THE BODOS

The Bodos are one of the 17 dominant ethnic groups belonging to the great Kachari race that inhabit the Brahmaputra valley since ancient times. Though they are spread all over North-East India and in neighbouring Bangladesh and Nepal, they are predominant in Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts of present-day Assam. In North Bengal and Nepal, they are known as Meches. Bodo language belong to the Bodo-Garo (Baric) division of the Sino-Tibetan language family and is closely related to Dimasa, Lalung/Tiwa, Garo and Kok-Borok languages.

The famed ancient kingdom of Purgajwngtipur (Pragjyotishpura, or "City of Eastern Lights") was first ruled by the Bodo king Mairong Raja (Mahiranga Danava), who founded the Danava Dynasty. The rulers of the Danava Dynasty were mentioned in the Kalika Purana.

There exist over 20 clans amongst the Bodos, structured traditionally according to division of labour. Listed here are some: Swargiary, Basumatary, Mushahary/Mooshahari, Daimary/Dwimary, Narzary, Khakhlary, Mohilary, Goyari, Ramchiary, Lahary, Islary, Owary, Hajowary, Baglary, Phadangari, Borgoyari, Chamframary, Dingary, Kherkatary. The Brahma surname is said to have originated in 1906; it is a quasi-priestly clan.

Bwisagu is the major seasonal festival celebrated by the Bodos. Their popular folk dance is known as the Bagurumba (also pronounced as "Bagurungba"), which mimics the movements of the fluttering butterflies, and hence is also referred to as the "Butterfly Dance".

BODO TRADITIONAL WEAR

Aronai. It is a small beautiful scarf worn by both men and women in varied ways according to occasion. In ancient times, Bodo warriors dorn aronais woven by their wives around their waist as a belt during battle. During dancing, it is worn on one side of the shoulder and tied with another aronai worn around the waist. During felicitation ceremonies, it is simply worn on the neck. Different flowery designs, known as agor, are woven into an aronai in varied colours. The hajw (hill) agor is the main agor used in the edges of an aronai. Without it, it is not an aronai.

Gamsa/Gamcha. A one-piece garment worn round the hips and reaching till the knees. It is about 1.5 metres long and 1.2 metres wide.

Dokhona. The dokhona is the main traditional dress worn by Bodo women, covering from chest to ankle, and is usually 2.5 to 3 metres long and 1.5 metres wide. Different flowery designs, known as agor, are woven into the dokhona in varied colours. The main traditional colour is gwmw   (yellow), usually used in combination with gwthang   (green) and bathogang   (parrot green). However, they are woven in other colours too, like gwja (red), neel (blue) and solay rong (violet). A plain dokhona without agor is known as matha or salamatha.

Some of the commonly woven agors are: Phareo Megon (Pigeon's Eye), Daorai Mwkhreb (Wrinkle of Peacock), Pul Mwbla (Variety of Blooming Flowers), Daosha Mwkhreb (Wrinkle of Chicken), Maoji Agan (Footprint of a Cat), Dingkhia Mohor (Fiddlehead fern, locally known as dhekia), Thaigir Bibar (Elephant Apple's Flower), Muphur Apha (Bear's Footprint), Agor Gidit (Shape of a Diamond), Gandoula Agor (Dragonfly Design), Sikhri Agor (Butterfly Design), Laosong Agor (Design by a Bodo girl named Laosong), Gongar Thaiship (Fruit of a Nuni Tree), Hatorki Agor (Star Design).

Jwmgra. A jwmgra (also known as jwmbaigra or pasra) is a large scarf for the upper portion of the body. Generally it is about 7 feet long and 1 feet 9 inches wide.

Aronai. It is a small beautiful scarf worn by both men and women in varied ways according to occasion. During dancing, it is worn on one side of the shoulder and tied with another aronai worn around the waist. The hajw (hill) agor is the main agor used in the edges of an aronai. Without it, it is not an aronai.

Bodo Girl
Bodo Girl

Khumani Khera. An earring whose top part consists of a lotus shaped carving, encircled by a frame, below from which hangs three flowery/bell-shaped plates. The top of the circular frame is adjoined by a hook which is fastened to the pierced hole in the ear lobe while wearing.

Khorom Pula. This earring is also known as puti. Halfdan Siiger in his well-known 1950 manuscript on the Bodos suggested that this earring dervied its name from khorom, meaning wooden sandal, and pula, meaning flower. This earring indeed resembles the toe knob of a wooden sandal.

Chandra Har. A heavy necklace of five layers hung on the chest. This necklace is worn by rich and affluent families.

Suki Mala. Also called thanka-siri, this necklace is made up of 62 old 4 anna coins, belonging to years of the British Raj, and one bigger coin.

Asan/Ashan. It is a generic name for bangles and bracelets. Siiger in his manuscript divided the bracelets into ashan sunsra ("hollow") and ashan muta ("thick"). A small bangle is called ashan suri and a big one is known as ashan sangkha.

[Nota Bene: This is not a complete list of all the traditional ornaments used by the Bodos. There will be a separate page dedicated to them later.]