Birsa Munda

Indian tribal freedom fighter

Birsa Munda (15 November 1875 – June 9, 1900) was an Indian tribal freedom fighter, religious leader, and folk hero who belonged to the Munda tribe.

Birsa Munda statue by Nabhendu Sen at Naya More, Bokaro Steel City, Jharkhand


  • Birsa Munda, whose Munda rebellion started with attacks on mission posts in 1899, claimed to have visions after the mode of the Biblical prophets, but told his flock to give up animal sacrifice, witchcraft and intoxication and to wear the sacred thread, all amounting to a kind of self-sanskritization. While such charismatic leaders come and go, the tradition of tribal nativism continues, and the VKA seeks to channel it towards integration into a larger Hindu activism. Gérard Heuzé ... aptly notes that the tribal rebellions of the 19th century, such as the 1830 Kol movement, the 1855 Santal Hoot and the 1899 Birsa rebellion, were incorporated by the Freedom Movement in its vision of a native tradition of struggle against foreign invaders (embodying 'the authentic spirit of the nation'), though in fact, exploitation by native (Hindu and Muslim) landlords and money-lenders had also played a role in provoking the tribals into rebellion.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743, with reference to Gérard Heuzé (Où va l'Inde moderne? p. 1 33)
  • Thus, since 1947, several legal amendments to prohibit and effectively thwart conversions by force or fraud (practices documented in the 1956 Niyogi Committee Report, internationally misrepresented by missionaries as an attack on the freedom of religion) were pushed by tribal MPs. For another example, the genuinely indigenous revolt led by Birsa Munda in 1899 was modelled on the Hindu reform movement Arya Samaj (he wanted his fellow tribesmen to renounce witchcraft, intoxication and animal sacrifices, and to wear the Brahminical sacred thread), and started with an attack on a mission post. Birsa receives only a single and quite scornful mention in this book, eventhough he is still a national hero for the Mundas.
    • Elst, K. Father Rasschaert's martyrdom, India, Shanti Darshan Belgo-Indian Association (1996) [1]
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