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Who was Birsa Munda and his contribution to Indian history?

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  • Last Updated : 27 Jul, 2022

Introduction to Birsa Munda:

  • Birsa Munda belongs to the Munda tribal community, and he was a folk rebellion, tribal freedom fighter, and religious leader.
  • Birsa started a movement called ‘Ulgulan’, or ‘The Great Tumult’. During that time, people call him “Dharti Abba”, which means “Father of the Earth”.
  • He gathered a large religious movement against the British missionaries and their conversion activities.
  • He revolted against the Christian missionary’s religious conversion activities mainly with the help of the Munda and Oraon Tribal Community people.

Birth and Early Childhood:

  • Birsa Munda was born on 15th November 1875 at Ulihatu village under Bengal Presidency which is presently located in Jharkhand.
  • Birsa Munda’s Parents were Sugana Munda and Karmi Hatu and his family mainly belonged to the Chhota Nagpur plateau area.
  • Birsa spent a lot of his childhood life moving from one place to another different place with his family.
  • Birsa Munda agreed to convert to Christianity to attend a German missionary school. But He dropped out of missionary school a few years later.

Birsa Munda’s Contribution to Indian history Before Independence:

New Religion – The Birsait:

  • He founded a new religion called “Birsait“.
  • He wanted to reform the tribal society and so he started this “Birsait” religion on his own and declared himself as God’s messenger.
  • The people of the Kharias and Orans community along with the people of the Munda tribal community allowed him to be their leader.
  • Many other Hindus, as well as Muslims, were interested in seeing the new messenger of God, resulting in huge gatherings.
  • Birsa Munda advised the tribal people to ignore missionaries and missionary activities and urged them to return to their old traditional practices.

Birsa Munda’s Rebellion Movements:

  • It was one of the most important pre-independence tribal movements in the history of India.
  • Birsa Munda started and led the Munda Rebel Movement south of Ranchi between 1899 and 1900.
  • Birsa Munda not only taught the people about his religion but also gathered the people and formed guerrilla-style rebel forces against British rule.
  • He introduced the slogan “Abua Raj Seter Jana, Maharani Raj Tundu Jana” for his rebel movements. Its means “Queen’s kingdom must end and our kingdom must be established”.
  • He also urged people not to pay taxes. After that, due to this statement, the British government arrested him and released him 2 years later.

Reasons Behind the Munda’s Rebellion Movement:

  • The land policies introduced by the British government attacked the tribal traditional process of the agricultural system.
  • The religious conversions taken by the British missionaries attacked the old traditional faith and the worship of God, as well as the religious and cultural beliefs of the tribal people.
  • The British government introduced a “Feudal zamindari system” in the Chhota Nagpur plateau area, which destroyed the local tribal farming system called “Khuntkat” i.e. a group of indigenous tribes owning common land.
  • The British government also bought land contractors called “Dikus” as feudal landlords for the Adivasis forest areas.

Subsequences of the Rebellion Movements:

  • Birsa Munda urged the people not to pay any taxes or rent to the British government and he attacked feudal department offices and British conversion missionaries.
  • Birsa Munda and his followers attacked so many British loyal places like police stations, and commissioner offices, they also killed two policemen and razed the churches and houses of zamindars.

Death of the Birsa Munda:

  • He was first arrested in 1895 for his statements against the British government and was released two years later.
  • He again resumed his rebellion revolt against British Raj along with his followers and other Indian freedom fighters.
  • Later in 1900, he was captured by the British government in the Jamkopai forest area in Chakradharpur, which is located in Jharkhand.
  • He was imprisoned in Ranchi Jail and died on June 9, 1900, due to cholera declared by the British government.

Significant Achievements by The Rebellion Movements:

  • After 8 years of his death in 1908, the British government enacted the “Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT)“.
  • The law prohibits the transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals and protects the ownership rights of the owners.
  • Subsequently, the British government abolished the forced labor called the “Veth Bigari” system.
  • The Rebellion movements showed to British Raj that tribal community people also could have the ability to protest against injustice and express their anger against the colonial British government.

