The Bodo (Bodo: बर' pronounced [boːɽoː]) (also: Boro) are an ethnolinguistic group of northwest Assam in the northeast part of India. They are part of the greater Bodo-Kachari ethnolinguistic groups found today spread over Nepal, Bangladesh, West Bengal and clustered more strongly in Assam in India, along the eastern Duars. This group is politically active and is dominant in the BTAD districts of Assam (Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang), which is a group of autonomous districts under Bodoland Territorial Council.
|c. 1.35 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Bathouism, Hinduism, Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Bodo people speak the Bodo language that belong to the Tibeto-Burman languages, and it is recognized as one of twenty-two scheduled languages in the Indian Constitution. The Tibeto-Burman languages are considered to have entered Assam after the Austroasiatic languages and the Bodo-Kachari are one of the earliest settlers of North East. The Bodo-Kachari, to which the Bodo belong, are the first to rear silkworms and produce silk material, and they are also considered to be advanced in rice cultivation in Assam.
The Bodo people are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Udalguri, Chirang, Baksa, Sonitpur, Goalpara, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Kokrajhar of Assam are considered the centre of the Bodo people.
Etymology of Bodo
The name Bodo (sometimes Boro) was first documented in "Essay the First: On the Kocch, Bodo and Dhimal Tribes" by B.H Hodgson published in year 1847. Hodgson wrote as "Mech is name imposed by strangers. This people call themselves as Bodo" J.D Anderson wrote - "In Assam proper Hindus call them Kacharis, In Bengal they are known as Meches. Their own name for the race is Boro or Bodo." According to Brahma Bodo may be derived from the word for man (but not woman) in the languages used by the Mech and Bodo-Kachari peoples. According to others the word Bodo may have come from the word Bod which means Tibet. In Kokborok language, Boro means human being. According to Idimbar Deori Bodo or Boro originate from Hbrog or Brogok, which means Human. The origin of the term Kachari is unknown to people themselves. They call themselves as Bodo , Bada and Bara-fisa. The term Bara-Fisa (transl. Children of the Bara ) is used as a self identification by the Bodo people.
The Bodo language is one of the languages of the Sino-Tibetan or Tibeto-Chinese speech family. It belongs to the Bodo-Garo group of the Assam-Burmese branch of the Sino-Tibetan family.
Bodos traditionally practise Bathouism, which is the worshiping of forefathers, known as Obonglaoree. The shijou plant (Euphorbia genus) is taken as the symbol of Bathou and worshiped. It is also claimed as the supreme god. In Bodo language, Ba means five and thou means deep. As Bodos believe in five mighty elements of God, which are Land, Water, Air, Fire, and Sky, five has become a significant number in the Bathou religion.
The Shijou tree is encircled with eighteen pairs of designed bamboo sticks and five pairs of ring of bamboo. In front of Shijou within encircled bamboo ring, there is a 'Dove Heart'.
According to the concept of Bathouism, before the creation of universe, there was simply a great void, in which the supreme being 'Aham Guru', Anan Binan Gosai or Obonglaoree existed formlessly. The supreme god Aham guru became tired of living formless existence and desired to live in flesh and blood. He descended on this great void with all human characteristics. Thereafter he created the universe.
In addition to Bathouism, Bodo people also follow Hinduism, especially Hoom Jaygya. For this worship through fire ceremony, a clean surface near home or courtyard is prepared. Usually, worship offering could include one pair of Betel nut called 'goi' and betel leaf called 'pathwi/bathwi', rice, milk, and sugar. Another important Hindu festival, the Kherai Puja, is the most important festival of the Bodos, when the altar is placed in the rice field. However, caste and dowry practices are not practiced by the majority of Bodo Hindus who follow a set of rules called Brahma Dharma.
A large number of Bodo people practice Christianity, predominantly Baptists. The major associations being Boro Baptist Convention and Boro Baptist Church Association. Other denominations includes Church of North India, Lutheranism, Believers' Church, Roman Catholic, Pentecostalism etc. Most of the Bodo Christians practices are mixture of tribal traditions and Christians traditions.
History and mythology
History of the Bodo people can be explained from folk traditions. Some Boro-Kachari from Darrang called themselves Bhim-ni-Fsa, which means children of Bhima, the mythological character from the epic Mahabharata. Koch kings were Koch-Mech descent. According to Padma Bhushan winner Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, mythologically, Boros are “the offspring of son of the Vishnu and Mother-Earth” who were termed as ‘Kiratas’ during the Epic period; and assiciated with Pragjyotisha Kingdom, Varman dynasty, Mlechcha dynasty, Pala dynasty, Khen dynasty, Mahamanikya, Kamarupa Kingdom, Kamata Kingdom, Kachari Kingdom, Koch dynasty, Bhuyan (Land Lords). The rulers of Mlechcha Dynasty (Non-Vedic Dynasty) were Bodo or Mech (Sanskritized as Mlechcha). First King Bramhapala of Pala Dynasty was relative of Tyagsimha, Last of Mlechcha lineage.
The Important clans of Bodos
- Swarga-Aroi ; In Sanskrit, Swarga means heaven. The clan is heaven folk. The clan never worked as cultivators. They were also known as Deoris and Ojhas.
- Basumati-Aroi ; In Sanskrit, Basumati means earth. The clan is earth folk. The clan had certain privileges over land not possessed by others.
- Ramsa-Aroi ; The clan is Ramsa folk. Ramsa is village in Betna Mouza, Undivided Kamrup. Ramsa is hill in Kharguli, Kamrup. Ram-sa (Ram's people ?) is the name by which Kacharis living in plain were known to their brethren in NC hills.
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Census Data Finder/C Series/Population by Religious Communities
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- "The first group of migrants to settle in this part of the country is perhaps the Austro-Asiatic language speaking people who came here from South-East Asia a few millennia before Christ. The second group of migrants came to Assam from the north, north-east and east. They are mostly the Tibeto-Burman language speaking people. From about the fifth century before Christ, there started a trickle of migration of the people speaking Indo-Aryan language from the Gangetic plain." (Taher 2001, p. 12)
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- (The Kacharis & J.D Anderson:xv)
- (Brahma 2008:1)
- Boro, Derivation. "Boro Word Explained" (PDF). Boro , Bodo explained.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bodo people.|
- Pulloppillil, Thomas & Aluckal, Jacob (1997) The Bodos: Children of the Bhullumbutter
- Mushahary, Moniram (1981) Bodo–English Dictionary
- Taher, M (2001), "Assam: An Introduction", in Bhagawati, A K (ed.), Geography of Assam, New Delhi: Rajesh Publications, pp. 1–17
- Brahma, Nirjay Kumar (2008). Socio political institutions in Bodo society (PhD). Retrieved 13 May 2019.