Majuli—Island of the Dancing Monks


Book says that Majuli is the biggest—inhabited-- river-island. It makes no sense as I don’t know which others are nearly as big. I was drawn to Majuli for reasons more important. Coming to know that Majuli was turned into a Vaishnavite den as early as in the mid-sixteenth century, by a saint Sakkaradeva, I got awestruck. Who this Sankaradeva was? What made him take refuge in the remotest island on a deadly river? What had been his reason to construct there 22 Vaishnavite ‘Satras’, all modeled after Buddhist monasteries? And then, all on a sudden, I came to know about Mahaprabhu. My source whispered that at age three and half, Mahaprabhu is India’s youngest monk, now growing up at Kamalabari Satra. Sticking to Sankaradeva’s dictats, monks at all Majuli monasteries still are made to master the art of singing and dancing. The ritualistic scores they go through every day involve taking lessons from Gurus, and their form of dance has now been assigned the status of India’s 9th Classical Dance—the Satriya Nrittya.  With an Islander’s indifference, a picture over all these prolonged years of insurgency, a Saint forgotten for 500 years, and another now only three and half, materialized in the vast waterscape of Brahmaputra. I decided to sail on.