The Legacy of the Birsa Munda:

  • Birsa Munda’s legacy is still alive and many people in Jharkhand and Karnataka celebrate his birthday on November 15 every year.
  • On the occasion of the 75 years of Independence, the Union Cabinet approved the declaration of November 15 as “Janjatiya Gaurav Divas” to commemorate the services of tribal freedom fighters.
  • So many institutions, and organizations are named after him notably Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium, Birsa Munda Airport, Birsa Munda tribal University, Birsa Munda central jail, Birsa Agricultural University ., etc.
  • The novel Aranyer Adhikar (Rights to the forest) was written in 1977 by Mahasweta Devi on the life journey of the Birsa Munda as Bhagavan and his rebellion movements against British rule. This novel won the Sahitya Akademi award for Bengali in 1979.
  • The Jharkhand government has proposed a 150-foot-tall Ulgulan statue to commemorate the legacy of Birsa Munda.

Conceptual Questions and Answers:

1) Briefly describe the birth and childhood events of Birsa Munda?

Ans: Birsa Munda family mainly belonged to the Chhota Nagpur plateau area. Birsa Munda was born on 15-11-1875 at Ulihatu village under Bengal Presidency which is presently located in Jharkhand. Birsa Munda Parents were “Sugana Munda” and “Karmi Hatu”. Birsa spent a lot of his childhood life moving from one place to another different place with his family. Birsa Munda agreed to convert to Christianity to attend a German missionary school. But He dropped out of missionary school a few years later.

2) Which religion is founded by Birsa Munda? Explain this?

Ans: He founded a new religion called “Birsait“. He wanted to reform the tribal society and so he started this “Birsait” religion on his own and declared himself as God’s messenger. The people of the Kharias and Orans community along with the people of the Munda tribal community allowed him to be their leader. Many other Hindus, as well as Muslims, were interested in seeing the new messenger of God, resulting in huge gatherings. Birsa Munda advised the tribal people to ignore missionaries and missionary activities and urged them to return to their old traditional practices. He also urged people not to pay taxes. After that, due to this statement, the British government arrested him and released him 2 years later.

3) What are the rebellion movements started by Birsa Munda and briefly describe them?

Ans: Birsa Munda not only taught the people about his religion but also gathered the people and formed guerrilla-style rebel forces against British rule. He started two important revolt movements against the British monarch mentioned below.

1) Munda Rebellion Movement:

  • It was one of the most important pre-independence tribal movements in the history of India.
  • Birsa Munda started and led the Munda Rebel Movement south of Ranchi between 1899 and 1900.

2) Birsa Munda’s Ulgulan Revolt:

  • Subsequently, Birsa Munda become a mass leader, and his followers are called him as a bhagwan, “Dharti Abba” which means “Father of the Earth”.
  • Based on his call many Munda tribal community people; Oraons community people; Other tribal people and non-tribals also took part in the Ulgulan Revolt against exploitation and discrimination faced the tribals by the local authorities.

Subsequences of the Rebellion Movements:

  • Birsa Munda urged the people not to pay any taxes or rent to the British government and he attacked feudal department offices and British conversion missionaries.
  • Birsa Munda and his followers attacked so many British loyal places like police stations, and commissioner offices, they also killed two policemen and razed the churches and houses of zamindars.

4) What were the possible reasons for the formation of a tribal revolt against the British government?

Ans: The main reasons to form a revolt against the British government are mentioned below :

  • The land policies introduced by the British government attacked the tribal traditional process of the agricultural system.
  • The religious conversions taken by the British missionaries attacked the old traditional faith and the worship of God, as well as the religious and cultural beliefs of the tribal people.
  • The British government introduced a “Feudal zamindari system” in the Chhota Nagpur plateau area, which destroyed the local tribal farming system called “Khuntkatti” i.e. a group of indigenous tribes owning common land.
  • The British government also bought land contractors called “Dikus” as feudal landlords for the Adivasis forest areas.

5) What were the successes achieved by the tribal communities through the Rebellion Movement?

Ans: Significant Achievements are listed below:

  • After 8 years of Birsa Munda’s death in 1908, the British government enacted the “Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT)”.
  • The law prohibits the transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals and protects the ownership rights of the owners.
  • Subsequently, the British government abolished the forced labor called the “Veth Bigari” system.

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