Sattras, Magical Power and Belief Narratives in the Context of Flood and Erosion on Majuli Island
Majuli is an island situated mid-stream in the river Brahmaputra, in India’s northeastern state of Assam. The island is bounded by the river Subansiri – a tributary of the river Brahmaputra – on the northwest, the Kherkatiasuti – a spill channel of the river Brahmaputra – in the northeast and the main Brahmaputra river to the south and southwest. The river usually brings floods every year. Inhabitants suffer badly as a consequence of widespread severe bank erosion, which causes serious damage to residential blocks, paddy fields, grazing land and open areas. More than half of the island has eroded over the last 100 years. The government’s role in terms of protection measures does not seem to be effective in controlling floods and stopping erosion. With land disappearing, there is a progressive loss of the traditional means of livelihood of the island’s people, leading to their displacement. During times of erosion, inhabitants offer their prayers to the river Brahmaputra to stop rapid destruction and protect them from catastrophe. A section of the population has set up a congregational worship of the river Brahmaputra, which is performed on the riverbank every year before the monsoon begins. The islanders’ relationship with the river is affectionate but also filled with hatred, depending on the activity of the river. This paper analyses the beliefs and narratives of the inhabitants of Majuli associated with the river Brahmaputra.
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