Birsa Munda About this sound pronunciation (1875–1900) was an Indian tribal freedom fighter, religious leader and folk hero who belonged to the Munda tribe. He spearheaded an Indian tribal indigenous religious millenarian movement that rose in the tribal belt of modern-day Bihar and Jharkhand in the late 19th century, during the British Raj, thereby making him an important figure in the history of the Indian independence movement. His achievements are even more remarkable for having been accomplished before the age of 25.
His portrait hangs in the Central Hall of the Indian parliament, the only tribal leader to have been so honored.
Birsa Munda was born on 15 November 1875 at Ulihatu, Ranchi District, in what was then Bihar, on a Thursday and hence was named after the day of his birth according to the then prevalent Munda custom. The folk songs reflect popular confusion and refer to both Ulihatu and Chalkad as his birthplace. Ulihatu was the birthplace of Sugana Munda, father of Birsa. The claim of Ulihatu rests on Birsa’s elder brother Komta Munda living in the village and on his house which still exists albeit in a dilapidated condition.
Birsa’s father, mother Karmi Hatu, and younger brother, Pasna Munda, left Ulihatu and proceeded to Kurumbda near Birbanki in search of employment as labourers or crop-sharers (saajhedaar) or ryots. At Kurmbda Birsa’s elder brother, Komta, and his sister, Daskir, were born. From there the family moved to Bamba where Birsa’s elder sister Champa was born followed by himself.
Due to poverty, he was taken to his maternal uncle’s village, Ayubhatu, where he lived for two years. He also accompanied his mother’s younger sister, Joni, to her new home in Khatanga, after her marriage.
He received his early education from a school at Salga, run by a Jaipal Nag. Being a sharp student he was persuaded by Jaipal Nag to attend German Mission School. Therefore, he was converted to Christianity as Birsa David and got enrolled in the school. He studied for a few years before opting out.
He was a visionary who played a crucial role in liberation of his community, the tribal people, who were exposed to persistent dominance by the British exploitative policies and atrocities. His own experiences as a young boy, when he traveled from one place to another in search of work provided him with an understanding of different matters from which the community was suffering due to the British oppression. After realizing the fact that the British company arrived in India to torture the people and carry the wealth abroad, he started spreading awareness to expose the agenda of British and gathered his army of tribals. The army responded with movements and protests against the injustice and treachery of the British Raj. He was an active participant in the revolt and is remembered as a relentless fighter who possessed the courage to fight the British. He also claimed himself to be a messenger of the almighty and told his followers to follow the concept of One God. His influential personality and motivational speeches encouraged the public to believe in the power of freedom, to dream of a different world than the one they lived in. His efforts for the restoration of full ownership rights of tribals exemplified his leadership and vision.