Majuli is simply magical. It’s magnificence is to be experienced. Here, time stands still. If you want to press the ‘Pause’ button in life, then this is the place to be in.
Life in Majuli is woven gently around Mother Nature and it’s clock. Known to be the largest River Island in the world, embraced in the bosom of the mighty Brahmaputra River, today it is also called the Shrinking Island. What measured as 900 sq. Kilometers in early 1990s, has today become a mere 352 sq. Kilometer. An existential threat looms over it, as there is a possibility of it becoming totally extinct in as early as the next 20 years.
My short visit to this amazing part of the planet, made me feel blessed that I got an opportunity to value life itself. We start valuing things only when they start slipping away from us. Sometimes we learn the lessons early on, and sometimes a lifetime simply slips away before we realize it’s too late.
As I soaked into the glory of my surroundings, away from my bustling city, I couldn’t have been more grateful for the moment. As I walked by the riverside on a foggy December morning, even the sun took it’s time to display it’s grandeur, playing hide and seek through the canopy of trees.
As the mist slowly lifted up from the river, it was as though a thin veil had been lifted up, and as I blinked, the canvas in front of my eyes got filled. In my heightened sense of perception, I started noticing intricate patterns around me. Even a spider’s web between the branches of a tree, appeared to be an amazing manifestation of creation. I could now hear only the sounds of silence, be it the chirping of birds , or the distant barking of a dog, or the faint tinkling of a bicycle bell and my own footsteps crushing the dried leaves under my feet. It was surreal.
As my gaze shifted to the river where I could see a country boat standing still on it’s banks, a Chinese fishing net in the distant horizon and a large mask of the 10 headed King Ravana on the opposite bank, my vision got locked with it. I tried to recollect the symbolism of the 10 heads which constituted 6 shastras and 4 vedas. Ravana was not a demon but someone who became delusional with power and thereby lost his spiritual identity.
The gentle rays of the sun felt warm upon me and it was a moment to behold. To be still in the stillness around me was a unifying moment. I was in no hurry. Time stood still, and I was frozen in my motion. There was no next moment. For that one moment, I surrendered myself totally to my surroundings.
Richly woven in the culture of the traditional Satras, Majuli’s famous Vaishnavite monasteries are steeped in preserving the teachings of Sri Sri Shankardev. A visit to Dakhinpaat Satra was filled with serenity and calmness. Generous donations and ornate gifts by the Ahom king Jayadhwaj Singha in the 16th century are carefully stored in the ‘Bhoral’ or Store House and we were fortunate that the Head Priest took us inside to see some astounding pieces preserved carefully over time.
Another famous Satra in Majuli is the Samuguri Satra, well known for it’s family members who have excelled in mask making, usually of characters from the Mahabharata or Ramayana. The unique feature is that the masks are made from bamboo, clay and cowdung and colorfully painted in bright colors. However, this art is also now becoming a dying tradition with only a handful of family members trying desperately to preserve it.
Majuli is not a destination, but a surreal experience, where time and space merge into one large canvas to deliver the true essence of life in it’s most natural and rustic form. A large number of Migratory birds still find their way to this island every year and it is a haven for bird watchers.
We however, need to understand that preserving the rich Vaishnavite culture and tradition, and preserving the natural biodiversity will have meaning only if the island still continues to exist. The consequences of damage to the delicate balance of our ecosystem often will first have it’s impact on such fragile and vulnerable lands, as is witnessed by the rapid shrinking of this unique river island which is already on the brink of disappearance and extinction.
It is time to collectively become one unifying force across the globe to save our soil and our fragile and delicate ecosystems on this planet which has been sustaining life in all it’s myriads of form till now, but will collapse if we do not deliver the necessary attention and action that it deserves. We should be an actionable generation and a responsible one, and the least that each one of us can do is to generate this awareness and speak as one voice.
According to UNCCD, ( United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), we are losing one acre of soil every second. What is happening in Majuli is a reflection of a much larger global issue. In fifty to sixty years time, all of the world’s agricultural land may be lost, which would lead to conflicts, hunger, poverty and famines. Even if we have all the money in the world, it would not be enough to buy us food, simply because food would no longer be available.
Soil which is rich in organic content is the only unifying factor for humanity as a species to survive. The impact of desertification of soil is contributing to global warming, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and disappearing land masses. Whether they are sinking or shrinking , the impact of climate change on planet earth can no longer be undermined. Many islands like Tavulu, Maldives, Palau, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Seychelles, Kiribati, and our very own Majuli are shrinking daily, and many coastal cities like Amsterdam, Venice, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Houston predicted to sink and disappear totally at an alarming rate in the next couple of decades.
Soil connects us beyond boundaries, nations, religions, caste, creed, gender or age. A collective voice singing one tune is bound to be heard by those who can change policies. To be proud of technologies which are creating weapons of destruction to divide us , or to be able to use technology to unite us as a species is a question that can be answered by tapping our very own human consciousness. If we live only in a survival mode, we will continue to bring divisions, but if we live in a conscious way, we will look for our collective wellbeing. Political boundaries are only meant for better administrations for upliftments of communities and not for creating wars and untold sorrows upon humanity.
The future of our planet can be decided by our very own actions. We reap as we sow. Every action or inaction will have its consequences. If we choose to leave a beautiful rich planet for our future generations, let us come together to save places like Majuli which is connected to a much larger world wide web through the linkage of our connecting soil. For once, let us think beyond boundaries and limitations. After all, we live in a shared world with so many other species. If all the microbes and insects in the world were to disappear, humanity would not survive more than a few hours. But if all human beings were to disappear, this planet would surely thrive. We need the microbial world for our survival more than they would ever need us. Let us be humble to realize that we are a mere speck in this cosmic dance, but as an evolved species we have the capacity to undertake meaningful actions to see that we do not disturb the delicate ecological balance of Mother Nature.
As homo sapiens we have the ability to act responsibly and create the possibility that we desire for our future. This moment is without doubt, the final wake up call for humanity. Today, we choose to go to exotic destinations for our vacations, have a good time, come back and post a few happy pictures on social media. Many of these destinations are on the verge of being wiped out forever. This would lead to migration of populations for the sake of survival, thereby effecting the limited resources of our dwindling planet. My trip to Majuli was no doubt an enriching experience at a personal level for which I feel blessed, but it was also an eye opener, and a reason to speak about saving our soils from extinction.
With the #savesoil movement by Sadhguru gaining momentum, as he travels across continents on a 100 day solo ride to engage with communities and policy makers to make an impact, I as an informal Volunteer for Isha Foundation would like to dedicate this article for the cause. Let’s Save Soil and Make it Happen.
Indeed, Soil is the Soul of Humanity.