Sunday, July 26, 2009

Statues, neighbours and heroic struggles - Episode 2

In my second update for this title, we have a revolutionary who’s attained godly status in merit of his exploits in the freedom struggle. Birsa Munda or Birsa Bhagwan is probably the sole recognized figure from the state given due recognition across the country for his part in the freedom struggle. Bizarrely enough this man was born in 1875, long after the embers of the 1857 revolt were cooling off, to give way to a feeling of resignation towards their subjugated fate.His revolution is similar to Siddho- Kano’s with a similar set of objectives and ideals. Educated at a missionary school, Birsa Munda had been aware of the inferior treatment that his people suffered from a young age. The Permanent settlement Act decreed that all forest land was now the property of the British Empire. This resulted in Birsa Munda’s family losing all their possesions and being driven to the point of poverty. By his 23rd birthday, Birsa Munda had managed to put together a small army of his followers and attack and terrorise British strongholds in the Chotanagpur region. Interestingly, Birsa Munda wasn’t just a freedom fighter who rose against the empire, he was also a preacher who rose against Christianity, and its tax paying laws. It was these situations that prompted his rise from a mere rebel to that of a god-man, a healer and eventually god himself. His birthday appropriately coincides with the date of the formation of the state. Even today, Birsa Munda’s achievement in gathering all the tribal factions and getting them to fight against a common enemy is no mean achievement. He was eventually captured and put to death in 1900. Although his revolution came after 1857 and was suppressed and finally came to an end by the turn of the century, it resulted in a shift in the East India Company’s handling of the Chotanagpur region. Today Birsa Munda is commemorated all across Jharkhand, to the pint where almost everything of note is named after him (airports, stadiums, universities and the like). Worshipped as a God, revered as a revolutionary, and sometimes even called a bandit who happened to be in the right place at the right time, Birsa Munda is an essential part of Jharkhand’s history in the freedom movement and its folklore. This homage to the man was at Charhi, a small town in the Hazaribagh district.