Majuli An island, some monks, and dance...
Who are we?
In 1999, the writer-traveller Nadine Delpech discovered on the island of Majuli the important monasteries that were totally unknown in the West. She lived for many months among the monks.
Mathias Coulangehead of the Agnès B. art gallery, discovered the Majuli monks in 2004 during a classical dance festival in Madras. He came to the island two years later.
The association Préserver Majuli ("Preserve Majuli") was created in 2006.
Edgar Moroni, Yoga teacher, musician, sound/video technician and amateur traveller, met the monks of Majuli who spoke to him of Nadine and Mathias, and he joined them at the end of 2006.
The association Préserver Majuli ("Preserve Majuli")
Préserver Majuli has as its goals:
- to help the inhabitants of Majuli island and preserve the ethnic, cultural and artistic traditions of Assam;
- to support the local authorities in their actions to bring awareness to the populations and international institutions about the ecological, social and economic consequences of the destruction of Majuli island by the Brahmaputra river;
- to enable the youth of Majuli island to have access to education.
The potential of the 33 year old young artist-monk Bhabananda Barbayan rapidly allowed the association to give breadth and depth to its actions:
- Creation and production of a 90 minutes dance performance with the troupe from the monastery;
- Implementation of the first international tour of the Sattriya Monk Dancers in France and in Portugal;
- Organisation of Sattriya dance training courses in France and in India;
- Support of the local Assam authorities in order to classify the island as a Unesco World Heritage;
- Establishment of a travelling library for the island;
- Purchase of a computer, bicycles, etc...
Nadine Delpech, President of the association, has::
- published in 2006 an account of the story and daily life of the Majuli monks of Assam, "L’île aux moines dancers", edited by Editions Alphée;
- initiated and et co-authored a 52 minute documentary film distributed by France 5 television, entitled, "Dans les Brumes de Majuli". Via Découvertes Productions, 2008. Available in VOD on the internet website of France 5..
Jean-Marie Chauvin, member of the association and architect has created, designed and built and offered to the Mishing community, "the Ananda House". This project was implemented using the basis of a local traditional bamboo house and is used today as a guest-house for tourists visiting the island.
Travelling library of Majuli
In the rural areas such as Majuli, the disparity between private (« paying ») and public (« free ») schools is important. In the latter, the quality of the teaching and the number of hours of schooling is significantly less, which leaves little room for students to hope for a better future.
The majority of the children of Majuli Island attend public schools, with some implanted in the Mishing (ethnic minority) villages are only accessible by foot or by 2-wheel vehicle.
Poverty prevents the population from having access to books, though the Indians enjoy reading.
Based on this reality, the Association Préserver Majuli created in October 2007 a travelling library, which is very much appreciated by its users.
The children of Majuli Island have been very touched by the actions of solidarity from French children from the 6th grade in Toulouse’s suburb, who collected funds through the sale of a video made by their school teacher.
Our local relay is Mitu Khataniar*, who brings the books from village to village with a chest installed on his motorbike.
The library works with local schools with which Mitu lends the books for a period of 2 months.
Since June 2009, the travelling library has developed further with the support of its new head: Danielle Bastide, retired professor.
Its objectives are:
- to develop exchanges between children from Majuli and abroad;
- to acquire or rent a furnished room in which a local public library could be installed and with which Mitu would continue to deliver a selection of books to remote villages;
- remunerate Mitu as a librarian.
* Mitu, 28 years old, still lives in the monastery (satra) where he grew up and belongs to a branch of the monastery where the monks are married and live with their families in a part of the monastery compound (satra). He is the son of a monk, but has decided to live differently, as a laic. The economic situation of Majuli Island prevents Mitu from finding employment which is at the level of his own education or his family aspirations. He works as a volunteer for the association, which hopes to provide him with a basic remuneration in the future.