BODO, 'pronounced BO-RO is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by the Bodo people of north-eastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The language is one of the official languages of the Indian state of Assam, and is one of 22 scheduled languages given a special constitutional status in India

Classification and related languages

Bodo language, a branch of the Tibeto-Burman family of language is a rich language. It is a major language of the Bodo group under the Assam-Burmese group of language. It shares some common features in respect of vocabulary, phonology, morphology and syntax with other sister languages of the Bodo group.

Spoken in:

India, with a few small communities in Nepal

Total speakers: 603,000:600,000 in India (1997), 3,301 in Nepal (2001)
Language family Sino-Tibetan

Jingpho-Konyak-Bodo, Konyak-Bodo-Garo, Bodo-Garo & Bodo
Official Language in: Assam (India)

It is closely related to the Dimasa language of Assam and the Garo language of Meghalaya. It is also a very closely related language of Kokborok language spoken in Tripura.


In the aftermath of socio-political awakening and movement launched by the Bodo organizations since 1913, the language was introduced as the medium of instruction (1963) in the primary schools in Bodo dominated areas. Currently, the Bodo language serves as a medium of instruction up to the secondary level and an associated official language in the state of Assam. The language has attained a position of pride with the opening of the Post-Graduate course in Bodo language and literature in the University of Guwahati in 1996. The Bodo language has to its credit large number of books of poetry, drama, short stories, novels, biography, travelogues, children's literature and literary criticism.


Chote, Mech. Related to Dimasa, Tripuri, Lalunga, Boro.










A Bodo girl with traditional attire

The language is officially written using the Devanagari script, although it also has a long history of using the Roman script. Some researchers have suggested that the language originally used a now-lost script called Deodhai.[citation needed]
In another side, still now some intellectual Bodo people want to say that Roman Script would be more appropriate script for the Bodo language

Bodo people

The Bodos (pronounced BO-ros) are an ethnic and linguistic community, early settlers of Assam in the North-East of India. According to the 1991 census, there were 1.2 million Bodos in Assam which makes for 5.3% of the total population in the state. Bodos belong to a larger group of ethnicity called the Bodo-Kachari. The Bodos are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Kokrajhar town is considered the nerve center of the Bodos.

The Bodo-Kachari

The Bodos represents one of the largest of the 18 ethnic sub-groups within the Bodo-Kacharis group, first classified in the 19th century. Bodos have settled in most areas of North-East India, and parts of Nepal. Among the 18 groups mentioned by Endle, the Mech in Western Assam, the Bodo in central Assam, the Dimasa and Hojai to the north of Cachar Hills, and the Sonowal and Thengal in the eastern part of the Brahmaputra river are closely related. The others have been either Hinduized (e.g Koch, Sarania), or have developed separate identities (e.g Garo).




Bodo women rearing silkworms.

The Bodo people

The Bodos represents one of the largest ethnic and linguistic groups of the Brahmaputra valley. Typical Bodo last names (surname) are Basumatary, Narzary, Bodosa, Boro, Brahma, Bwiswmuthiary, Dwimary, Goyary, Borgayari, Ishlary, Ishwary, Khakhlary, Mwshahary, Owary, Sargwary/Sargiary, Ramsiary, Sibigry and Wary. The 1971 census report indicated Bodos being the 8th largest scheduled-tribe (ST) group in India. Close to 1 million people speak Bodo language.

The Bodo language is derived from Tibeto-Burmese family of languages. Although, Roman script and Assamese script were used in the past. Recently, Bodos adopted the Devanagari script. According to some scholars, the Bodo language had a script of its own called Deodhai.

Very early on, Bodos may have introduced rice cultivation, tea plantation, pig and poultry farming, and silkworm rearing in the North East India. The traditional favourite drink of the Bodos is Zu Mai (Zu:wine, Mai:rice). Rice is a staple of the Bodos 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.


In the past, Bodos worshipped their forefathers. In recent years, Bodos practice Bathouism with Kherai Puja, Hinduism.

Bathouism is a form worshipping forefathers called Obonglaoree. The Sijou plant (belonging to the Euphorbia genus), is taken as the symbol of Bathou and worshiped. It is Supreme God. In the Bodo Language Ba means five and thou means deep. Five is a significant number in the Bathou religion. The Sijou tree has five ribs and a pair of thorn in the ribs. It means a couple. God creates human being through couple.

Sijou Boundary: Sijou tree encircled with eighteen pairs of designed bamboo stick and five pairs of ring of bamboo. In front of Sijou within encircled bamboo ring there is a "DOVE HEART". Bodo's believes in (Bathou-God) five mighty elements of God like 1.Land  2.Water, 3.Air, 4. Fire & 5. Sky. Bodo cultural instrument:




Siju Tree

Brahmaism is a form of worshipping with "Hoom Jaygya" (worshiped with Fire Burning).

A clean surface near home or courtyard could be an ideal for worship. Usually, one pair of Betel nut called 'goi' and betel leaf called 'pathwi/bathwi' 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 Garja, Hapsa Hatarnai, Awnkham Gwrlwi Janai, Bwisagu and Domashi.Despite the advance of Hinduism amongst the Bodos, mainstream Indian practices such as caste and dowry are not practiced by the majority of Bodo Hindus who follow a set of rules called Brahma Dharma.

