Remembering Bhagwan Birsa Munda

Remembering Bhagwan Birsa Munda

Image of Bhagwan Birsa Munda | source: By India Post, Government of India

Birsa Munda (15 November 1875 – 9 June 1900) was an Indian tribal freedom fighter, religious leader, and folk hero who belonged to the Munda tribe. He initiated and maintained tribal movement in the area, currently Jharkhand, in the late 19th century. His revolutionary activities against the British were mainly located in the Munda belt of Khunti, Tamar, Sarwada and Bandgaon. Birsa Munda’s slogan threatening the British Raj—Abua raj ete jana, maharani raj tundu jana (“Let the kingdom of the queen be ended and our kingdom is established”)—is still remembered in areas of Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh.

Thoughts and Contributions

Birsa Munda was born on 15 November 1875, at the village of Ulihatu in the Lohardaga district of Bengal Presidency — now in Khunti district of Jharkhand. His early life could not have been very different from that of an average Munda child — rolling and playing in sand and dust with his friends. While transiting through the life of poverty, he came in contact with a Christian missionary who visited a few families in the village which had been converted to Christianity.

However, he is known for reviving the tribal culture which was negatively affected by the missionaries. He opposed and criticized the Church and its practices such as levying of taxes and religious conversions. As a result, he built up a reputation of a healer, a miracle worker, and a preacher.

During the independence and revolutionary movement against the British, He was arrested at Jamkopai forest in Chakradharpur on 3 February 1900. 460 tribals were made accused in 15 different criminal cases, out of which 63 were convicted. One was sentenced to death, 39 to transportation for life and 23 to imprisoned for terms up to fourteen years. There were six deaths, including that of Birsa Munda in the prison during trials. Birsa Munda died in jail on 9 June 1900. His death also led to the downward spiral of the movement.

Recognitions

The Union Cabinet, at a meeting held on 10 November 2021, voted to observe 15 November, Birsa Munda’s birth anniversary, as Janjatiya Gaurav Divas, to remember the contribution of tribal freedom fighters.

Today, there are several organizations, bodies, and structures named after him, notably Birsa Munda Airport RanchiBirsa Institute of Technology Sindri, Birsa Munda Vanvasi Chattravas, Kanpur, Sidho Kanho Birsha University, Purulia, and Birsa Agricultural University. The war cry of the Bihar Regiment is Birsa Munda Ki Jai (Victory to Birsa Munda).

To mark the occasion, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will inaugurate भगवान बिरसा मुंडा स्मृति उद्यान सह स्वतंत्रता सेनानी संग्रहालय at Ranchi on 15th November 2021 via video conferencing. Along with Bhagwan Birsa Munda, the museum will also highlight other tribal freedom fighters associated with different movements such as Shahid Budhu Bhagat, Sidhu-Kanhu, Nilambar-Pitambar, Diwa-Kisun, Telanga Khadiya, Gaya Munda, Jatra Bhagat, Poto H, Bhagirath Manjhi, Ganga Narayan Singh. Museum will contain a 25 feet statue of Bhagwan Birsa Munda and 9 feet statue of other freedom fighters of the region as well.

OV Digital Desk