Bodo people

The Bodo (Bodo: बर' pronounced [boːɽoː]; also Boro) are an ethnolinguistic group in the Indian state of Assam. They are a part of the greater Bodo-Kachari family of ethnolinguistic groups and are spread across northeastern India and clustered strongly in Assam, along the eastern Duars. Bodos are politically active and dominant in the Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang districts of Assam, and in the Bodoland Territorial Council.

Total population
c.1.35 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Bodo language
Bathouism, Hinduism, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Kachari people

The Bodo people speak the Bodo language, a Tibeto-Burman language recognized as one of twenty-two scheduled languages in the Indian Constitution. The Bodo-Kachari, to which the Bodo people belong, are thought to have entered Assam sometime after Austroasiatic language speakers from Southeast Asia had settled the region.[5] The Bodo-Kachari were also some of the first people to rear silkworms and produce silk material and were considered to be advanced in rice cultivation in Assam during this time period.[6][7]

The Bodo people are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Bodo people are concentrated within the Assamese districts of Udalguri, Chirang, Baksa, Sonitpur, Goalpara, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, and Kokrajhar.

Etymology of Bodo

The Bodo were known as Kacharis and Mech to strangers, but identified themselves as "Bodo". Thus "Bodo" became the proper designation for these people.[8][9] R.M Nath hypothesized that Bodo might be derived from Bod, an ancient name for Tibet. Dalton observes that Boro means "great people" based on the Boro saying, "Boro hari, geder hari", meaning Boro people, great people. In the Kokborok language, Borok means man ('K' being a suffix for every noun), so logically Boro would mean "man" in the Boro language also.[10] Brahma opines that Boro might have originated from the Tibetan word Hbrog, meaning Man. Generally, the word Bodo means a man, in the wider sense Bodo means a human being (but not specific to a female member of the family) in the languages used by Bodo-Kachari peoples.[11] The origin of the Kachari term is not clear; Kacharis of the plains call themselves Bodo, Bada, or Bara-fisa. Bara-fisa means Children of the Bara.[12]


The Bodo language is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family. It belongs to the Bodo-Garo group of the Assam-Burmese branch of the Sino-Tibetan family.


Religion among Bodos[13]
Religion Percent
Bathouism, Hinduism

Traditionally, Bodos practiced Bathouism, which is the worshiping of forefathers, known as Obonglaoree. The shijou tree (in the genus Euphorbia) is taken as the symbol of Bathou and worshiped. It is also claimed as the supreme god. In the Bodo language, Ba means five and thou means deep. Since Bodos believe in the five mighty elements of God – land, water, air, fire, and sky – the number five has become significant in the Bathou religion.

The Shijou tree is encircled by eighteen pairs of ornamental bamboo sticks and five pairs of rings of bamboo. In front of Shijou, within the bamboo ring, there is a "dove heart".[14]

According to Bathouism, before the creation of the universe there was simply a great void, in which the supreme being 'Aham Guru', Anan Binan Gosai or Obonglaoree existed formlessly. Aham Guru became tired of living a formless existence and desired to live in flesh and blood. He descended on this great void with all human characteristics and created the universe.[15]

In addition to Bathouism, Bodo people also follow Hinduism, especially Hoom Jaygya. For this worship through fire ceremony, a clean surface near a home or courtyard is prepared. Usually, worship offerings include a betel nut called a 'goi' and a betel leaf called a 'pathwi' or 'bathwi' and rice, milk, and sugar. Another important Hindu festival, the Kherai Puja, where an altar is placed in a rice field, is the most important festival of the Bodos. However, caste and dowry practices are not practiced by the majority of Bodo Hindus, who follow a set of rules called Brahma Dharma.[14]

Some Bodo people practice Christianity, predominantly Baptism. The major associations are the Boro Baptist Convention and Boro Baptist Church Association. Other denominations include the Church of North India, Lutheranism, the Believers' Church, Roman Catholicism, and Pentecostalism. Most Bodo Christians' practices are a mixture of tribal and Christian traditions.

