The Vaishnava Sattras
In 15th century Sankardeva took shelter in Majuli and spent a couple of months at Beloguri (in west Majuli) which was a place of glory for the historic and auspicious; Manikanchan Sanjog' between Sankardeva and Mahavdeva. This was the first "Sattra" in Majuli. From "Manikanchan Sanjog" there had been sixty-five "Sattras growing up for propagation of ethics and socio-cultural ideals. But at present there are only twenty-two Sattras in Majuli. The other had to be shifted to other safer places due to devastation of flood and erosion.
Among the noteworthy Sattras existing in Majuli are: (a) Dakhinpat Sattra, (b) Garamurh Sattra, (c) Auniati Sattra, (d) Kamalabari Sattra, (e) Bengenaati Sattra and (f) Samaguri Sattra.
A Treasure House Of Performing Arts
These Sattra are the treasure house of "Borgeet", 'Matiakhara', 'Jumora' dance, 'Chali' Dance, 'Notua' Dance, 'Nande Vringee', 'Sutradhar', 'Oza-Pali', 'Apsara' Dance, 'Satria Krishna' Dance, 'Dasavater' Dance etc., which were contributed by Shri Sankardeva.
The Various Sattras
(a) Dakhinpat Sattra: Dakhinpat is another well-known Sattra in the Majuli Island established by Vanamalideva, another disciple of Vamshigopal. Vanamalideva was very strong in faith and devotion. He was honoured and treated with much respect by the reigning Ahom monarch Jayadhvaj Singh who made liberal gifts to the Sattra.
(b) Garamur Sattra: Lakshminarayana, another saint of Damodaradeva sect and a passionate devotee, established the Garamur Sattra in the Majuli Island during the reign of Jayadhvaj Singh. It should be noted that under the patronage of the Ahom sovereigns, the Majuli Sattras became famous centres of the Vaishnava faith, cultural activity and piety of the monks. During autumn end, traditional Raasleela (co-acting) is shown with great enthusiasm. Some ancient weapons called "Bortop" (canons) are preserved here.
(c) Auniati Sattra: Niranjanadeva a distinguished disciple of Vamshigopal founded the Auniati Sattra. Niranianadeva's purity of character and devotion to God drew admiration even from the Ahom King Jayadhvaj Singh (1648-1663 AD) who himself became the saint's disciple and endowed the Sattra with suitable land grants for the maintenance of the monks and the monastery. This Sattra is famous for "Paalnaam" and Apsara Dance and also for its considerable collection of Assamese old utensils, jewellery and handicrafts.
(d) Kamalabari Sattra: Padma Ata who was a Shudra set up Kamalabari Sattra in the Majuli Island. He led a very simple and saintly life and attained high spiritual eminence. In course of years, inessential rites and unrecognized observances crept into the faith which Padma Ata and Mathura Das of Barpeta Sattra reformed. They set up a refined sect called "Nikasainhati".
Padma Ata stressed the teachings of Sankaradeva that external things such as yogic exercise, sacrifice, bathing in Holy River, pilgrimage, 'Sanyasa' and fasting do not purify a man as honest life, good company and love of all beings do. On the eve of his death, Padma Ata nominated his Brahman disciple Shriram to the Adhikarship of the Kamalabari Sattra. This is also an Udasin Sattra i.e., the head of the Sattra is a celibate.
Kamalabari Sattra is a centre of art, cultural, literature and classical studies. Its branch Uttar Kamalabari Sattra has performed cultural programmes of Satria Art in several states of India and abroad.
(e) Bengenaati Sattra: It is a storehouse of antiques of cultural importance and an advance centre of performing art. Muraridev, the grand son of Sankaradeva's stepmother has founded the Sattra. The royal robes belong to the Ahom king Swargadeo Gadadhar Singha, made of gold and an umbrella, which is also made of gold, are preserved over here.
(f) Samaguri Sattra: This Sattra is resourced with the famous Mask-crafts in India.
Auniati, Dakhinpat and Garamur are the principal Brahmanical Sattras. The Sattradhikar's of these monasteries are strictly celibates. The Sattradhikar's for these Sattras are elected from other Sattras where married life is allowed. The chosen young man is brought into the Sattra during his teen age and trained up in Vaishnava religion, philosophy and life. During the period of training this young devotee is called "Deka-Adhikar", the young pontiff.
Institutions of Sattras
Besides Bardowa and Barpeta, Majuli Sattras along with Kuruabai Sattras exercise tremendous influence on the life of the Assamese people. They are even to-day the glorious religious institutions of Assam, and are not only the seat of religion, learning and education, but the very centre of traditional cultural activities like dance, drama, music and religious recitals.
Judged by such external standards as landed estates, number of 'Sisvas' and 'Bhaktas', these Sattras still claim to be the biggest religious institutions. In the hey-day of their glory, the income of these Sattras went mainly to the welfare of the people by way of the promotion of learning, development of cultural activities and help to the needy.
These are some of the important Sattras, which brought about a new orientation and salutary reformation in every aspect of Assamese life.