Thursday, July 25, 2024

Birsa Munda Jayanti: Trailblazer of Tribal Empowerment

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On 15th November, India celebrates Birsa Munda Jayanti. Today we remember the sacrifices of the esteemed tribal leader and freedom fighter Birsa Munda. Born in 1875, Birsa Munda emerged as a pivotal figure in the Indian independence movement. He has left an indelible mark on the struggle against British colonial rule in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Jharkhand’s Proud Son: Birsa Munda’s Enduring Legacy

Birsa Munda: The tribal folk hero who was God to his people by the age of 25 - India Today
PC India Today

In the heartlands of Jharkhand, where Birsa spent his formative years, the celebration of his Jayanti holds special reverence. This annual event is deeply embedded in the cultural roots and historical fabric of the state. The tribal communities of Jharkhand honor Birsa Munda’s legacy! As a freedom fighter, the Mundari folk songs and tales still nostalgically recall him fighting the British from the Khunti area in Jharkhand, the epicenter of his ulgulan (total revolt) between 1895 and 1900.

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Like most Adivais of the times, Birsa was also a victim of Christian conversion. He was named Daud after the missionaries converted him and his family.

However, Brisa later shed his Christian identity to retake his Munda legacy with pride. In a way he did a modern version of ‘Ghar Wapsi’!

His life was dedicated to the fight against Christian missionary conversions and the British Rule of India. 

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A Living Legacy of Tribal Empowerment

birsa munda saved freedom and dharma both from christianity and british - India Hindi News - धर्म बचाया और आजादी भी; कैसे 25 साल के बिरसा मुंडा ने जंगलों से मिशनरियों को
PC Hindustan

Local legends state that Birsa got the notion to lead Adivasis against the British Raj when he was struck by lightning! As his face glowed and turned reddish, his followers interpreted this moment as Birsa receiving divine power and blessings! Thus, for the Munda community and the Adivasis of Jharkhand, Birsa became a visionary religious guru known as “Bhagwan” or “Dharti Aba.” He often took inspiration from Munda traditions, Christianity, and Hinduism to guide his followers in rituals and prayers. Slowly Birsa utilized the public’s support and religious conviction to drive a political change. Reports say that he emerged his a political ideology focussed on the following:

  1. He declared all foreigners as Adivasis’ enemies or Dikus.
  2. He ordered his followers to arm themselves for a concerted resistance against the British.
  3. He proposed Munda Disum, which was a call to gain freedom from all Diku elements (usually foreign forces) in India. 

Thus, Birsa Munda’s legacy is not a vague force of uniting the Adivasis of Jharkhand. He was an active tribal leader who worked for his community. He was a freedom fighter who ensured that the British faced rebellion at every turn!

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Birsa Munda’s Light Still Guides Us

Birsa Munda: A Hero of Tribal Movement
PC The Tribal Tribune

In 1900, the British apprehended Birsa from the Jamkopai forest in Chakradharpur. At the age of 25, Birsa passed away on June 9, 1900, while still incarcerated in the Ranchi jail. The British authorities named cholera as the cause of death. However, this official cause of his death remains disputed.

As we celebrate Birsa Munda Jayanti, let us not only honor him as a freedom fighter but also the enduring spirit of freedom that lies in the heart of every Bharatvasi. Birsa Munda’s life teaches us that resilience, self-reliance, and unity can surmount the most formidable challenges. His journey continues to illuminate Bharat’s path, reminding us of the integral role that tribal communities played in India’s quest for independence.




  3.  The Indian Economic & Social History Review, 53(1), 69-98.
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