Bodo people

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"Bodos" redirects here. For the Romanian village of Bodoş (Hungarian: Bodos), see Baraolt. For umbrella group of ethnic tribes, see Bodo-Kachari people.
Total population
2,000,000 (approx.)
Regions with significant populations
 India (Bodoland Territorial Council) 1,200,000 (approx.)
 India (Assam) 324,500
 India (West Bengal) 124,000
Bodo language
Bathouism , Bodo Brahma Dharma and Christianity .
Related ethnic groups
Bodo-Kachari, Kachari people, Hajong people, Garo people, Tripuri people

The Bodos (Hindustani pronunciation: [boːɽoː]) are an ethnic and linguistic aboriginal group of the Brahmaputra valley in the northeast part of India. Bodos are the single largest group in the Northeast region of India. They are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Udalguri, Chirang, Baksa, Sonitpur, Goalpara, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Darrang, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar of Assam are considered the centre of the Bodo area. The Bodos living in West Bengal, Nagaland and Nepal are called Mech. The Bodos use the term Bodosa (which is pronounced as Borosa meaning son of Bodo) to describe themselves.

Though spread in different parts of this region, as well as, in the neighbouring countries, majority of their population is found in Assam. The Boro people form the largest indigenous group in the present demography of the region. Linguistically the Garo, the Dimasa, the Hajong, the Sonowal, the Deori, the Rabha, the Tiwa and the Borok of Twipra (Tripura), and many other cognate tribes are part of this great Boro race.[1]


The Bodo people are the migrants from China who settled in the Brahmaputra Valley during prehistoric times pushing the already inhibiting Mon-Khmer speakers up into the hills. The language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family.[2]

Population and Census Infringement[edit]

According to the census report of 1971, the population of the Boros was 610,459.[3] The Boro Socio-political organisations however do not accept this figure. They claim their population to be not less than 4 million in 1990. This discrepancy is believed to have crept in because of deliberate doctoring of some census officials. The census reports of the Government conducted every 10 years are believed to have presented the Hinduised Boros as Assamese (the Assamese, the dominant ethno-linguistic group of the province of Assam profess Hindu faith). This misclassification has reduced the Boro population in the official record by a big margin. It is to be noted that one of the census officials connected with the census of 1881 observed, "the separation of Hindus as an ethnological class is open to objection that it includes a large number who are not Aryans". He also observed that "the increase in Kamrup and Darrang is so great as to suggest the suspicion that a large number of Koch have turned themselves into Kalitas".[4] The Koches are the Hinduised Boros and the Kalitas are one of the social castes of the Assamese community. This process of infringement has continued through successive census. As a result, the successive census reports give inconsistent figures of population of this people. For instance, in 1881, the Boro population (inclusive of all cognate tribes) was 894,885, while in 1891, it rose to 1,058,496, but it fell to 617,989 in 1901. In 1961, their population figured at 1,228,450, while in 1971, it fell to 610,459.[5] Such fluctuation in the population figure cannot be analysed by any natural law of demography. Thus the census reports of the Government of India, which ought to be the most authentic documents, have suffered from anomalies, and as such, they fail to give the exact population of the Boro. Under such circumstances, the population figures furnished by the Boro socio-political organizations appear more convincing. The present Boro population inclusive of all cognate groups is not less than 9.5 million.


The Bodo language is a Sino-Tibetan Language language officially written using Devanagari script. It was written using Latin Script and Assamese script in the past. Some scholars suggest the language used to have now lost script known as Deodhai.


Religion among Bodos[6]
Religion Percent

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'.[7]

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.[8] Aham guru at his first appearance in the universe in the form of a man called himself "Sri Borai", "Jiw Borai", or "Ziw Borai". He then created his consort "Sri Buroi" and then created "Dari Muba" and "Singri Coba", a couple for the propagation of the human population on earth.[9] "Jiw Borai" or Siw Borai" is also popularly known as the "Bathou Bwrai". They are broadly divided into household gods and village gods. The household gods are worshiped in the homestead, while the later by the whole village collectively outside in a selected place called "Thansali". 

Bathouism is based on five moral and spiritual messages, namely messages on holy realization, messages on holy practice, messages on love, messages on truth and messages on hatred.

The messages of holy realization includes of Bathou as the supreme god. The realization of one's own soul is the part of Bathou and realization of the need of good in this world. The message on holy practice emphasis’s on meditation for God, conversation on religion and spiritual matters charitable donations to the poor. The message on love includes love for God, love for fellow being, love for family and love for all living beings. The messages on truth emphasises on leading a truthful life and the messages on hatred urges one to abstain from committing sins like stealing, telling lies, adultery, murder and association with bad company.[10]

Bathouism has thus a religious philosophy, which defines the basic of a religion, and it is therefore far from being animistic.



