Flood Waters Threaten Vaishnavite Monasteries in Assam

In Majuli, monks are preserving centuries-old Vaishnavite traditions. But floods waters threaten their existence.

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In Majuli, Assam, monks are preserving centuries-old traditions by training almost a hundred children to become monks that follow the Vaishnava traditions of music and art.

Majuli island has been the cultural capital of Assamese civilisation since the 15th century. There are presently 22 monasteries or ‘satras’ in the region. Each satra is both a place of worship and a performing arts centre.

“This land has been famous for the upkeep of the Vaishnavite heritage, so many ‘satras’ are located here and all the ‘satras’ belong to different sub sects, actually. And all these different kinds of ‘satras’ have lent a kind of variety and also a kind of variation to the Vaishnavite heritage that Majuli has been preserving for so long a time.”
Apurba Hazarika, Social Commentator

Vaishnavite practice is also credited with preserving the culture of mask-making in the region, an integral part of dance dramas or 'bhaonas' performed there.

Our Maha (great) guru Srimanta Sankardeva had established this art in the 15-16th centuries. He started with painting stories and that gave birth to Bhaona (dance drama). The masks are essential for Bhaonas. The ‘satras’ (monasteries) have maintained his ideals and art.
Hemachandra Goswami, Mask Maker

But erosion and flood waters have put the monasteries in jeopardy. Upen Gayan, a senior monk, says that the monks are unsure of their future if the Bramhaputra’s water erodes the monatery. “We have asked the government to ensure measures to check erosion. People believe the existence of Majuli is attached to the existence of the 'satras',” he added.

(With inputs from AP)

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Topics:  Assam   Majuli 

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