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Birsa Munda

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tribal groups in different parts of the country rebelled against the laws, restrictions and new taxes imposed by the British.

The tribals were also exploited by the traders and moneylenders.

The tribal rebellions against the British

  • The Kols rebelled in 1831-32
  • Santhals rose in revolt in 1855
  • The Bastar Rebelled in central India broke in 1910
  • The Warli Revolt in Maharashtra in 1940
  • Birsa Munda’s rebellion

                                        Birsa Munda – a Character sketch

Birsa Munda

Birsa Munda was the leader of the Munda Tribe in the late 19th century. He was part of the political independence movement during the British Raj in India. Birsa’s early years were spent with his parents at Chalkad.

He grazed sheep in the forest of Bohonda. He played the flute so well that all living beings came to listen to him.

Driven by poverty Birsa was taken to Ayubhatu, his maternal uncle’s village. After some years he left the village and went to live with his brother at Kundi Bartoli. Birsa was there for some time.

From Kundi Bartoli, Birsa probably went to the German Mission at Burju where he passed the lower primary examination. He also studied at the Evangelical Lutheran Mission School run by German missionaries at Chaibasa. It was here that he was transformed into a fighter for tribals.

Birsa’s long stay at Chaibasa from 1886 to 1890 constituted a formative period of his life.

By 1894, Birsa had grown up into a strong and handsome young man, shrewd and intelligent. He was tall for a Munda, 5 feet 4 inches, and could perform the feat of repairing the Dombari tank.

Birsa claimed to be a messenger of God and the founder of a new religion. Soon stories of Birsa as a healer, a miracle-worker, and a preacher spread far and wide. The Mundas, Oraons, and Kharias flocked to Chalkad to see the new prophet and to be cured of their ills.

The laws introduced by the British put the tribals into a lot of hardship. The wanted to increase farm out put for trading purposes. The tribals with primitive farming methods were not able to supply the required quantity of grain. The British brought in non-tribal peasantry to cultivate the land. This led to the alienation of the lands held by the tribals.

Birsa raised his voice against the restrictions imposed by the British. Soon, Birsa along with the Munda tribe retaliated against the British through a series of revolts and uprisings under his leadership.

The movement sought to assert rights of the Mundas as the real owners of the soil, and the expulsion of middlemen and the British.

Birsa was treacherously caught on 3rd February 1900 and died in mysterious conditions on 9th June 1900 in Ranchi Jail.

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