A new book explores the beauty as well as challenges of Majuli, which is a treasure trove of folk culture besides being the world's largest freshwater river island and the lone island district in India.
"Majuli: Resources and Challenges", edited by author- academician Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, is a collection of essays by experts and is replete with photographs, maps, diagrams and charts.
"Not a well-explored theme, Majuli remains largely an unfamiliar terrain for most of the Indians. The essays compiled in this volume will bridge that painful gap, and this is what this books aims at," says Borkakoti.
The contributors highlight issues, inter alia, like the sattras or Vaisnavite monasteries and their heritage, living traditions, Majuli's case for world heritage status, protecting Majuli from flooding and erosion and the island's tourism potential.
Borkakoti makes a strong pitch for making Majuli a World Heritage Site in the book, published by Authorspress.
"Majuli is very important for Assam and for the entire humanity as it preserves a living tradition for centuries. Hence, there has been continuous effort towards getting this island declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The island continues to be a probable entrant in UNESCO World Heritage List, and some of the contributors of this volume have been making efforts to successfully realise it," he says.
Majuli faces an existential crisis as the river Brahmaputra is eroding it regularly. Massive floods devastate Majuli every year, erosion takes away a large part of it and villages are lost forever.
The premises of several sattras established centuries ago are submerged in the river; some of them had to be shifted out of the island making the island culturally poorer.
Majuli has been in the news for last several years for the consistent bids to the World Heritage Committee, UNESCO, for World Heritage Site status.
In his essay "Majuli's Case for World Heritage Status", Borkakoti writes, "We need to seriously focus on the factors that have stood as hindrance to obtaining the World Heritage status for Majuli."
He goes on to add: "We have to remember that UNESCO will not give importance to Majuli as a mere island, that too with inherent instability due to the erosion problem. We have to highlight the cultural treasures unique to it. The very fact that cultural sites happen to be the dominant section among the entire World Heritage Sites prove that the World Heritage Committee gives a lot of importance to the cultural factor in deciding about the nominations."
Srimanta Sankaradeva had set his feet in the landmass of Majuli in 1522 AD and stayed there till 1539 AD. The great Sattra institution, founded by him in 1468 AD at Bardowa for the first time for preaching Eka Sarana Nama Dharma and replicated in Dhuwahata Belaguri of Majuli in 1522 AD has flourished in the river island till today.
However at that time Majuli was not an island as it was then joined to the South bank of Brahmaputra, says Borkakoti.
"It was severed from the South bank only by a severe flood known as Shaka-Shakini in Assam history. This event took place in 1691 AD. Thereafter it became isolated from the mainland of the Brahmaputra valley," he says.
Among the essays are ones on the rich avian stock in Majuli, the administrative pattern of the island, the nature and changing patterns of the Brahmaputra river, the cultural wealth of Majuli and how to preserve it, and the potential assets for tourism.
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