River Island of Majuli in midstream of Brahmaputra River in Assam
Archaeological Survey of India, Ministry of Culture, Government of India
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The geographical region of Majuli is North-East of India, which has seven states - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalya are a part of the greater sub llimalyan Region. The island situates itself is in the state of Assam, mid-stream of the Great male river Brahmaputra river, which is also one of the largest rivers in the world. It is a part of the vast dynamic river system of Brahmaputra basin with a total length of 2706kni and a catchment area of 5,80,000 sq km. The Majuli Island is a fluvial landform (a riverine delta), a unique geographical occurrence and a result of the dynamics of this vast river system.The island itself extends for a length of about 80 km and for about 10-15 km north to south direction with a total area of about 875 Sq kin. It is 85 -- 90 m above the mean sea level. It is formed in that stretch of the river where the largest number of tributaries drains out and forms their deltas on the Northern and theSouthern banks.
Majuli is purely a region of fluvial geomorphology. It rises from the Brahmaputra basin and in course of time turned into a flat-level alluvial plain. The geomorphology of this region is directly related with its physiographie characteristics. The island is bounded by the river Subanisri and her tributaries Ranganadi, Dikrong, Dubla,Chici and Tuni etc. on the North west, the kherkatia Suli ( a spill channel of the river Brahmaputra) in the northeast and the main Brahmaputra River on the South and the South west. These tributaries usually bring flashy floods with heavy load of fine silt and clayey sediments. They has also very steep slopes, shallow braided shifting channels and had course of sandy beds.
Another significant feature of this system is the formation of the islets locally called the Chaporis around the Majuli Island. This is resultant of the braiding of the river. 22 Nos Chor- Chapar present in the waters surrounding the island. At present, 18 have been included as stable/permanent under Majuli Circle. The banks of the island as well as the North and the South banks of the river Brahmaputra have the wetland a characteristic feature of the hydrology of the system. These are locally known as the Beefs. They are the abodes of rich flora and fauna unique to this region, unique for the breeding ground.
All of the above the river, its tributaries, the wet lands and the chaporis along with the island of Majuli make it the largest mid river delta system in the world.
The island today is separated from the mainland of Assam by 2.5 KM. It is approached from Nimati Ghat in Jorhat district by ferry, which is on the south of the island, and Kamalabari in Majuli is where one lands. The other mainland towns in proximity to the island on the North bank of mainland are North Lakhimpur and Dhakuwakhana.
The island of Majuli today houses a total of 243 small and large villages. Of these 210 are Cadastral Villages (revenues generated by the administration and supported with revenue maps.) and 33 are Noncadastral village (these are villages with no revenue maps, in Mafuli they are mostly resettled or rehabilitated villages shifted due to flood and erosion).
There are a total of 30 Sattras in Majuli many of which are in the mainland, few of them are in Chapori areas, with a distinct spiritual influence region. These are located primarily towards the middle of the island.
Each Sattra, represents, within its region, a centre for cultural activities and even acts as a democratic institution to settle local disputes. Most of the villages associate with respective Sattra, and the villagers partake in the activities of their own Sattra during festivals and occasions. These Sattra Villages house the Narnghar (council house) where all the activities related to the Sattra are carried out. Many of these Sattra villages are also important centers for the Majuli Island. For instance Kamalabari, Garmur and Dakhinpat are the semi-urban places, juxtaposed with Natun Kamalabari Sattra, Garamur Sattra and Dakhinpat sattra, which are the main commercial places of trade and commerce.
These sattra villages and other vernacular settlements house people from various ethnic origins all of whom have settled in Majuli like Mishings, Deori, Sonowal Kachari, Koch, Kaivartta and Nath. The settlements have their own characteristics and building typologies. The Mishing and Deori population, which is the largest, has probably the most unique house form, which is on Bamboo stilts being located near the riverine tracts,wetlands and other hydrological features. All these settlements are interspersed in the unique natural landscape with wide variety of land types and water bodies that have resulted due to the unique interplay between geomorphology and hydrology of the island and the river. These diverse water bodies and groves house unique flora and fauna of the island. The understanding of the systems of this natural phenomenon by the local people is complete and exhibited in the local knowledge systems, the nomenclature of each natural component of the landscape has evolved over a. period of time.
Majuli today is a Mohkuma, a sub division of the Jorhat District, Administration Boundary with its headquarters at Garnnur. The Revenue Circle is Majuli, Kamalabari. There are three mouza in Majuli, Salmora, Kamalabari and Ahatguri. Population of Majuli as in 2001 was 1, 53,362 of which 79,490 were males and 73,872 females. Main centers in Majuli: are Garamur, Kamalabari, Auniati, Bengena-ati, Dakhinpat, Rawnapar, Jengraimukh, Bongaon, Salmora, Ahatguri, Ratanpur, Rangacahi, Borguri, Nayabazaar, Karatipar,, Bhakatiduar, Phulani, Bali chapori, Kamalabari ghat. The whole sub-division is said to be rural and agrarian.
Of the total land area of Majuli only 32237.16 hectares was found suitable for cultivation. Another 14834.66-hectare remains always under water and 7671.23 hectares was found not suitable for productive purposes. A number of 22 nos of `Char areas' have covered 5939.01. hectares. In addition to this, 61153.09 hectares have been reserved as Government reserved land. Thus from the table it. is seen that only 25.85 percent of total land area of Majuli is suitable for cultivation. Though the cultivable land is small in size in comparison to its total area yet it is fertile and suitable for production of different crops. Paddy, mustard, potato, pulses, sugarcane, wheat, is the main crops cultivated in the island. Besides, various seasonal vegetables and fruits like orange, banana, pineapple, jackfntit, etc are also grown in abundant quantity.