20 kilometers from Jorhat lies the island of Majuli in the state of Assam. Majuli is the world’s largest river island. The island is a perfect symphony of geographical features and topological variety where flora and fauna prosper in the lap of nature. The rushing waters of Brahmaputra attack this island every year in the flooding season. Currently, the island only retains 28% of its original landmass. However, the floods of the Brahmaputra are not the only danger the people of Majuli face. Population of this island face zealous conversion; albeit this time from aggressive Christian evangelists.
HISTORY OF MAJULI
Majuli, formerly known as Majali or Mojali, has existed as a riverine island since the 13th century.
The island is a Vaishnava pilgrimage since the advent of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva and Mahapurush Madhavdeva.
They built several ‘satra’ or’ xatra’ in the region and extolled the virtues of non-violence in the region. Bhimpur, Shamaguri, Dakhinpat,
Auniati, Garamur, Kamalabari, Narasingha, and Benegenaati are a few popular satras of Majuli. Majuli is a stronghold of Vaishnavism since the 16th century. These satras aim to preserve the satriya culture. They stress on the preservation of music, dance, antique items of cultural importance, art and craft traditions. Satras are important organizations with socio-cultural influence in Majuali. They acknowledge the need to preserve the satras. Majuli is home to 65 monasteries and hermitages, only 23 of which are currently functional.
Majuli’s contribution to India is marked by its major role in the Bhakti Movement, Moamariya revolt, the Burmese invasions, and the Indian Freedom Struggle. It also plays a significant part in the ‘Assam Movement’. In addition to Bihu, the island celebrates the namghar and satra, bhaona, ras-lila, janmashtami, phalgutsav, and the Ali Aye Lrigang. The diverse and rich cultural heritage of Majuli led the government of Assam to pass an act for its preservation in 2006. This act is known as “The Majuli Cultural Landscape Region Act, 2006“.
CONVERSION CONTROVERSY OF MAJULI
The 2011 census of Majuli district listed the region having 99% Hindu majority population. In 2011, the island had 0.35% Muslim and 0.15% Christian population only. However, the number of Christians has rapidly increased from its original number of 255 in 2011. Currently, there are 66 churches in the island where the majority Hindu population can lay claim to only 34 satras.
Janardhan Goswami, the Satradhikar of the Dakhinpat Grihashromi satra, has been resisting the escalating evangelical activities of Christian missionaries in Majuli. Reportedly, a Hindu monk was put behind bars for his attempts to resist the advances of the Church on the island. The destitute tribe of Minshing are the ideal target for the missionaries. The tribals are being lured by food, clothes, etc. to accept the Christian religion. The local authorities have not enforced the 2006 Act for the preservation of Majuli and its people. The Church and its missionaries report these conversion of Hindus as necessary for the upliftment of the tribals.
Soon Majuli’s 66 Churches will soon be filled with converts if the conversions are left unchecked. Hinduism may die a silent death along with its rich historical and cultural heritage in peaceful Majuli, if the government and local authorities do not act in time.