Saturday, November 24, 2012

Majuli - Lost Island

Neo-Vaishanite monks practicing drums at a Satra

On October 28 this year, from a plane between Guwahati and Jorhat, I witnessed  firsthand how  the Brahmaputra river,  reddish-brown and silt-laden, braided with hundreds of sandbars and islands, snakes its way through a  web of channels , creating a terrain of constantly mutating boundaries.

The 2,900-km-long river originates in Tibet as the Tsangpo, flows through Arunachal Pradesh as the Siang, and becomes the mighty Brahmaputra in the Assamese plains before draining into Bangladesh as the Jumna. It is prone to catastrophic flooding every year when the Himalayan snowmelt combines with wanton monsoon downpours. By September this year the river had swollen and flooded thrice, leaving a trail of destruction and displacement three times worse than last year.

Amongst the worst-affected was the riverine island of Majuli, considered the cradle of the Ahom civilisation, fountainhead of neo-Vaishnavism and my final destination for this leg of my journey across the Northeast.

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