Naraya Sharma, the temple administra-

tor, shared that the main person behind the temple’s construction was B. M. Khetan, a leading tea businessman. According to Nara- ya, 2,000 people a day visit the temple, with 6,000 on weekends—a tenth of what Tiru- pati in Andhra sees on a daily basis.

The Bodo Traditions

We drove 230 km from Guwahati to the Phulani area in Karbi Anglong district, a tribal area that is home to Karbis, Bodos, Kuis and many non-tribal people. Along the way Sô

33ôõ R 3 ô ^ô õ3 3 õô3

the highway. We first visited a VHP proj- ect, the residential school, Reng Bong Hom Shishu Niketan. It was set up in 1979 and so named after a local tribal king and his wife. They have 244 students and 19 teachers who follow the government curriculum with added programs to teach religion and morals. The medium is Assamese. The school faces competition from better-funded Christian schools that also teach in English. Sarsing Phangcho, a RSS volunteer, ex-

plained that people of his tribe, the Karbi, af- ter which the district is named, prefer to have their children educated in English-medium schools. The Bodos in this area came from lower Assam after riots there between Hin- dus and Muslims. He said that among both the Karbis and the Bodos there are some who say they are Hindus and others who identify as just “tribals.” Both groups are largely non- Rô5ô

K +Sô U]^Rô ô ô # 3 ô

said to have converted to Christianity, mostly as a result of studying in the Christian schools. From Phulani we drove through interior villages to Langhin Manikpur. By chance we

Worship Among the Bodos

encountered a group of Bodo women walk- ing on the road, nets in hand and carrying 3 ô 3 ^3

ôU 5 5K !

retrospect, this was one of the most touch- ing and poignant moments of our visit. We spoke with one of them, Champa Basumatari. I was amazed at the divinity shining on the face of this tribal lady. Her poise and con- fidence while communicating with me in Hindi would match well with any lady in In- dia’s metropolitan cities. She looked blissful and contented. I was deeply touched when she said she gives preference to her religious life over material progress and intends to pass those values on to her children. She kindly invited us to a nearby relative’s ôL ^ 3 R 3

3ôK ô ô

we witnessed the Bodo worship of the si- jou plant (the medicinal cactus ï ö õ 1

ï óï 1) growing in front of the home

and protected by a woven bamboo fence. The Bodo religion is called Bathou, meaning five principles—air, sun, earth, water and sky—parallel to the familiar five elements L ô L ^ ôL S ô

õ ô ôõ ô ^Rô ô3 3 ô K + ô * õ 3 ô ô

God, whom they worship through the sijou plant, is called Bathoubwrai, the “Elder” who ô

ô ô5 õ ô ( R ô3-

ent, omniscient and omnipotent. Champa said they treat Bathoubwrai as Siva. His con- sort, Mainao, is revered as protector of rice ^ô õ3K *

\ ô ñ õ ô õô õô ^ôõ ô S $ 3 K

There are minor Gods as well. Wor- ship in the Bodo faith is done at home, at Bathow temples and during several large community festivals each year, notably Bwisagu, the Bodo New Year Day, in April.

We were visiting two temples here, one

along the lines of the worship of Bathou we just saw, and the other a more recent inno- vation: the Karbi Anglong Brahma Dharma Jyoti Mondir in Langhin Manikpur. This is a temple of the Brahma Dharma move- ment introduced to the Bodo people in 1906 by Sri Sri Kalicharan Mech, a Bodo. Brahma (or Brahmo) Dharma is an off- shoot of the Brahmo Samaj, a Hindu reform movement founded in the late 19th cen- tury in Kolkata, Bengal, by Ram Mohan Roy. A large group in elegant dress greeted and

paraded us to the open-air temple, where we joined an elaborate yagna, with over a dozen priests chanting Vedic hymns and mantras in worship of Agni, the Fire God. At the end of the rites all the devotees prayed ô

ô ô ô ^ ôL

ô ô õ3 õ

ôô ô _

5 õ S L

ö S 1Q õ 5L Vom Sï

öJF which means, “We salute the high- est Brahma, Who is in the form of light.”

Home of the Goddess: X 3ö E ­ ó Q 1ö öï (

ï ï ï

ñï ó1 ­ 1

ö ï J 8=J ïR ï

ïó Q ö ( P Z ïR 1 óï

öï sijou ó ­ ö 1ï

Q ö Z ö

ï Z ­ ó õ Q ï öï

3 ­ ó õï ï 1 ï

3 ñ1ö 3 3

Q 1ï J

ï J ï 5

26 hinduism today april/may/june, 2017

all photos: thomas l kelly

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