Since ancient times Bodos were accustomed with the production of clothes from the thread of Eri and Muga. The Eri cloth is of dub colour and is durable.

Bodo women are expert in rearing the “ Endi Emphou ” ( Eri worm ) and “ Muga latha ” ( Muga worm ) and find out threads from them. They weave different kind of clothes like “ Dokhna “ ( Women’s dress for covering the whole body ), “ Jwmgra “ ( scarf of woman ), Gamsha ( Clothe for covering the lower parts of the body by man and sometimes used in bath ), “ Phali ( Handkerchief ), “ Hishima “ ( Big and wide cloth used as rugs during the winter season ) etc. out of the threads of Eri and Muga. Traditionally Bodo manfolk used to wear male garment called “ Gamsha “ ( Gamosha in Assamese ) to cover the body from waist down to the knee. There was no use of shirt in the past days. They only used a type of cloth known as “Jwmgra “made of Eri thread and a small cloth on the shoulder during the winter and summer season respectively. But at present western dresses can be commonly seen.

The dresses of Bodo women are a distinguishable feature of Bodo culture. A man can identify a Bodo womanfolk seeing dresses. Bodo woman wears her “Dokhna or Dokhona “covering the body from the chest down to the ankle. Its length and breadth is made in such a way that it can be tied one round at a time in the waist. Dokhna or Dokhona is made of varied colours and “Agor” or ( Phul in Assamese) . The Dokhna without Agor or Phul is called “ Salamatha “ or “ Matha ”. “ Dokhona Thaosi “(Pure Dokhona) is generally used as bridal attire, Bwirathi (Woman receptionist of bride and bridegroom in Bodo marriage) and “Doudini “ ( A dancing woman in Kherai puja, it is believed almighty power enters into the body of a pure soul) or during the festivals or other ceremonies.

Now-a-days Bodo women wear blouse to cover her upper bosom and adorns with “Jwmgra “(Scarf) on it. The Jwmgra covers the upper portion of the body. Bodo women wear various colours of scarf with full of Agor (handy work design) to beautify themselves. Seeing this beautiful art of the Bodo women Lady Hydery (Wife of the first Governor of Assam) made this comment, “I have travelled throughout the world with my husband but I have not seen that a mother has spun and woven the cloth for herself and for her children.”


The ethnic cuisine can be represented in truest sense of term by experiencing the Bodo food preparation and diet. The cuisines are basically non-veg dishes.

Oma bedor: Most Bodo people like Oma (Pork). It is fried, roasted, or stewed. The meat is often smoked in the sun for several days.

Napham: Napham is a unique dish in Bodo cuisine. It is made by grinding smoked fish, specific leafy vegetables, ground powder, and the mixture is allowed to age in a sealed bamboo cylinder. Thereafter, aged napham could be fried or used as is.

Onla: Onla is a gravy made from rice powder and slices of bamboo shoots cooked lightly with khardwi and spices. Chicken or pork can be added.

Zumai: Rice wine is produced mainly during festivals like bwisagu and domasi. Jumai can be of two types, (A) gishi (wet) and (B) gwran (dry). (A) Gishi is brewed by fermenting rice; when plum is added to the gishi mixture during fermentation, the product tastes like plum wine. (B) Gwran is produced by distillation - it tastes like Japanese sake. The Bodos examine the strength of the wine by throwing a cup into the fire. A flash of fire indicates strong wine.

Narzi: A bitter gravy that is made from dried jute leaves. Pork or fresh water fish can be cooked together to generate a distinct taste. Narzi gravy tastes like Japanese sea weed soup.It is a unique dish which is very favorite among Bodos.

Other Bodo delicacies are Phitha(Snack), Sowrai(Snack/mini meal), Kharokhandai Bibaar Ewnai (veg), Munday Maigong Ewnai (veg), Sobai Jwng Daau Jwng (chicken), Daau Jwng Kumra Jwng (chicken), Burisibru Jwng Daau Jwng (chicken), Ondla-Mewai Jwng Daau Jwng (chicken), Burma Bedor Ingkhree (mutton), Oma Khaji (pork), Oma Gwran Jwng Aloo Jwng (smoked pork), Sobai Jwng Oma Gwran Jwng (smoked pork), Ondla-Mewai Jwng Naa Jwng (fish), Ondla Jwng Naa Jwng (fish), Maitha Jwng Naa Jwng (fish), Thadoon Jwng Naa Jwng (fish), Thasso Bitroi Jwng Naasina Naa (pickled fish), Nathoor Jwng Aloo Jwng (Smoked Shrimp), Khangkhrai Bathwn (crab), Khangkhrai Jwng Maitha Jwng (crab), Ondla Jwng Khangkhrai Jwng (crab), Emphow Jwng Maitha Jwng (silk worm) etc.


