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Himalaya

Day 97: Dibrugah to Majuli Island

Majuli Island, Nagaland and Assam 
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On the mighty Brahmaputra with Maan Barua, my knowledgeable guide to all things Assamese. The river that rose in Tibet stretches to nearly 3 miles wide as it winds through the flatlands of Assam.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThe thing that strikes one most of all is the handsomeness of the monks. All look very healthy and lissom, with pale brown skin and hair worn either close-cropped or in long, lustrous black tresses, tied at the back.

Accompanied by an older monk called Dulal, dressed in a white robe and dhoti, we're shown preparations for a play called Rasa Lila, which involves many of the most beautiful boys transforming themselves into beautiful girls. In this particular celibate sect, all the women's parts are danced by men.

The whole play lasts five to six hours and they only perform it once a year, so they are doing an excerpt for us in which Krishna, a dashing romantic incarnation of the god Vishnu, appears to a group of milkmaids, who all fall in love with him.

Inside and outside the bohas the young men are wrapt in concentration, applying make-up to each other, rubbing white base over leg hair, or in the case of the monk who is to play Krishna, covering himself with a mixture of calamine and indigo, blue being the traditional colour in which Krishna appears.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 97: Dibrugah to Majuli Island
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Majuli Island
  • Book page no: 229

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