Bhagwan Birsa Munda’s movement (Part-III)

Birsa shook off his mortal coils, his followers died in prisons and on the gallows, many of his devotees perished while serving long sentences in British Jails, hundreds of men, women and children lost their lives on Sail Rakab hill, thousands left their hearth and home for Assam.
Many more changed their faith to escape capture. Calcutta press started agitation in favor of Mundas and in Bengal Council Sir Surendranath Banerjee championed their cause. The British Government had to relent and ultimately their Khuntkatti system was recognized, Survey and settlement of the district of Ranchi were ordered and Chotanagpur Tenancy Act was passed, Birsa was victorious even in his death.
Bhagwan Birsa Munda honored
Birsa hailed from a society which was disintegrating under the impact of culture change and it was in moribund stage. As a true leader of his people his role was to revitalize his moribund society and he borrowed elements from the dominant society, which is an important feature of the revivalist movement. It was Emulative and Resistant movement both rolled into one.
At the same time Birsa’s leadership was nativist too with a tinge of magical as well as rational nativism. He assumed the role of a great religious prophet of his people and used supernatural techniques like use of Mantras to drive away the ghost, curing the sick, reviving the dead prediction of the coming deluge when only one dry spot would be that of a hill at Chalked where he lived that the sprinkling of Birsa would make his followers warriors invincible and that the bullets of the armed forces would turn into water etc.
Birsa’s religion incorporated so many elements of Hindu religion like the emphasis on purity, cleanliness, abstention from meat-eating and, the wearing of sacred thread. This must be considered as a primarily reformation movement this typical feature of prophetic revelation and legitimacy is usually found.
The Birsa religion was legitimized by drawing from the tenets of the Hindu and the Christian religions and it also originated in a prophecy.
Another typical characteristic of such reformation movement “is healing the body” and naturally Birsa is said to have professed to cure any disease and to raise the dead also. This one of the reasons that he could catch the eye of his people all over the Munda country, and was elevated to the position of a Bhagwan or God, though Birsa himself proclaimed that he was prophet of the Sing Bonga. Dhari Aba or father of the world was a favorite name applied to Bhagwan Birsa by his disciples.

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