Bagurumba is the traditional dance of the Bodos. The Bodo women perform the Bagurumba dance with their colourful dokhna, jwmgra and aronai. It is also accompanied by musical instruments like kham (a long drum, made of wood and goat skin or other animal’s skin), sifung (flute, made of bamboo), jota (made of iron/tama), serja (a bowed instrument, made of wood and animals skin), and gongwna (made of bamboo), tharkha (a piece of split bamboo). Other forms of dances like Hip Hop, BBoying etc. can also be seen, especially among the urban youths.


The Bodo traditional musical instruments are:

Sifung: This is a long bamboo flute having five holes rather than six as the north Indian Bansuri would have and is also much longer than it, producing a much lower tone.

Serja: a violin-like instrument. It has a round body and the scroll is bent forward.

Tharkha: a block of bamboo split into two halves for clapping.

Kham : a long drum made of wood and goat skin.

Khawang: small symbols, a smaller version of that being used in namghar.

Jota: made of iron/tama.

Traditional Bodo music is composed using Pentatonic scale, exactly similar to Chinese Traditional Music, an indication of the ancient Chinese influence.

Contemporary Bodo music ranges from Bwisagu and Bagurumba music to pop and rock music. However the lack of marketing can be vividly seen.


Script is the major issue so far as the recent history of Bodo language and literature is concerned. There was a movement launched by the Bodo Sahitya Sabha in the early 1960s which was revamped again in the early 1970s to recognize the Roman script. However, eventually the leadership of the movement upon the request of the central government accepted the Devanagari script. Some researchers have suggested that the language used to use a now-lost script called Deodhai.

The Bodos have a rich repertoire of oral literature like myths, legends, folk songs, ballads, proverbs, etc. Till the first decade of the 20th centuty, however, Bodo language was mainly confined to the oral form. The Bodo written literature emerged mainly as an upshot of the Brahma movement dedicated itself to writing with a view to instill new consciousness among the Bodos. A section of the Bodo middle class that was largely an upshot of the Brahma movement dedicated itself to writing with a view to instill new consciousness among the other members of the community. Among the first batch of Bodo littérateurs were Pramod Ch. Brahma, Ishan Basumatari, Satish ch. Basumatary, Modaram Brahma, Darendra nath Brahma and several others. In 1952 Bodo Sahitya Sabha was formed. Since then, the Sabha has been playing a preeminent role in the socio-cultural upliftment of the Bodo Society. The contribution of the Sabha in making the Bodo language a medium of instruction up to the university level is unparalleled. The Sabha is now engaged in the publication of Bodo literary works in various fields like novel, poetry, essay, short story, drama etc. The Bodo language also made a profound contribution to the development of the Assamese language.


After North Kachar and Jaolia Dewan’s kingdoms were annexed to the British Empire in 1854 and 1867 respectively the Boro people kept hibernated themselves from politics, till the last part of 19th century. The reason behind such a long lull of the Boro people in politics is not known.

The 1920s is considered as the Renaissance period of the Boro nation during which many hectic and tumultuous activities took place among the Boro people. Awakening of nationalism and its subsequent revivalism and social reformation took place in violent form. Many Boro converts reconverted to Bathouism and returned to their original fold. A strong sentiment of nationalism grew in the minds of the Boro people that gave birth to the organizations like – the Kachari Jubok Sanmiloni and the Boro Jubok Sonmiloni. These two organizations submitted a memorandum to the visiting Simon Commission (1928–29) demanding recognition as distinct and independent society as separate from the Hindu society, the people be identified as the Boro in the Census Report of British India and a separate Boro Regiment in military service of British India government. The memorandum though was not implemented by the British government is perhaps the first and the most important written document of the Boro nation in their modern history, which has a strong political message down through its tone. So to say that was the starting point of Boro politics. Then the Tribal League was formed in 1933 comprising the Boro and other plains tribals of Assam. The Boro politics found another lease of life when the British India passed India Act 1935, embodied in it the provision for reserved seats for the plains tribals in the Provincial Assembly, proportionate to their population. In 1937 election, a few Boro leaders were elected from the reserved seats to the Provincial

