Housing too, has segued from traditional bamboo and mud construction to ones made of concrete.
The heart of all villages is the Namghar, where villagers episodically gather to sing and pray. It is the most important public place for the villagers. After the rituals are complete, villagers decide here on issues concerning the village such as auctioning of fishing rights, what to do with money raised, and other topics of significance to the community as a whole.
The inhabitants are expert navigators by boat; their expertise is most visible during the monsoon season when they navigate the turbulent waters of the Brahmaputra. Extremism is also a major concern in the region. The insurgent group the ULFA, has a wide network in the region and was responsible for the execution of social worker Sanjoy Ghosh who was trying to uplift the people of the island.
Majuli has been the cultural capital and the cradle of Assamese civilization for the past five hundred years. The satras set up preserve antiques like weapons, utensils, jewellery and other items of cultural significance. Pottery is made in Majuli from beaten clay and burnt in driftwood fired kilns in the same mode carried out by the peoples of the ancient Harrappan Civilisation. Sociologists have stressed on the preservation of these unique peoples, whose culture and dance forms are untouched by modernism. The handloom work of these tribes is also internationally famous.
Virtually every single person on the island is involved in the three-day long ‘raas’ festival, depicting the life of Krishna. People from hundreds of kilometres away come to celebrate this festival including a number of expatriate members of community. The satras have also honed certain art and craft traditions, which can now be found only here. In Natun Samuguri satra for example, one can still find the craft of mask-making; and in the Kamalabari satra the finest boats are made.