MAJULI: An integral part of the diverse Assamese culture is under threat of being washed away by the mighty Brahmaputra. Vaishnavite monasteries, locally known as Satras, that once dotted the river island of Majuli are quietly disappearing, one after another.
Subsequent floods and soil erosion have brought down the number of Satras in the river island from 65 to 35 over the last 50 years. And those still standing tall would soon be reduced to rubble if urgent measures are not taken.
Satras are associated with the Ekasarana tradition of Vaishnavism, propagated by the 15th-century saint-reformer, poet, playwright and scholar Sankardeva. The monasteries are considered to be treasure troves of cultural artifacts, independent of one another.
“The Satras in Majuli face the biggest threat from soil erosion. If the problem is not addressed early, they would cease to exist,” says Pitambar Dev Goswami, head of Auniati Satra, perched just two km away from the Brahmaputra. Large-scale soil erosion near Kamalabari Ghat is threatening to swallow the Satra.
Floods and erosion have forced Auniati Satra, established in 1653, to relocate four times so far. Local administration claims a number of measures have been initiated. “Due to flood and erosion, many Satras were eroded while several others shifted time and again,” Majuli district magistrate Pallav Gopal Jha said.
“According to official records, 35 Satras now exist in Majuli.”
The island, with an area of about 1,255 sq km in 1901, got reduced to 377 sq km in 2001, a survey, conducted by Dibrugarh University, revealed.
60,000 people affected so far by floods this year
According to official sources, the first wave of the flood this year affected around 60,000 of the island’s 1.83 lakh population in 53 revenue villages.
River banks breached at nine locations while roads breached at 72 places. The Assembly constituency is represented by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.