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Day 98: Majuli Island

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe air is warm and the light soft as I cycle along the high track between the fields. The bike I've been given is enormous, but then the sandy roads of Majuli are full of people riding bicycles much bigger than themselves. Maan is with me and we stop to see flying foxes hanging from the branches of a capacious banyan tree. A well-placed missile lobbed at the tree wakes a few and sends them soaring into the air on wings over three foot wide. The banyan is intertwined with an equally magnificent bo tree, with a geometrically elegant rattan palm somehow squeezed in there too. The rank luxuriance of the island is the result of regular flooding, which probably accounts for the impermanence and adaptability of human settlement. Bridges are light and mainly bamboo, houses are on stilts with grain and hay stores well off the ground. Nothing looks as though it expects to last long.

One of the minority people on the island are the Mishing. There are an estimated 45,000 of them, believed to be the original lowland people, animists, believing in the Sun God, Donyi, and the Moon God, Polo. They took refuge on the island, where they could practise their unorthodox Hinduism without interference.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 98: Majuli Island
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Majuli Island
  • Book page no: 231

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