Sushanta Talukdar

Guwahati: Jim Chauvin and Maka Korbaa, two young architects from France, have given Majuli, Assam's cultural capital and one of the largest river-islands in the world, a unique New Year gift: a tourist lodge built from bamboo, modelled on the Chang Ghar, the traditional hut of the local Mising tribe on a raised platform.

Tourists will now be able to stay in the cottage. It has good interiors and modern amenities. Then there is the local cuisine to enjoy. The duo built it in less than two months, spending Rs. 1.40 lakh.

Mr. Chauvin said a bamboo house was his dream, and he found Majuli the ideal place to give shape to it. The architects were offered a plot of land at Karpunpuili in Garmur, the headquarters town of the river-island, by Danny Gam, a tourist guide and poet.

India has nominated Majuli this year for inclusion in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The river island on the Brahmaputra has been facing extinction owing to erosion.

It attracts tourists from the world over, who come to have glimpse of the rich tribal culture and heritage and the centuries-old Vaishnavite monasteries known as Satra in Assamese.

Although a traditional Mising Chang Ghar does not have a balcony or a glass window, the architects have had added the features, made of bamboo, to provide it a mix of traditional and modern architecture.

As against a single-layered roof made of thatch in a traditional Chang Ghar, there is a three-layered roof here. At the bottom of the three layers is a roof made of the Ekra or Ikora reed (Erianthus ravannae), which in turn is covered with a tin roof. A thatch covers the tin roof and gives it an ethnic look.

Tribal weavers have made the pillow covers, bed covers and curtains, which carry local motifs.

Masks of bamboo and clay made by the Samaguri Satra are on display at the lodge, which is named La Maison de Ananda (House of Joy).

"Tourists who want to go back with memories of the rich culture and heritage of the river-island will be able to order these handloom products," the 28-year old Chauvin said.