The Bodo of Assam: Revisiting a Classical Study from 1951

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by Halfdan Siiger, Peter B. Andersen and Santosh K Soren

The Bodo (or Boros) are one of the indigenous tribal peoples of Assam. During colonial times they resisted Christianization and in recent decades they have been involved both in interethnic violence and separatist insurgencies. Much research has gone into understanding the Boros and their aspirations but an issue has been that earlier accounts of this once-animist people are meagre and date from the colonial period. The rediscovery and publication of the ethnographic material based on fieldwork carried out by Halfdan Siiger among the Boros in 1949–50 is thus hugely important. Siiger’s manuscript is unique, offering detailed descriptions of the social and ritual life of the Boros and new insights into the traditions and myths as they were told in the village he studied before the transformation of religious life in recent decades. Thanks to Siiger’s diligent translation and interpretation, the manuscript also preserves a number of ritual formulas and songs in the Boro language. Siiger’s manuscript is given even greater relevance by the inclusion of more recent material contributed by the editors and other contemporary scholars. In addition, his original photos are augmented by new photos from the village and by rare images from the collections of the National Museum of Denmark.

Halfdan Siiger (1911-1999) was briefly keeper of the ethnographic collection at the National Museum of Denmark and later professor of the history of religions at Aarhus University. Much of his research stemmed from his participation in the Third Danish Expedition to Central Asia during which he travelled from Kabul in Afghanistan to Assam in India in 1947–1950.

Peter B. Andersen is Associate Professor at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen. He has written widely on religion and modernity, esp. in India.

Santosh K. Soren is a retired librarian from Roskilde University who has esp. written on the Santali.

Publication year: 2015
318 pp / 229mm x 152mm
54 figures, 2 maps
ISBN: 978-87-7694-161-1, Paperback
ISBN: 978-87-7694-160-4, Hardback

NIAS Press