Assembly of Assam as the candidates of their lone political party - The Tribal League. They extended support to the Muslim League in forming a coalition government in Assam in 1940. In 1946 they again took side with the Assam Pradesh Congress to form a coalition government. Despite their demands and struggle the Tribal League failed to get their demand for a scheduled area (for the protection of tribal lands) from the Congress partner. The Boro representatives in the convention of the Assam Tribes and Races Federation held from the 21 st to 23 rd March 1947, in Khashi National Durbar Hall of Shillong, opposed the inclusion of Assam proper with its hills into the proposed division of India into Pakistan or Hindustan. They demanded that Assam proper should be constituted into a free and sovereign state. The representative also vehemently opposed the migration or civilian aggression into their land from the neighbouring provinces of British India. Boroland along with the present Northeast had never been a part of India. Ethno-Culturally the indigenous people of the entire region are totally different from the Indians. The demand of the Boro representatives in the convention of the Assam Tribes and Races Federation was genuine and rightful. The region had every right to be free and independent state after the British had left. But defying their right India annexed the region to its dominion. Not only that, two other British protectorate Boro kingdoms namely, Tripura and Koch Bihar were forcibly taken over by expansionist India in 1949. Since 1937 election, the Boro people have been taking an indirect part in Indian politics through the reserved seats. After the British had left India the provision of seat reservation was retained by India under the Article 330 and 332 of the Indian constitution. The number of reserved seats has been raised to 13 in the state Assembly of 126 strength. They have been allotted one reserved seat in the Lok Sabha (parliament).

However the political experiences of the last 5 decades have made it clear that under the present political and administrative set up the Boro people will never be able to safeguard and protect their interest and identity. The elected members of the reserved seats are too few to be able to exert pressure on the state and central governments on matters concerning welfare of their people. Moreover there are accusations that in many cases the reserved constituencies are delimited in such a way that the tribal population ranges from 28 to 48 percent of the total population of the constituency (resulting in defeat of the Boro candidates), though in most cases it could be raised from 60% to 70%. As a result in those constituencies the non-tribal voters become a either dominating or deciding factor. The elected tribal members are obviously not free to represent the sentiments and interests of the tribals but they are constrained to focus the case of the non-tribal voters 31 . Their long involvement in Indian politics gave the Boro people nothing except deception, deprivation and discrimination in the manner of colonial rule.

In India’s post-independent era the Boro Thunlai Afat – a literary organization was formed on the 16 th November 1952 to revive the Boro language and the culture that were on the deathbed. The Plains Tribal Council of Assam (PTCA), a new political party was also founded in 1967. In the same year All Boro Student Union (ABSU) also came into being. The PTCA launched vigorous mass movement to get a separate state – Udayachal for the Plains Tribals within the Indian constitution for nearly 25 years. The ABSU from time to time lent their helping hands towards the PTCA movement. Later the PTCA got fragmented into PTCA and PTCA (Progressive). The latter

metamorphosed into UTNLF ( United Tribal

Nationalist Liberation Front) in 1984. Thus the Boro movement failed due to internecine and rivalry among the leaders. All Boro Students Union started a similar movement in 1986 to create a separate state Boroland within the

framework of Indian Constitution. The Boro Accord between the ABSU and state government under the supervision of the Minister of State for Home Affairs of India was signed on 20 th February 1993, and formed Boroland Autonomous Council (BAC). The council could not be operative due to manifold deficiencies in its structure. The Council does not have any constitutional validity or financial and legislative powers. Thus the agreement could not meet the long cherished aspirations of the Boro people.

Freedom is prerogative rights of every nation.

Every nation however small and weak has the right to live as a free and independent nation. But the imperialist India is illegally occupying the Boroland and the land of other nationalities and exploiting the peoples with suppressive colonial rule. Whenever there is suppressive rule and a nation is despised by the dominant nation there has been uprising openly or subversively in human history. So the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) was born out of the circumstances on the 3 rd October 1986, with its principle and ideology to liberate and save the Boro people and their inherited land from the foreign occupation and expansionism. Now everywhere the Boro people are fighting against suppressive colonial rule of India. The National Liberation Front of Twipra (NLFT), Tripura Peoples’ Democratic Front (TPDF), Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Dima Halam Daoga (DHD) and Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) have been waging war against the Indian occupation. But everywhere India is unleashing the state terrorism. The occupational Indian forces are intimidating, harassing and murdering the Boro people in cold-blooded. But the Boro people and the NDFB in keeping cooperation with all the organizations that are fighting against the suppressive colonial rule of India are steadfast to wage a war of resistance till they achieve their goal.[11]

Modern Bodos[edit]

The struggle for right to self-determination has its genesis in the period of British rule in India. As early as the 1930s, Gurudev Kalicharan Brahma, the then lone leader of the Bodos, submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission for a separate political administration for the indigenous and tribal people of Assam. However, his demand for political administration was ignored by the British Raj. Even in the post-independence era, such demands were not met by the successive state government.

