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Pratibha Brahma
Date of Publish: 2017-03-28

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MIGHTY BURLUNGBUTHUR (BRAHMAPUTRA) TO THE BODOS

Burlungbuthurni Sengwra Sikhwla,

Sikhardw,Sikhardw Jwngha Soma Jabai,

Muluk Bikhayaou Thangnanwi Thanaini,

Swrang Nagirnaini Soma Jabai .

This popular song was composed and sung by the famous Bodo singer Late Dwikhrong Khungur which means:

“Youths of Burlungbuthur (Brahmaputra),

Wake up; wake up time has come for us,

To seek for light to survive,

And sustain on this earth.”

Assam for the first time is going to celebrate the biggest River Festival eulogizing the mighty Brahmaputra as “Namami Brahmaputra” under the leadership of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, across 21 districts along Brahmaputra in its entire stretch from Sadiya to Dhubri from March 31 to April 4. Main objective stated by the organizers for organising such a gala event is to showcase Assam’s tremendous potential in trade, tourism and culture. It is being endorsed that the influence of Brahmaputra in life and culture of people living in Assam is deep-rooted and to pay tribute to the river, ‘Namami Brahmaputra’ is being organised. There is truth in the fact that since time immemorial, the mighty Brahmaputra remains testimony to great civilizations that sprung up on its valley and the beautiful multicultural heritage we, the diverse tribes from north-east have inherited is a legacy of these civilizations.

Release of the theme song of “Namami Brahmaputra” was eagerly awaited by the people of Assam, especially the indigenous tribes when it was announced that the Mega Star of Bollywood Amitabh Bachchan would be paying tribute to the Mighty Brahmaputra along with Papon Angarag Mahanta. There was an excitement with expectation that colourful culture of diverse tribes from the state would be highlighted in the theme song as the great River Brahmaputra is life of these people in true essence.

So, there is every reason that indigenous people of Assam got hurt when culture of Assam was poorly highlighted in the theme song. The theme song, its lyrics, music, rendition of this beautiful song by great artists of India is undeniably so soothing and pleasant to ears that its lilting music stays back in one’s memory to hum the song repeatedly. Yet, the visual presentation of “Namami Brahmaputra” hurts our sentiments, sentiments of all indigenous population and we cannot help for this. Beauty of India lies in the very essence of “UNITY IN DIVERSITY” and we are all very proud of this sobriquet of our great Nation. It is this beauty of multicultural state like Assam we feel “Namami Brahmaputra” song has failed to capture and until and unless this part of the story in Assam is taken care of, the concept of “Brihattar Asomiya Somaj” is futile.

Nevertheless, with an enthusiasm to share the significance of the Brahmaputra or the BURLUNBUTHUR and its tributaries amongst the Bodo tribes, the earliest inhabitant on the Brahmaputra Valley, in this grand event of “Namami Brahmaputra”, I am writing this piece with hope that it will find little space in esteemed reader’s mind.

Significance of Brahmaputra which we in Bodo call it as Burlungbuthur and its tributaries cannot be expressed it words, but its manifestation can be felt in depiction of its spiritual essence in Bodo prayers, songs, dance, music, history, legends, folklores, dramas, prose and poetry. Bodos being agrarian by nature worship and revere the mighty Burlungbuthur and its tributaries for sustaining the tribe over period of time. Interestingly, smaller streams or tributaries are regarded as lesser deities and the mighty Burlungbuthur (Brahmaputra) is looked upon as the mater magna or the Chief River God.

The geographical features of Brahmaputra we all know starts near Mansarovar in Tibet from the Kong Shu Lake located at the height of 5150 metres. With the Tibetan name of Tsangpho, it flows 1770 kms to east and parallel to the Himalayan ranges towards the north and collects the water of its tributaries like the Rega,Tsangpho Nagchu,Kyuchu and Gramda Chu. It turns northwards from a place called PE at 3000 metres and encircles the mountains of Gyala Paro and Namcha Barua (7,756 metres). It takes turning towards south and south-west and enters Indian Territory through the foothills of Arunachal Pradesh and is called Siang and then Dibang further down. Flowing south-west it enters Assam from Sadiya meeting its two main tributaries Dibang and Lohit. It is in this meeting point it is known by the famous name of Brahmaputra flowing its course from west to east and creating a beautiful Assam Valley. Its tributaries, which flow along its course into it, are Jiyadhal, Kameng, Dhansree, Puthimari, Pagladiya, Manas, Champamati, Swrmanga (Saralbhanga) and Sankosh. Its tributaries flowing from south are Dihing ,Disang,Dirbat,Jhanji,Dhansiri and Kopili. Turning from Garo Hills, the Brahmaputra enters Bangladesh from Dhubri. Many of its tributaries which flow in North Bengal from here are the Teesta, Jal Dhaka, Torsa, Kalyanjki and Kaidak. All these river streams converge with the Brahmaputra inside the territory of Bangladesh. Southwards flow of Brahmaputra takes its course to meet the Ganges at Golando 250 Kms downstream. It became imperative from my side to give brief insight of physical features of the Brahmaputra to give evidence that most of these rivers within the territories of Assam and North Bengal are Bodo words.

