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Remembering Birsa Munda: Charismatic voice of tribals, folk hero, freedom fighter

By Siddharth Gupta
Updated on :
Remembering Birsa Munda: Charismatic voice of tribals, folk hero, freedom fighter

Long before Mahatma, Bhagat Singh, and Jawahar jolted British’ progress in India, it was a skinny tribal chap, named Birsa Munda, who first brought fright to the nerves of the English men.

Born on November 15, 1875, Birsa belonged to the Munda tribe in the Chhotanagpur Plateau region.

His family would move from village to another over and over. On the directions that his teacher Jaipal guided him to, he converted to Christianity for it was the only way to study in a missionary school – German Mission School.

Birsa Munda: Charismatic voice of tribals from Jharkhand
Image Source: Firstpost Hindi

After a few years of seeing how missionaries operate closely, he left Christianity to start a new faith called ‘Birsait’. During his time with Christianity, he had attained the understanding of the Britisher’s rule and how they were using the missionaries to convert tribals to their religion. Britisher’s were attacking the very foundation of the tribal community, asking them to change their way of life, their religion and even their attire.

Birsait turned out to be a tough nail to fight against for the Britisher’s and it was only a matter of time when members of Birsa’s community, Munda, and that of Oraon, one more tribe from central/east India, started inclining towards the Birsait way of life. Birsa was a pure visionary, way ahead of his time, he urged people to not involve themselves in witchcraft and alcoholism.

According to him people should have faith in God and observe a code of conduct.

Another turning point of Munda’s life came when he lived for almost four years in Chaibasa, the epicentre for the Sardars agitation. It is after his stay at Chaibasa town that he became more vocal against the British oppression of tribals.

Birsa Munda: Charismatic voice of tribals from Jharkhand
Image Source: Wikipedia

Birsa worked for protecting the social and the cultural fabric of the tribal community and gave his life to safeguard the values of his people. Birsa’s voice was one amongst the firsts against the Britisher’s regime of imperialism and oppression, where the English would gain indirect domination by interfering in the everyday family affairs of the lives of the tribal people.

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On March 3 1900, the first year of the 20th century, Munda was arrested by the British forces from a forest in Chakradharpur. Three months later on June 9, Jharkhand lost its biggest hero, Birsa had died in Ranchi jail at a very young age of 25. Though the tribal movement fizzled after his death, his audacity, his values carries themselves in the veins of the people India even today.

Even after 118 years of his death, his life of 25 years is celebrated throughout the country and is still the biggest story from tribal India.

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