Folk tradition and mythology

The 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.[16] According to Padma Bhushan winner Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, mythologically, Boros are "the offspring of son of the Vishnu and Mother-Earth" who were termed "Kiratas" during the Epic period.[17] A section of Bodos were known as Ramsa, which means Children of Ram. Bodos called themselves Bara-fisa, which means Children of the Bara.[12]


The early history of Bodo people is unknown. Rev. Sidney Endle says the origin of the Kachári community is still very largely a matter of conjecture and inference, in the absence of anything entitled to be regarded as authentic history,[18] nevertheless the generic term Bodo was used first by Hodgson (1847) to group of languages. Endle traced original homeland of Kachari group (which includes Bodo people) in ancient Tibet and China.[19] According to Hodgson, since the people who were known as Kacharis and Mech to others called themselves Bodo, and also the Kachari chief deities, Siju, Mairong, and Agrang, are also Mech deities, the term Bodo is the proper designation for the tribes.[20]

The exonym Mech originated from the Sanskrit word Mleccha.[21][22][23][24] Bodos were repeatedly called as Mleccha or Mech. According to Alamgirnamah, Cooch Behar was inhabited by Koch and Mech.[25] According to Endle, Kacharis who called themselves as Bada(Bara) were dominant race of Assam in early days.[26] In ancient Sanskrit literatures, Bodos were called as Kiratas and Mlecchas.[27] Bodos were also formerly known as Rangtsa or Ramsa.

Important clans

The important clans of Bodos are:[28]

  1. 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.
  2. Basumati-Aroi; In Sanskrit, Basumati means earth. The clan is earth folk. The clan had certain privileges over land not possessed by others.
  3. Ramsa-Aroi; The clan is Ramsa folk. Ramsa is a village in Betna Mouza, Undivided Kamrup. Ramsa is a hill in Kharguli, Kamrup. Ram-sa (Ram's people?) is the name by which Kacharis living in the plains were known to their brethren in the hills. Hojai Kacharis called Bodos Rangsa or Ramsa.[29]

Notable people

See also


  1. "2011 Estimates as per Census report 2001" (PDF).
  2. "639 Identifier Documentation: aho – ISO 639-3". SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics). SIL International. Retrieved 29 June 2019. Ahom [aho]
  3. "Population by Religious Communities". Census India – 2001. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved 1 July 2019. Census Data Finder/C Series/Population by Religious Communities
  4. "Population by religion community – 2011". Census of India, 2011. The Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 25 August 2015.
  5. (Taher 2001:12)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 the Common Era. 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.
  6. "Handloom and Textile of Bodos" (PDF). G Brahma Ph.D Thesis: 139.
  7. (Chattarji 1951:95-96)
  8. (Hodgson 1847:105,142) Strangers call them Mech but they call themselves as Bodo, which is of course proper designation. Kacharis call themselves as Bodo, so do the Mech & Kacharis Chief deities like Siju , Mairong , Agrang likewise Mech deities.
  9. (The Kacharis & J.D Anderson:xv) In Assam proper Hindus call them Kacharis, In Bengal they are known as Meches. Their own name for the race is Boro or Bodo.
  10. (Bhatt 2005:20)
  11. (Brahma 2008:1)
  12. (Soppitt 1885:12)
  13. Census of India - Socio-cultural aspects, Table ST-14, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2001
  14. "HOME". Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  15. Basumatary, Dhuparam. Boro Kachari Sonskritir Kinchit Abhas. pp. 2–3.
  16. (Endle 1911:7,126)
  17. "RCILTS, Phase-II". Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  18. Brahma, Kameswar (1989). Aspects of social customs of the Bodos. pp. ii.
  19. Basumatārī, Phukana Candra (2005). Ethnic identity of Boros in "An Introduction to the Boro Language". Mittal Publications. p. 8.
  20. (Jacquesson 2008:21)
  21. (Endle 1911:xv) According to J.D. Anderson, Mech is short cut of Mlecch, barbarian, one who is ignorant of civilized speech.
  22. (Endle 1911:81,82) According to Endle, Mech is almost certainly corruption of Sanskrit word Mleccha.
  23. (Chattarji 1951:97) Sanskritized version of Mech is Mleccha.
  24. (Nath 1989:7) K.L. Barua opines that Mleccha might be a sanskritized form of the term Mech. This view is also supported by Ed. Gait and S.K. Chatterji.
  25. (Salim 1902:11) Cooch Behar was inhabited by Mech & Koch. Raja belong to first tribe.
  26. (Deka 2009:30)
  27. (Chattarji 1951:97-98)
  28. "The Bodos:" (PDF). Culture and Society.
  29. (Damant 1879:12)
  30. (N.N Acharya:1.0-1.3)


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