In the present context, Etymology holds a key source in reconstruction of world history of certain periods, kingdoms, races and tribes which have since long not got due importance or recognition for its contribution in great civilizations for want of written documents and manipulations of epochal or modern historians who to keep track records of their racial superiority have kept many facts hidden. But meaning of name of many rivers, mountains, hills, plateaus, valleys, plains, forests, kingdoms, provinces, states, districts, cities, towns, villages etc though distorted, mispronounced or misinterpreted have in many cases been deciphered by expert research scholars to pin-point to which speech of language these naming belong to. Bodos, a dominant tribe of today’s north-east India are one of those tribes with past glory of history but with no written documents of the respective eras. Irrespective of this, rich tradition of oral folk-lore, culture, depiction of songs, music, dances and dramas, etc. have in a way kept intact its ancient history passing down from generations. Mighty rivers with Bodo names have helped Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji, to present his ‘Kirata Jana Kriti’ and paved a way to plunge deeper into fact-findings of the contribution of Bodos who were known as Kiratas in ancient India. Names of various rivers especially the tributaries of Brahmaputra flowing through north Bengal, Nepal, Assam, Tripura and Bangladesh like Tista, Dihong, Disang, Dikhou, Dirbat, Janji, Dhwnsri, Laouti (Lauhit) and many more bear Bodo names supporting the evidence that Bodo kingdoms extended to those regions and thus played pivotal role in enriching the rich cultural heritage of India today. The Bodo race and its branches who belongs to Tibeto-Burman group of speech refer to water as dai, di or ti and name of rivers in North India like Rawati, Nyungti, Zangti, Parati, Gumoti, Kashiati,Hamalti,Burahati,Ti-dong,Nangalti,Khati,Lingti etc.have opened up new vistas to decipher the wider historical perspectives of Bodos as once a dominant race in the country.

Ancient Assam which is said to be known as Pragjyotishpura is opined to be a misnomer of the Bodo word ‘Pra’+ ‘Gwlao’+ ‘Ti’ + ‘Pur’= Pragwlaotipur. Bokul Chandra Basumatary in his book “Bodo Civilization in India” has reasoned that during pre-Christian era, the region of ancient Assam was ruled all in all by Kiratas or the Bodo kings with no trace of Aryanisation. Therefore, a place with Sanskrit meaning such as ‘Pragjyotishpur’ (City of eastern Astrology) is near to impossible in the period. ‘Pra’ in Bodo means measurement of distance ‘from here to there’ (Beniprai bwisim’). Generally, people in ancient times were identified by name of river bank where they settled. Present ‘Brahmaputra’ which witnessed an advanced civilization of Bodo Kingdoms was known as ‘Gwlaotipur’ where ‘Gwlao’ means long, ‘-ti’ means river and ‘-pur’ means a region or a state, together connoting ‘a region of long river’. ‘Gwlaoti’ was later modified as ‘Louhitya’ in Sanskrit which is other name of Brahmaputra. So the name ‘Pragwlaotipur’ fits perfect, the word ‘Pra’ denoting ‘distance of a region of Long River.’ But being difficult to pronounce this Tibeto-Burman Bodo-Prakrit word of ‘Pragwlaotipur, it was modified to Pragjyotishpur by later Sanskrit scholars.

‘Brahmaputra’ flowing down from the Kong Shu Lake near Mansarovar in Tibet has also been derived from the word ‘Burlungbuthur’ which the Bodos still call the Great Brahmaputra by the original name. Since, sloping is more swift and shallow in rivers on the northern bank of Brahmaputra, excessive sand and silt is loaded through it. Therefore, flash floods bring a lot of silt because the distance between their mountainous origin and confluence is less. In Bodo, Burlungbuthur means a flashing wave of river at high lightning speed which comes unpredictably. Observing such nature of river it was named as ‘Burlungbuthur.’

Thus, Burlunbuthur and its tributaries have stood to be perpetual testimony for the Bodos to claim with pride the glorious history they have inherited.

Pratibha Brahma

( Pratibha Brahma is the Editor-in-chief of Bibungthi-the opinion, a quarterly English magazine published from Kokrajhar. She can be contacted at pratibha.brahma@rediffmail.com. The views expressed are the author's own. )

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