Bodo Tribes – The largest and earliest settlers of Assam

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Bodo Tribes – The largest and earliest settlers of Assam

Bodo Tribes are the largest in the Bodo-Kachari Clan constituting a large part of Assam population accounting to around 5.3%. It represent one of the largest ethnic and linguistic groups reside in Brahmmaputra Valley in Northeast India. Bodo Tribes are known to be the earliest settlers of Assam, and the first to cultivate rice and rear silkworms.  Bodo villages are situated in the plains of the valleys of Assam, and hence they are categorized into what is known as the ‘Plains tribe‘.

The word ‘Bodo’ has been derived from the word ‘Bod’ which means Tibet. The Bodos speak Tibeto – Burmese language or the Bodo language. Bodos also have a language of their own called Deodahi.

Religion of Bodo Tribes

Some of the people of the Bodo community are Christians, while a large chunk follows the precepts of Hinduism. Among the Hindus, a few follow the ‘Brahma Dharma’ while others follow the ‘Vaishnava Path’. The ancient tribal Bodo religious faith rests on ‘Bathou‘ which has, since the process of Brahmanization, become analogous to ‘Shiva’ of the Hindus. The ‘Sizu’ plant, which is known for longevity is planted in front of the Bodo courtyard and worshipped.

Festival of Bodo Tribes

Bodos are the festival loving people of Assam. The festivals can be categorized into 3 parts- “religious”, “seasonal” and “ritualistic and ceremonial”.

The religious festivals include Kherai, Sibrai Langamara Puja, Apeswari Puja, Haul Kheta, Bathow Puja etc. Among the religious festivals of the Bodos, the ‘Kherai’ is the most famous; usually understood to be the ‘national festival’ of the Bodos.The seasonal festivals are Baisagu, Domashi, and Katrigacha. These three seasonal festivals are parallel to the Bihu. Ritualistic and ceremonial festival includes birth ceremony, marriage ceremony, Daha ceremony, Shraddh etc.

Baisagu is the most important festival of the Bodo people which is celebrated in the month of Baisakh or Bohag month of the Assamese Calender. Except from Baisagu, they also celebrate two types of Bihu festival i.e. Domashi which is the Magh or Bhogali Bihu and Katrigacha i.e. known as Kati or Kangali Bihu. Baisagu is celebrated by Cow worship where the supreme deity Bathou is worshiped by chiken and rice beer. The traditional dance Bagurumba is the main attraction of Baisagu. It is practised and performed usually by young village girls. This dance is accompanied by the Bagurumba song.

kherai puja

Kherai Puja is the most important festival among all the religious festival of Bodos. This is the National festival of the Bodos.The supreme deity Bathou Borai and Bathou Buri is worshipped along with its pantheon (attendants) for three days and nights. Sauri, ojha and the doudini are the official preists officiating in the ritual. The doudini is the mediator between the votaries and the deities. This festival involves a great number of animal sacrifices which infuses in people lot of enthusiasm and spirit. The sacrifices are carried on simultaneously with the incantation. The doudini’s performative feats are also carried out with the sacrifices.

Bathow Puja is an important religious festival of the Bodos. In this festival, the people worship a god known by different names like Gila Damra, Khuria Borai, Sri Borai (Shib borai), Bathow Borai etc. The different forms of this festival are- Garja, Kherai and Marai. Among these festivals Kherai is the most significant.

The marriage of traditional Bodo society is different from the Hinduised Brahma society. In the traditional society, the groom does not go to the bride’s house, but a small group of relatives go to fetch the bride. After the ceremonial rituals of the marriage, the bridal party is offered a banquet with local delicacies, especially with pork. But in the non traditional (Bodo) marriage, a ceremony takes place at the bride’s residence and ‘Hom sacrifice’ is done according to Vedic rituals.

In the birth ceremony the family makes an offering to the household deities by sacrificing a cock and a hen. It is also customary to entertain the midwives in a feast who attend the mother during her confinement. The Bodos are believed to have practiced both burial and cremation in the old days. But in contemporary Bodo society, only cremation is practiced, as per Hindu norm. After ten days, the Daha ceremony is performed and this is followed by the Shraddh on the 12th or 13th day. It is interesting to note that widows usually remarried in early Bodo societies, and this practice continues.

Traditional Foods of Bodo Tribes

The Bodos basically are lovers of non-veg dishes. They have innovated ways to keep the food grades intact. Mainly food is boiled, steamed and the garnished with wild spices. They absolutely had no use of oil in earlier times. Many wild plants were used for seasoning and as ingredients in various dishes. For most of the Bodo tribes, rice is the main food which is generally accompanied by mouth watering dishes made from pork or fish.

Bodo Tribes

The dried fish and meat known as Nu-goran and Bedor- goran are further improvised by additional ingredients like stems of arum which are later grounded to-gather with the fish and meat stock. This is again stored in a bamboo tube and the mouth of the tube is covered with plantain leaves. The prepared product is known as Nap ham and can be stored for a long period.

Bodos are also fond of the conventional drink called Zu Mai. Zu means wine and Mai means rice.

Economic Life of Bodo Tribes

The Bodos are basically an agrarian people and It is also the mainstay of the economic life of the Bodos.. Their chief produce is classified into the ‘Ahu’ and the ‘Sali’ crops.

They also cultivate such a mustard seeds, tobacco, jute, vegetables like potato, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, gourd, green leaves, spices, chilly. onion, ginger etc. They produce
partly for domestic consumption and partly for selling in the markets. They grow areca

nut and trees in their compound. Castor plants are cultivated for producing Endi cocoon, which is a part of home industries in spinning and weaving especially for women folk. Apart from farming, 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. The Bodos are also expert craftsmen in bamboo products.

Traditional Dresses of Bodo Tribes

Bodos have a very beautiful ethnic costume as per their traditional norms. The Bodo women wear a Dokhna or Dokhona covering the body from the chest down to the ankle. Bodo womens also wear blouse to cover her upper bosom and adorns with Jwmgra (Scarf) on it. The Jwmgra covers the upper portion of the body. Traditionally Bodo man used to wear male garment called Gamsha (Gamosha in Assamese) to cover the body from waist down to the knee and Jwmgra made of Eri thrad and a small cloth on the shoulder during the winter and summer season respectively.

Check also: Various Traditional Dresses of Assam


Video Courtesy : Nippon Basumatary

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