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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Birsa Movement/ Munda Rebellion


  • Munda Movement (Rebellion) is one of the prominent 19th-century tribal rebellions in the Chotanagpur region near Ranchi between 1874 and 1901. It affected the area of about 400 sq. miles of South Bihar.

  • It was led by Birsa Munda from the year 1894. This revolt is also known as the 'Ulgulan revolt or Munda Rebellion', which means great commotion.

A course of Revolt:

  • The movement was born out of basic problems that affected the tribals in the colonial period.

  • Tribal people in the Chotanagpur area practiced the Khuntkatti system (joint holding by tribal lineages) till the mid 19th century.

  • The well to do revenue farmers, jagirdars, merchants, moneylenders, and dikus (non-tribals) from North India tried to replace the system with the typical Zamindari-tenancy system, which caused indebtedness and beth-gari (forced labor) among the tribal people.

  • Between 1780 to 1840, Mundas revolted 5 (five) times against the undue interference by the British administration, and the attitude of the landlords.

  • It is noteworthy that the movement had a distinct connection with Christianity in its early phase. The Mundas accepted Christianity with the belief that the German missionaries would help them against the exploitation of the zamindars. However, dissatisfaction with the German missionaries made them turn to a Catholic mission. But seeing the colonial ties between the colonial officers and the zamindars, the Munda Sardar turned against all outsides and finally rose in a rebellion ulgulan, led by Birsa Munda.

  • He formed 2 (two) military units- one for military training & armed struggle, the other for propaganda. He combined religion with politics and traveled across villages giving a discourse & building a politico-military organization.

  • He led the revolt against the British government imposed a feudal state system.

  • In the 1890s, Birsa Munda arrested the need for the Munda community to uproot superstition, stop animal sacrifice and avoid alcoholism.

  • In 1894 October, he mobilized a protest march for the remission of forest dues. During this struggle, he managed to bring the tribal community under a single umbrella and asked them to re-establish their own kingdom.

  • In 1899, he declared a rebellion to establish the Munda rule and encouraged the killing of 'jagirdars and Rajas and hakims (rulers) and Christians'. With support from the British, the scale of torture & discrimination only increased.

  • Birsa succeeded in mobilizing nearly 6000 Mundas armed with swords & spears, bows & arrows. There was the active participation of women in this movement.

  • In 1900, The rebellion was ruthlessly suppressed by the British forces. Birsa was arrested and he died in prison the same year by Cholera aged just 25.

  • Eight years after his death, the government enacted Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT), Act.


Birsa Munda: 

  • Birsa Munda was born in the Munda tribe in 1875. He is often referred to as 'Dharti Abba' or the father of Earth.
  • His struggle against the exploitation and discrimination against tribal led to the passing of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 which restricted the passing of land from the tribal people to non-tribals.



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