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The Bodos (pronounced bo-ros) are an ethnic and linguistic community, early settlers of Assam in the northeast part of India. According to the 2011 census, Boros belong to a larger ethnic group called the Kacharies. The Bodos are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Udalguri and Kokrajhar of Assam are considered the centre of the Bodo area. Historically the great Bodos were known as The Mech. Even today the Bodos living in West Bengal, Nagaland and Nepal are called as Mech. The Bodos living all over the world are proud to call themselves as Bodosa( son of Bodo)[not to be confused with the Bodosa clan of the Dimasa]. Even though Bodos are demographically separated they follow the same culture, tradition, language and religion.
The Bodo people
The Bodos represent one of the largest of the 18 ethnic sub-groups within the Kachari group (or Bodo-Kachari), first classified in the 19th century. The Bodo-Kacharis have settled in most areas of North-East India, and parts of Nepal. The Bodo-Kachari people constitute a diverse range of the indigenous people of North-east India. Among the Dimasas, who speak a related language, "Bodo" refers to solid/lump/piece ( For example Mogong-bodo=> piece of meat where mogong means meat and bodo means piece). Among the 18 groups mentioned by Endle, the Sonowal and Thengal in the eastern part of the Brahmaputra river are closely related. The others have been either Hinduized (e.g. Sarania Kachari), or have developed separate identities (e.g. Garo).
Among the Bodo-kacharis the Boros represent one of the largest ethnic and linguistic groups of Northeast India. Typical Boro last names (surname) are: Brahma, Boro, Basumatary, Bwisumatary, Basumata, Daimary, Swargiary, Goyary, Khakhlary, Mushahary, Mochahari, Mochary, Mohilary, Narzary, Narjinary,Iswary, Chamframary, Hajowary, Hazowary,Hakhorary, Ramchiary, Baglary, Islary, Iswary, Bodo, Bodosa, Baro, Borgoyary,Banuary, Kachary, sainary, Wary, Owary, Lahary, Saiba, Karjee etc. The 1971 census report indicated that Bodos were the 8th largest scheduled-tribe (ST) group in India.
Very early on, Bodos had introduced rice cultivation, tea plantation, pig and poultry farming, and silkworm rearing in North East India. The traditional favourite drink of the Boros is Zu Mai (Zu: wine; Mai: rice). Rice is a staple food of the Boros and is often accompanied by a non-vegetarian dish such as fish or pork. Traditionally Bodos are non-vegetarians.
Weaving is another integral part of Bodo culture. Many families rear their own silkworms, the cocoons of which are then spun into silk. Bodo girls learn to weave from a young age, and no Bodo courtyard is complete without a loom. Most women weave their own Dokhnas (the traditional dress of the Bodo women) and shawls. The Bodos are also expert craftsmen in bamboo products.
As of 2001, more than 90% of the Bodos living in Assam were believers of Bathouism. However, the percentage of Christians is growing. In 1991, only 8.58% of the Bodo were Christian, but that amount had increased to 9.40% by 2001. Similarly, the percentage of Bathou believers decreased from 91.13% in 1991, to 90.31% in 2001. Only a few Bodos still believe in the Animist religion (2,478 in 1991, 141 in 2001).
In Bathouism is a form of forefather worship called Obonglaoree. The sijwu plant (belonging to the Euphorbia genus), is taken as the symbol of Bathou and worshiped. In the Bodo Language Ba means five and thou means deep. Five is a significant number in the Bathou religion.
About Bathouism writes historian Sailen Debnath, "According to Bathou this world is composed of five elements viz.Ether or Sky, Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Ba means Five and Thou means idea or theory or philosophy. Thus Bathou means the philosophy of Five. The term Ba is the abbreviated form of Minba meaning the five basic elements; and Thou is the abbreviation of Santhou meaning ‘Logos’ or knowledge or idea or philosophy or theory. Thus Bathou again is the abbreviation of Minbasanthou i.e. Minba + Santhou = Minbasanthou. The world and human life exist because of a balance among and between all the primary elements. If there is any imbalance of the elements, there is the problem of existence. There are deities symbolizing the spirits of the five elements by the propitiation of whom a balance can be better maintained. In Bodo social life, personal life, art and aesthetics the principles of Bathou or the principles of Five are always observed and maintained. Even in Bodo dance there are five art forms or “Mudras” of the body, hands, fingers and other limbs. Nearly in all other arts and expressions of things, always five forms, number and principles are followed as the embodiment of Bathou. The Bodos believe that as human beings they too were the outcome or offspring of the combination of five elements of Ether (sky), Fire, Water, Air and Earth in appropriate proportions and that was why they used to call themselves “ Saaba Midaini Fisa” in short ‘Badosa’ meaning the offspring of five elements. Bodo or Boro is the further phonetic transformation of the term Badosa (children of the Five Elements)".
A clean surface near home or courtyard is considered as an ideal place for worship. Usually, a pair of areca nut called 'goi' and betel leaf called 'pathwi' could be used as offering. On some occasion, worship offering could include rice, milk and sugar. For the Kherai Puja, the most important festival of the Bodos, the altar is placed in the rice field. Other important festivals of the Bodos include Hapsa Hatarnai, Awnkham Gwrlwi Janai, Bwisagu and Domashi.
The Bodos now
The struggle for right to self determination has its genesis in the British Rule. As early as in 1930s, Gurudev Kalicharan Brahma, the then lone leader of the Bodos submitted memorandum to Simon for a separate political set up 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 Boro 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.
Much years later, in the 1980s, the third mass struggle for Bodoland (Boroland) took place. The Boros 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 Boros (Bodofa).
In 1993, for the first time, the Assam government formed the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) to fulfil socio-economic aspirations of the Boros. But the peace accord between the leaders of All Bodo Student's 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 Boro 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 Boro 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 Bodo's insurgency had a significant impact on forests and wildlife populations in the Manas National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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. 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.
In 2012, violence broke in Assam out between Boros and Muslims causing the displacement of over 400,000 people. Over 5,000 houses have been razed.
- Endle 1911
- Bodos - the earliest settlers of Assam, India-north-east.com
- Census of India - Socio-cultural aspects, Table ST-14, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs
- Table ST-14, Census of India 2001
- Sailen Debnath, Essays on Cultural History of North Bengal, ISBN 9788186860427
- 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.
- 3[full citation needed]
- Deadline looms, but survivors of Assam bloodshed too scared to go home, Alertnet, 10 Aug 2012, retrieved 10 Aug 2012
- Endle, Sidney (1911) The Kachari, London
- Pulloppillil, Thomas and Aluckal, Jacob (1997) The Bodos: Children of the Bhullumbutter,
- Mushahary, Moniram (1981) Bodo–English Dictionary,
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