Bodo (pronounced as Bo Ro) is a language of North East India spoken by the Bodo tribe of people which is a prominent ethnic group inhabiting Assam, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangla Desh. It falls under the Assam-Burmese group of languages. It branched off from the Tibetan and Burmese family of languages. It is one of the twenty two recognised languages by the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and is among the official languages of the Indian State of Assam.

Bodo is derived from the term `Bod’ which means Tibet. This signifies that majority of the Bodos arrived from the Bhutan passes. Bodo is a tone language like many of the African and South East Asian languages. The tonal languages use pitch to signify a difference in meaning between words.


There are no written records that indicate the origin of the Bodo language. But, it can be traced to the socio-political movement of the local Boro organisations of 1913. This period can be identified as an important point in the history of the Bodo language. This language was introduced as a medium of instruction in the primary schools due to the dedicated efforts of the Boro organisations in the Boro dominated regions as late as 1963. On 16th November, 1952, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha, which is considered as the torch bearer of Bodo language and literature, was established at Basugaon in the district of Kokrajhar in Assam. It consisted of representatives from Assam, Nepal, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya and West Bengal.

A group of Bodo intellectuals realised the need to preserve Bodo language after India’s independence in 1947. These intellectuals had studied in schools and colleges where the medium of instruction was either Bangla or Assamese. They felt that the Bodo language needed to be preserved and developed exactly like Assamese and Bangla languages. They realised, though late in life, that education was the key part and parcel of the total overall development of Bodo people and their language. Bodo language has been recognised as one of the major Indian languages in Guwahati, Dibrugarh and North Eastern Hill Universities mainly because of the prolonged struggle and determination of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha or as it is popularly known as the Bodo Literary Organisation. Currently, Bodo is being used as a medium of instruction in educational institutions up to the secondary level at most places. Recently, it has been included as part of a post graduate course in the University of Guwahati. Bodo has also been recognised as an associated State official language of Assam.


Bodo language possesses a rich literature. It comprises of several famous books on poetry, travelogue, biographies, drama, novels, short stories and children’s fables. Literature has evolved in the last couple of decades.

Efforts are on since the last few decades by Bodo linguists for the language to be read and to be expressed in original works of literature. But the socio political system is taking it easy with the tribal people who have gone through a lot of political conflict to gain their present structure and recognition.


Devanagari script is used officially to write the Bodo language. It does have a long history of using the Roman script as well. There is a difference in using the letters in Bodo than the Devanagari script.  There are suggestions that this language may have originally used the Deodhai script which has become extinct now.

This Devanagiri script has been scheduled as a tribal language by a Presidential Order published in the Gazette of India, Part II, Section 1, dated August 13, 1960.

Bodo has four varieties: - North Goalpara Variety, South Goalpara Variety, Darrang-Lakhimpur Variety and Nagaon-Kasar-Karbi Hills Variety. The language has sixteen consonants and six vowels.

The Bodo speaking areas of Assam stretch from Dhubri in the west to Sadiya in the east. There is a small community of Boros and Boro Kacharis in parts of Tripura and Nagaland. The Boros are known as Mech in Jalpaiguri and other adjacent districts of Bengal.

The Bodo language has four dialect areas with sufficient number of dialectal variations. They are the North Eastern, South Western, North Central and Southern dialect areas with glossarial, morphological and phonological differences The University Grants Commission has included Bodo as a subject in the National Education Testing examination.


The Bodo language has been affected by a lack of development despite being among the twenty two scheduled languages that are provided special constitutional status in India. The growth of this colourful language has been stunted by the apathy of the authorities. The language is laced with tribal ethnicity. There is a need to pay attention to the Bodos who are the oldest inhabitants of the region in Assam’s glorious history.

The Bodos have survived against massive odds with their resilience and their distinct knowledge of horticulture. This tribal community, which is one of the largest minorities in Assam, has a unique culture. The total literacy movement that has been constituted by the Indian Government has not helped the Bodo language to grow to its full heights even though the locals have accepted the language as an essential part of their socio-economic communication and development. The growth of the language is almost non-existent despite the policy makers talking big concerning issues related to the linguistic minorities. Though many Bodo educationists plan to move ahead in their own way in a democratic manner, they feel that they have been deprived and taken for granted in their fight for their linguistic rights. They feel that the government has not done much for the upliftment of the language besides promoting very few writers. The literary world of the Bodo language cannot be enriched by opening few schools with Bodo as a teaching medium in the backward areas. There is a definite shortage of publishers and not many people are interested in publishing books in the Bodo language.


Bodo literature has been made popular and preserved by the pioneering efforts of Assam Sahitya Sabha which is the largest literary body in East India. This organisation has played an important role in coordinating the efforts of the Bodo poets, scholars and authors by introducing the local people to their works. From both near and far, several small and big names in the literary field of Bodo language attend a congregation which is held by the Sahitya Sabha every year. Another literary body that has been working hard for the betterment of the Bodo literature and the Bodo people is the Bodo Sahitya Sabha.

The Sabhas feel that it is necessary to press for quality education among the masses to bring in a new revolution among the student community. The focus is to be on quality education for the all round development of society. Education could be the only means to bring in that development.

The language has attained a position of some pride at least with the opening of the Post Graduate Courses in Bodo language and literature in the University of Guwahati in 1996. Furthermore, under the shelter of the Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology, HRD Ministry, the Government of India, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha is preparing more than forty thousand scientific and technical terms in Bodo language. Moreover, 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.


Bodo language shares some common features concerning morphology, syntax, phonology and vocabulary with its sister languages. It is closely related to the Garo language of Meghalaya and the Dimasa language of Assam. It also has strong relationship with the Kokborok language of Tripura. The spoken language of Bodo has been affected by certain communities like the Kokrajhar and the Bengalis who frequent the areas around Udalguri district.


Bodo tribe is regarded as the earliest immigrants in Assam and is culturally rich as a community of the north western parts of the state. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India has conferred the Bodo tribal community the status and prestige of a plain tribe.

The Bodo tribes have got an inclination towards spiritualism and religion. The majority of Bodo tribal community follow a set of rules called Brahma Dharma. In the ancient period, they used to worship their ancestors.

The Bodo tribal community is fond of Zu Mai drink which is wine made out of rice like the Japanese Saki. Rice is the staple food in the tribe and is usually savoured by fish or pork.

The traditional dress of a Bodo female is called Dokna which the women knit themselves. One of their cherished festivals is Baishagu which is held in the spring during mid April when there are colourful folk dances. During their early years, they have practiced all types of cultivation and farming. Rice farming, tea planting, poultry and pig farming as well as silkworm rearing is prevalent among them. They are excellent bamboo craftsmen. Weaving is a popular occupation.


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Article Posted By : tahnaklView All Articles

Tahseen Nakavi

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Keywords :
Bodo , Assam , North East


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