Assam - Majuli, Vaishnava shastra
Majuli is the largest river-island in the world. It is known for its Hindu Vaishnava monasteries called satras. Worship of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna is done through dance, music and poetry.
These performances tell the story of the Mahabharata and other pastimes. You can stay at some of the satras, in peoples homes, or at the Circuit House (ask at the office next door) in Garmur. Foreigners are supposed to register with the police on arrival.
There are taxis and rickshaws for local travel.
The Satras Created in the 16th century by Sankaradeva, the Satras are Assam’s monasteries with a cultural and artistic vocation. They are the only monasteries that exist in Hinduism. There are approximately 665 spread throughout the Brahmaputra Valley. Together, they harbour about 2000 members of religious orders of which 1000 are on Majuli Island. The children are adopted as of 5 or 6 years old, sometimes even younger. Their destiny is to remain celibate monks.
The monk-child integrates the monastery’s family unit, comprised of 2 to 4 monks or different generations, for life. When he will reach about 20 years old he will in turn welcome a child, while watching over those who raised him and who have become elderly. Most of the groups of dancing monks of Majuli are thus taking care of a child. Each one of these monastic families occupies a house in the heart of the satra, similar to traditional families except that it is composed only of males. The monks (or bhakats) do not exchange vows, but remain free to leave the monastery if they wish. Departures however are rare. These are irrevocable, but do not take anything away from the fraternal link that exists among these men.
The religious practices of the bhakti (devotional love) and their total absence of a proselyte spirit, makes these men tolerant and respectful for one another. Free to move around, these monks maintain regular relations with their original families. The tough conditions of the rural life of these monk-artists of Majuli contrasts with the subtlety of their art. In addition to their daily prayers, they practice their artistic disciplines at sunrise and at sunset, and undertake their domestic, rural and traditional tasks in between. They do not live on charity and some of them have employment outside the monastery.
There are boats to here from Nemati Ghat, 12km north of Jorhat. From where the boat docks at Majuli, there are usually buses to the main city of Garmur (10km) and Kamalabari (5km).