Minal SAGARE, VIT's Padmabhushan Dr. Vasantdada Patil College of Architecture, India
Anuja CHAWDA, VIT's Padmabhushan Dr. Vasantdada Patil College of Architecture, India
Located in the upper basin of the river Brahmaputra, Majuli is a case of liminal landscape where its land-water configuration is ever-changing due to flooding and erosion. Over last 800 years of recorded history it has emerged as the spiritual and cultural centre of Assam because of its rich Satra culture, vibrant multi-ethnic communities, and their arts and crafts. It has been identified as a case of Spiritual-Cultural Landscape having both tangible and intangible aspects of heritage for UNESCO World Heritage nomination. But is challenged by the recurrent floods and erosion, and the fear is that it will loose its heritage due to the climate change that may aggravate floods and erosion. Correlation of geomorphological processes of flooding-erosion-silt deposition and the traditional land-water practices of livelihoods, crafts and settlement patterns reveal that people of Majuli rather have been dwelling in the river than by the river. Moreover these land-water practices carved out of seasonal rhythm of floods and corresponding environmental changes have shaped the cultural practices of Majuli while making them resilient. Majuli’s geomorphology and cultural landscape both have been temporal in its materiality, but the traditional land-water practices have survived over centuries creating a curious case of temporal cultural landscape. Looking through the frame of cultural geomorphology, case of Majuli raises two major questions: one related to the established conservation practices where the focus is still to preserve the object of heritage in its materiality, additionally the category of intangible heritage is proving limited here. Second is the question of perception of reality shaping our actions of conservation and development, that has been rooted in ‘the mainlander’s perspective’ of ‘terra-firma’. The liminal geomorphology and the culture of Majuli offers a counter perspective of reality that is relational and anchored around the fluidity of water-‘aqua-fluxus’.
Keywords: Floods & Erosion|Cultural Geomorphology|Heritage|Relational Reality|Land-Water Practices