Birsa Munda was a tribal leader who fought against, and frightened British colonialists. He born to Munda community / tribe in a poor family. Birsa was very good in studies, so his uncle recommended him to join German Mission School. But one should be converted to Christianity in order to join the school. Birsa thus converted to Christianity and was renamed as Birsa David. Birsa stayed there (Chaibasa) for between 1886-1890. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s activities influenced father of Birsa Munda to withdraw his son from the school. The sardar’s agitation in which Birsa was thus caught up put the stamp of its anti-missionary and anti-Government character on his mind.
Birsa Munda advised people to follow the path of purity, austerity and prohibited cow- slaughters. He was against superstition, animal sacrifice and alcoholism. He claimed to be a messenger of God and found a new religion with ONE God – Birsaits. People started joining him. Many from Christianity too. Christian missionaries started working against him claiming that his points are ridiculous and absurd. His system was directed against the church which levied a tax. The concept of one God appealed to his people. He gave orders to the tenant farmers to pay no rents. The mundas called him Dharati Aba, the father of earth.
The communities like Mundas, Oraons, and Kharias starts visiting him. Folk songs were used by him to spread messages. Birsa Munda advised tribal people to pursue their original traditional tribal religious system. He soon became a prophet figure to the tribal people. The Christian missionaries wanted to arrest Birsa and his followers, who were threatening their ability to make converts. Birsa went underground for two years but attending a series of secret meetings.
In 1899, thousands of men and women assembled to herald the revolution which soon spread to other areas like Khunti, Tamar, Basia, and Ranchi. The Anglican Mission at Murhu and the Roman Catholic Mission at Sarwada were the main targets. The Birsaits openly declared that the real enemies were the British and not Christian Mundas and called for a decisive war against the British. Soon, the British administration set a reward of Rs 500 for Birsa. The British forces attacked Munda guerillas at Dumbari Hill, killing hundreds of people. Birsa escaped to the hills of Singhbhum.
Birsa was arrested at Jamkopai forest in Chakradharpur on March 3, 1900. According to Deputy commissioner Ranchi, vide letter, 460 tribals were made accused in 15 different criminal cases, out of which 63 were convicted. One person was sentenced to death, 39 to transportation for life and 23 to imprisoned for terms upto fourteen years. There were six death, including that of Birsa Munda in the prison during trials. After going through brutal torture in the prison, Birsa Munda died on 9th June 1900. Birsa Munda’s movement forced colonial government to introduce new laws so that the land of the tribals could not be easily taken over by the British.
Birsa Munda portrait hangs in the Indian Parliament Museum. He is the only tribal leader to have been so honoured. He was just 25 when he died. He was born on 15th of November, 1875 and died on 9th of June, 1900. Birsa Munda’s birth anniversary (15 November), is celebrated by tribal people in Jharkhand and also in South of India, Mysore and Kodagu districts. Nearly every major institutions, airport, stadium, and the Central Jail in Jharkhand is named after Birsa Munda.
Pa. Ranjith’s Movie
The director of Rajinikanth’s Kabali and Kaala, Pa. Ranjith’s new is about Birsa Munda in Hindi. What made Pa. Ranjith interest in the topic is simply his life. Whoever followed Ranjith’s movie will know why he is keen on making this subject. It is his cup of tea. His messages through movies like Kaala was loud, clear, and so powerful.