The memories of my visit to a Bodo Village in Bodoland are still fresh in my head. The smell of the piping hot rice cakes that we savoured, the sweet laughter of the children amazed by our gadgets, the warm hug of a young lady before we left, and the sight of women fishing in the nearby river. Everything.
I think my trip to Assam would be incomplete without exploring one of the tribal villages of the Bodo people. Thanks to the Bodoland Ambassador Program S02, I got a chance to learn everything I could about the major ethnic group of BTC – the Bodo People.
Note: We visited the Nangdorbari Village in BTC. If you wish to visit this village, please contact Root Bridge Foundation.
Who are the Bodo People?
The Bodo people are the major inhabitants of the BTR (Bodoland Territorial Region) or Bodoland. They are an ethnic and linguistic community and one of the first settlers of Assam in North-East India. According to their culture, they never let a guest leave without feeding them first! They are one of the most hospitable and culturally rich tribal groups in India.
Which Language Do They Speak?
The Bodo people speak the Bodo language which is a Sino-Tibetan language. We had a very hard time communicating with them but luckily, our local champ Gayatri made it easier for us. But to be honest, we didn’t have to communicate with them through words. We just had to communicate with them through our eyes and smiles.
What Religion Do They Follow?
The Bodo people follow a religion called Bathouism which embodies the five elements of nature – air, fire, earth, water, and sky. Their chief deity is called Bathoubwrai who is said to have created the five principles. In fact, in every household of the Bodo village, a plant called as Sijou is installed. This plant is considered as a living embodiment of Bathoubwrai and has five stems at every step, representing the five elements of nature.
How Do Their Houses Look?
Most of the houses in the Bodo Village are encompassed by a lot of greenery and other crops that the Bodo people cultivate. They have a wide open space at the centre and multiple rooms around it for cooking, dressing up, and resting. Their toilets are usually separate from the main area and located a bit farther.
The main area in the middle is used for hosting guests, hanging clothes, pounding rice and frying food. We also found a well nearby and a backyard where they cultivate crops.
Meeting the Bodo Women!
I must say, most of the young Bodo women are very very shy while the older ones are pretty chilled out! The older women usually sit on a bench and savour home-made rice beer and rice wine, and chuckle their troubles away. We had a nice time laughing with them and taking selfies! The younger women on the other hand were extremely shy. They didn’t talk much and stayed pretty aloof engaging themselves in household chores. One of them however, was really excited and draped some of us in their traditional Bodo outfits!
The Bodo Outfit
If you have been following my blog, you will know how worked up I get when it comes to experiencing something new – especially trying the traditional outfits of women at the places that I travel to!
When I had been to the Bodo Village in Assam, I tried their traditional outfit too. The Bodo women wear an outfit called the ‘Dokhona’ in their day to day lives. It is basically a saree handwoven from silk or cotton and draped in a very unique way (somewhat similar to the Coorgi/Kodagu style in Karnataka). They wear a blouse and an ‘Aronai’ (similar to a dupatta) and they look absolutely lovely! One of the girls at the village helped me wear a Dhokona, and boy, I simply didn’t want to get out of it!
Bodo Dance and Music
Now, wearing the Bodo outfit wouldn’t complete the entire experience unless it is followed by some traditional Bodo dance! Yes, you heard me. The Bodo women have their own folk dance and it is simply a delight to watch! One of their popular dances is the ‘Bagurumba’ which is the spring time dance of the Bodos in Assam. It is usually performed during Bwishagu festival in the Bishuba Sankranti or in Mid-April.
My friends and I learnt a few steps of the dance and heartily danced together!
I was taken by surprise when I found out that the vegetarian meal of the Bodo people is actually vegan! They don’t use any animal products in any of their vegetarian dishes and this makes it all vegan. We were served a plate full of yummy tribal delicacies and everything tasted quite delicious.
They served us rice, dal, potato curry, curry leaves pakoda (the best!), beetroot salad, jute leaves chutney, lapa (a type of green), turmeric chutney and other local greens. The food was lovely! I loved everything except for the jute leaves chutney because it was quite bitter.
Apart from the vegan meal, the Bodos also consume meat. They mostly eat pork, snails, silkworms and pigeons.
The major occupations of the Bodo people are agriculture, fishing and weaving. It is quite interesting to note that the women weave their own clothes at home! They also fish at nearby rivers with basic tools made from bamboo. Bamboo, jute, mustard, rice and silk are the major crops cultivated in Bodoland and you will find acres of yellow mustard fields effusing pleasant aromas on the way to the villages.