The Bodos now

The Bodos struggled for self-determination in late 80's under the leadership of Upendra Nath Brahma, who is now regarded as the father of the Bodos (Bodo-Fa). After a protracted struggle to save tribal belts and block, Bodo culture, language and identity, the Bodos have been granted the Bodoland Territorial Council, an autonomous administrative body that will have within its jurisdiction the present district of Kokrajhar and adjoining areas. The movement for autonomy was headed by the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and an armed militant group called Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT). Following the establishment of the BTC, the BLT have come overground.

In 2006 Assam Assembly elections, the former BLT members under Hagrama Mohilary formed an alliance with the Indian National Congress and came to power in Dispur. Educational and job opportunity remain biggest problem for Bodos. In Assam, illegal immigrant still occupy tribal belts and blocks. In a nutshell, many players came and gone, game changed, however, Bodoland never materialized.

Bodo culture

The Bodo culture, the culture of the Bodo people in Assam is influenced by the land and the surroundings where they currently live. For long, Bodos are known as farmers, agriculturist community with a strong tradition of fishery, poultry, piggery, rice and jute cultivation, and betel nut plantation. Bodos also cultivate mustered and corns. Bodos also make their own clothing from starting from scratch, such as traditional attire. In recent decades, Bodos are influenced by recent social reforms under Brahma Dharma, Assamese Sarania, Islam and the spread of Christianity.

The attitudes are deep independence and pride in the Bodo identity giving rise to political assertions in recent times. The Bodo linguistic ethnic group arrived the earliest and settled in the region, and have contributed to the cultural traditions of the Assamese and others in the north east region of India.

Music and dance

The Bagurumba

The Bodos traditionally dance the Bagurumba.This dance is accompanied by the Bagurumba song which goes like this

Bagurumba, Hai Bagurumba
jat nonga bla khul nonga bla
thab brum homnanwi bamnanwi lagowmwn kha
hwi lwgw lagowmwn kha...

Moreover there are about 15/18 kinds of Kherai Dance like Rwn Swndri, Gorai Dabrainai, Dao Thwi Lwngnai, Khwijema Fonai, Mwsaglangnai etc.

Musical instruments

Among the many different musical instruments, the Bodos use: Kham, Siphung, Serja, Jotha, Jabsring, Tharkha, Bingi, Rege etc.

Siphung: This is a long bamboo flute having only five holes rather than six as the north Indian Bansuri would have and is also much longer than it, producing a much lower tone.
:This is a violin-like instrument. It has a round body and the scroll is bent forward.

Tharkha:It is a block of bamboo split into two halves for clapping.
:It is a long drum made of wood and skin of goat.


Oma Bedor: Most Bodo people like Oma (Pork) bedor (meat). Boros prepare pork meat with different flavors and style. It could be fried, roasted, and stewed. The first type is pan fried. The second flavor is made by roasting (or smoking) the meat in the sun for several days. The third one called "oma khaji" is cooked by mixing blood and meat, - it tastes very rich in fat.

Napham:Napham is an unique dish that distinguishes Bodo cuisines from that of the other races. 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, - it tastes like pate made out of Chinese dried fish.
: Onla is a gravy made from rice powder and slices of bamboo shoots cooked lightly with oil and spices. Chicken or pork can be added to onla.

Ju Mai: Rice wine is produced by the bodos mainly during the festivals like Bwisagu and Domasi. Jumai could be of two types, (A) gishi (wet) and (B) gwran(dry). (A) Gishi is brewed by fermentation of rice, when a piece of plum is added to the gishi mixture during fermentation, the product taste like plum wine! (B) Gwran is produced by distillation of the gishi, - it tastes like Japanese sake.

The Bodos examine the strength of the wine by throwing a cup of beer in the fire. A flash of fire indicates the strength of the wine.Narzi:A bitter gravy that is made from dried jute leaves. Pork or fresh water fish can be cooked together to generate distinct taste. Narzi gravy tastes like Japanese sea weed soup! Others like Dau Bedor, Jinai and Samo are also likely taken by Bodos.

Bodo Sahitya Sabha

On November 16, 1952, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha, the vanguard of Bodo language and literature, was founded at Basugaon, in the district of Kokrajhar, Assam consisting of representatives of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Nepal in abroad.

Early work

After India obtained independence, a critical mass of Bodo intellectuals realized the need for preservation of Bodo language. Many early Bodo authors studied in schools and colleges, where medium of instruction was either Assamese or Bangla. Bodo intellectuals felt that Bodo language must be preserved and developed at par with Assamese and Bangla languages. Bodo people realized very late that the education was the key component to the overall development of Bodo people and their language.

After prolonged struggle and determination of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha (Bodo Literary Organization), the Bodo language was introduced as a medium of instruction at primary level in 1963 and then at secondary level in 1968. Bodo language and literature has been recognized as one of the Major Indian Languages (MIL) in Gauhati, Dibrugarh and North-Eastern Hill Universities. In 1985, Bodo has been recognized as an associated state official language of Assam.

Recent development

Now the language has attained a position of pride with the opening of the Post-Graduate Courses in Bodo language and literature in the University of Gauhati in 1996. Moreover,under the aegis of the commission for Scientific and Technical terminology, HRD Ministry, the Govt. of India, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha is preparing more than forty thousand scientific and technical terms in Bodo language. Further, it is promised, the Sahitya Academy would accord "Bhasa Sonman"(respect for language) to the Bodo language and literature as an initial token of full-fledged recognition to it. Furthermore, the Govt. of India, in principle, has recognized the necessity of inclusion of the Bodo language and lterature in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.


Moreover the Bodo Sahitya Sabha has to its credit a large number of books on prose, poetry, drama, short story, novel, biography, travelogue, children's literature & criticism.


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