In the 1960s, the second wave of Bodoland movement emerged. A section of educated Bodo leaders spearheaded a movement demanding a separate Union Territory called "Udhayachal" in 1967. However, this demand for separate Union territory failed due to lack of willingness on the part of the Central and State government to create a separate political administration for plains tribals of Assam.

Many years later, in the 1980s, the third mass struggle for Bodoland (Boroland) took place. The Bodos led a struggle in the name of self-determination in late 1980s under the leadership of Upendra Nath Brahma, who is now regarded as the Father of the Bodos (Bodofa).

In 1993, for the first time, the Assam government formed the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) to fulfill socio-economic aspirations of the Bodos. But the peace accord between the leaders of All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), Bodo People's Action Committee (BPAC) and the government of Assam failed due to non-implementation of various provisions of the Accord. The Accord collapsed in just one year of its existence. Moreover, the accord came with certain constrained resulting in administrative bottleneck.

After a decade of long agitation, on 10 February 2003, the Boros were granted the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), an autonomous administrative body that has within its jurisdiction the present district of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Udalguri and Baksa. The second Bodo peace award was result of negotiation between the Bodo Liberation Tiger (BLT), the Central Government and the Assam Government. Following the peace accord, BLT was required to surrender all their arms and converted into Bodoland People's Front (BPF), a political party now ruling the Council. Whereas, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) another armed outfit are in ceasefire talks with the Central Government. Meanwhile, the All Bodo Student's Union (ABSU) has intensified its democratic movement for a separate state. However, there seemed to lack of consensus on the part of political leaders to solve the Bodo debacle once and for all. As result of which today, the entire Bodoland region is on the volcano of unrest.

During the early 1990s, the Bodos' insurgency had a significant impact on forests and wildlife populations in the Manas National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[12] The poaching of rhinos and swamp deer, in particular, severely diminished the stocks of these endangered species, to the point where they are said to be locally extinct.[13] The damage caused by the insurgency is the main reason why the wildlife sanctuary has been on the World Heritage Council Danger List since 1992.[13]

In 2006, Assam Assembly elections, the former Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) members under Hagrama Mohilary formed an alliance with the Indian National Congress and came to power in Dispur.

In 2012, violence broke in Assam out between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims mainly immigrants from neighbouring country Bangladesh causing the displacement of over 400,000 people. Over 5,000 houses have been razed. According to reports the CBI filed a chargesheet in a Bongaigaon court (in Assam) against a former police official of Assam, Mouhibur Islam, as the mastermind of the 2012 ethnic clashes in the State.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rev. Sidney Endle, the Kachari, London, 1911, P1. 
  2. ^ A.G. Grierson, The Linguistic Survey of India, vol – III part ii P1. 
  3. ^ The Census of India 1971:Assam Social and Cultural C-vii and C-iii series part ii c(i), Government of India, New Delhi, 1973. 
  4. ^ The Census of India 1961. Vol- iii Assam Part v-A, Rpt of Report of the Census of Assam, New Delhi, Pp 8 and 30. 
  5. ^ The Census of India, 1881, 1891,1901,1961, and 1971, Assam Part Government of India, New Delhi. 
  6. ^ Census of India - Socio-cultural aspects, Table ST-14, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 
  7. ^ "HOME". Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  8. ^ Basumatary, Dhuparam. Boro Kachari Sonskritir Kinchit Abhas. pp. 2–3. 
  9. ^ Ibid Pii. 
  10. ^ Basumatary, Ramdas (1980). Some Idea on Bathou in Bodosa Souvenir of The Boro Sahitya Sabha. p. 27. 
  11. ^ "A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BORO PEOPLE". Retrieved 2017-04-01. 
  12. ^ Mission Report: Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (India), UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Heritage Convention, Thirty-second session, Quebec, Canada, 2–10 July 2008. WHC-08/32.COM/7B.
  13. ^ a b 3[full citation needed]
  14. ^ Deadline looms, but survivors of Assam bloodshed too scared to go home, Alertnet, 10 Aug 2012, retrieved 10 Aug 2012 Archived 18 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine.


  • Endle, Sidney (1911) The Kachari, London
  • Pulloppillil, Thomas and Aluckal, Jacob (1997) The Bodos: Children of the Bhullumbutter,
  • Mushahary, Moniram (1981) Bodo–English Dictionary,

External links[edit]