Dharti Aba Birsa Munda

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Father of the earth


Introduction:   Birsa Munda (1875–1900) was an Indian tribal freedom fighter and a folk hero, who led heroic struggle against the British raj in the tribal belt of the Jharkhand. It is popularly known as ‘ULGULAN’ which made him an important figure in the history of the Indian independence movement.



He was a great visionary son of the soil and his own folk. At an early stage of life, he realized that the Britishers have come to this land to exploit and torture the tribals and carry wealth to their homeland. Tribals were double tier victim of local landlords and Britishers. The tribals, who were the real owner of this land were humiliated and treated as slaves in their own land.

Childhood of Birsa Munda:

Birsa Munda was born into the family of Suguna Munda (father)and Karmi Munda(mother) on 15 November in the year 1875 on Thursday at Ulihatu, Khunti, Jharkhand, India and he was named after the day of his birth according to the then prevalent Munda custom. He was one of the several children of his family. He has to move around along his parents from Ulihatu to Chalkad and other places in search of livelihood. Birsa had his lower primary schooling at a German Mission School at Burju. After his primary schooling he studied at Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Mission School, Chaibasa run by German missionaries.

One day the Father at the school was narrating the children about the Kingdom of Heaven. The young Daud Purty (Baptised name of Birsa) questioned the Father –

Where was this Kingdom of Heaven? When there was so much exploitation of tribals by zamindars and landlords in their own homeland”. It was like morning shows the day.

Causes of movement:

While studying and after his schooling he lived near Chaibasa where he was influenced by the Sardar movement against British’s. He realized the pain and anguish of his own people and transformed into a fighter for tribal’s cause. Before the British Colonial rule, the motherland, the nature and the forests were like mother to the tribals. The community owned the forest, land and other natural resources. The British Government came with their anti-people forest, land and other laws which stripped the tribals from their natural rights. They introduced moneylenders, landlords, traders, and mahajans, into the region to loot the adivasis people rampantly. They usurped the tribal lands, imposed taxes and reduced them into a slave-like situation in their Khunkhati (original ) land. The jamidars and other outsiders also harassed and exploited the tribal women. Against this oppression, the Birsa Munda led the Munda, Kol, Ho and Oraom tribe to fight against the illegal taxation policy imposed on them by the British imperialistic forces and to protect and preserve the rights over land, forest and water (Jal-Jungle-Jamin Adhikar). He gave a clarion call-“ULGULAAN” which shook the foundation of British establishment. And it was to this on-going struggle (Ulgulaan) of “Abua Disum” (Self rule) that Birsa Munda gave a new dimension and declared an end to Victorian rule and the establishment of Munda Rule. In his popular words

“Maharani raj tundu yana, Abue raj ete: jana”


The rule of Queen Victoria has ended and our self rule has started. He organized hundred of tribes in hilly inaccessible tracks of Chottenagpur areas which proves charismatic leadership and strategic was skills. In the call to final battle against british in 1895, the Munda warriors congregated on “Domabri Buru”. They set on fire the British buildings and killed many police men. Subsequently British forces opened indiscriminate firing against Birsa and his groups at Domabri Buru. As per the editorial of the Statement, published on March 25, 1900 more the 400 adivasis scarified their life for the land.


He was treacherously caught on 3rd February 1900 at Jamokpai forest near Chakradharpur. Deputy Commissioner of Ranchi revealed that 460 tribals were made accused in 15 different criminal cases, out of which 63 were convicted, one was awarded capital punishment.39 were sentenced to transportation for life and 23 were imprisoned for terms up to 14 years.  Birsa died in mysterious conditions on 9th June 1900 in Ranchi Jail. It is believed that he was poisoned to death in the central jail of Ranchi. His struggle and sacrifice has inspired millions of Indian for forceful fight against British’s later on. The British Government was forced to enact a law called Chottnagpur Tenancy Act which protects the land of trials from outsiders. He is considered a symbol of tribal insurgence against the foreigners throughout the country.


Even today, however, Birsa Munda presently is being worshipped as Icon Birsa Munda -” Dharti Aba” (Father of the earth), and is remembered as the young leader who trembled the British Raj with his slogan.


(Popular pictographically representation of Birsa Ulgulan)

Birsa Munda in Memorials:

Birsa Munda is the only tribal leader whose portrait is hanged in the Central Hall of Indian Parliament, the rarest honor bestowed on the freedom fighters nation. Today, there are a number of organizations, bodies and structures named after him, notably,- Birsa Munda Airport Ranchi, Birsa Institute of Technology, Sindri, Birsa Munda Vanvasi Chattravas, Kanpur, Sidho Kanhu Birsa University, Purulia, and Birsa Agricultural University,The Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium,  Birsa Institute Of Technical Education (B.I.T.E. Ramgarh), Birsa Munda Central Jail.


The war cry of Bihar Regiment in Indian army is- “Birsa Munda Ki Jai” (Victory to Birsa Munda), a great tribute and source of inspiration for soldiers. In 2008, Hindi film based on the life of Birsa, “Gandhi Se Pehle Gandhi” was directed by Iqbal Durran based on his own novel by the same name.  Another Hindi film, “Ulgulan-Ek Kranti (The Revolution)” was made in 2004 by Ashok Saran, in which 500 Birsaites and followers of Birsa acted. Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, writer-activist Mahasweta Devi’s historical fiction, “Aranyer Adhikar” (Right to the Forest, 1977), a novel for which she won the Sahitya Akademi  Award for Bengali in 1979, is based on his life and the Munda Rebellion against the British Raj in the late 19th century. birsa7


1.”THE ‘ULGULAAN’ OF ‘DHARATI ABA’ Birsa Munda”. 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2012. “He was lodged in Ranchi jail, for trial along with his 482 followers where he died on 9 June 1900″.

2.K S Singh, Birsa Munda and His Movement 1872-1901, 1983, 2002, Seagull Publication.

3.Birsa Munda commemorative postage stamp and biography India Post, 15 November 1988.

4.Tribals celebrate Birsa Munda birth anniversary Times of India, 18 November 2001.

5.Homage to Bhagwan Birsa Munda on his Birth Anniversary at Ranchi Raj Bhavan (Jharkhand) Official website. 15 November 2008.

6.Bihar Regiment

7.Film “Gandhi Se Pehle Gandhi” is on Birsa Munda

8.“Ulgulan-Ek Kranti” (The Revolution).

9.Biography for Mahasweta Devi, Ramon Magsaysay Award Official website.

  birsa8 birsa9


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