It's indeed remarkable how much we can learn from a leader. Seems about time to count number of posts that were inspired by Shri Narendra Modi ji, including this one. It was back in July'12 when I read about 63rd Van Mahotsav inauguration & my interest piqued in the long forgotten story of Mangadh hills.
Scrutinizing online/offline resources revealed many more interesting details. Here is a list of not so widely known Indian rebellions/resistance during British Raj before we talk about Mangadh/Bhil uprising.
English sources have two prime categories to group the rebellions.
1) Peasant Revolts
Key Details : Rose after great famine of 1770 in Bengal. Immediate cause of rebellion was restrictions imposed by the British on pilgrims visiting holy places among both Hindus and Muslims. Joint efforts by Hindu-Muslim religious groups.
Key Leaders : Bhawani Pathak, Devi Choudhurani, Maznoom Shah.
1.2 The Indigo Rebellion (1859-1862)
Key Details : Extreme profiteering by British on commercial crop Indigo. Harvesting season collided with regular food crops season. Non-violent movement.
Key Leaders : Not available. Just quote by farmer Haji Molla saying he would "rather beg than sow indigo"
Result :British government passed orders in November 1860, notifying that it was illegal to force the raiyats to cultivate indigo. (Hover ur mouse over word Indigo in blue above for info)
|Indigo Cultivation in Bengal 1860's|
1.3 Farazi Movement (1838-1848)
Key Details : Declared the country under British occupation to be Dar-ul-harb(Enemy territory) First ever no-tax campaign against the British Government. Armed struggle which eventually turns in to religious/anti-Hindu movement on the lines of Wahabi Movement.
Key Leaders : Shariatullah Khan and his son Muhammad Mushin (Dadu Mian)
Result : Movement died after death of Dadu Mian.
Quote from History Of Freedom Movement In India (1857-1947) by S. N. Sen
Quote from Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital: Rural Bengal Since 1770, Volume 3 by Sugata Bose on Farazi Movement.
1.4 Wahabi Movement (1830’s-1860’s)
This is sort of misfit in this list but I included to share some intriguing information.
Key Details : It's goal was to establish Muslim sovereignty/supremacy in India or a Dar-ul-Islam inspired by the Arabian Wahabi movement. This was more a religious movement, not resistance to British government. Quite interestingly British actually encouraged the movement to to enjoy fruits of the war between Sikhs and Muslims.
Key Leader : Founded by Shah Waliullah(died in 1762) and carried on Syed Ahmed Brelavi (1789-1831) belonging to Rai Baraili.
So why am I including this misfit movement here? Our Grand Old Party, Congress, proudly lists this movement in the list of India's struggle for freedom on their website.( Sure well read folks won't be surprised)
The failure of the outbreak of 1857 opened a new phase in India's struggle for freedom. The idea of open armed resistance against the British was at a discount, that it was not altogether discarded as is evident from the various rebellions which broke out in several parts of the country during the years 1859-1872. The most important of them were the Indigo Disturbances in Bengal, the movements of the Wahabis in Bihar, Bengal and other parts of the countrv and the Kukas in the Punjab.
2) Tribal Revolts
2.1 The Santhal Rebellion (1855-57)
Key Details : One of the earliest resistance to bonded labour in Bharat during British Raj. Heroic fight by tribals in Kahalgaon, Suri, Raghunathpur, and Munkatora areas of present day Jharkhand. British deploys infantry and artillery to quell the movement.(7th Native Infantry Regiment, 40th Native Infantry)
Key Leaders : Sidhu and Kanhu Murmu.
Result : Crushed brutally by cannons fire power against primitive weapons.
Charles Dickens, in English weekly Household words in the 1850s Volume 35 observed
There seems also to be a sentiment of honour among them (Santals); for it is said that they use poisoned arrows in hunting, but never against their foes. If this be the case- and we hear nothing of the poisoned arrows in the recent conflicts,-they are infinitely more respectable than our civilised enemy the Russians, who would most likely consider such forbearance as foolish, and declare that is not war
2.2 Munda Rebellion (1899-1900)
Key Details : One of the most important and prominent rebellion which took place after 1857.
Key Leader : Birsa Munda
Key Result : The Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act of 1908 provided some land ownership rights to the people and banned bonded labour of the tribal post Birsa Munda's death.
2.3 Jaintia and Garo Rebellion Rebellion (1860-1870s)
Key Details: Most widely known resistance to British from deep East India(Seven sisters states)
Key Leaders: Jaintias leader U Kiang Nongbah and Garo leader Pa Togan Sangma.
Key Details : The Bhils were largely concentrated in Khandesh (present day Maharashtra & Gujarat). Khandesh came under British occupation in 1818. The Bhils considered them as outsiders. On the instigation of Trimbakji, rebel minister of Baji Rao II they revolted against the Britishers.
Key Leader : Sewaram
So of all these little known rebellions what motivated me to write on Bhil movement that reached its apex in Mangadh hill massacre?
- This pertains to Gujarat's forgotten history and I was NOT taught about this during secondary/higher secondary education in Gujarat in my childhood!!
- According to Center for Development Studies(CDS) this was the biggest sacrifice for the cause of independence anywhere in the world.
- None of my Gujju friends had any inkling on this subject and wanted to share with them. (and my children and grandchildren)
- Just as Shri Modiji paid his respects(and on behalf of every Indian nationalist) by dedicating a Govind Guru Smriti Van with 1507 tree plantation along with various exhibits as a tribute to these heroes, I also wanted to pay respect in my little capacity.
Guru Govind and Bhagat Movement :
Guru Govind was not a Bhil, he was born a banjara (Gypsy) from Vedsa village near Dungarpur in Rajasthan in 1863. Read that again, Dungarpur, town known for other reasons (better not cited) in Gujarat today. Govind Guru was deeply moved when he saw that adivasis who traditionally owned land,forest and other resources did not have the basic necessities of life. He drew inspiration from Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati whom he met in 1881. He is also believed to be influenced by Swami Vivekananda and his Vedanta teachings. He started his reform movement among Bhils in 1892. The movement had, as its religious centerpiece, the concept of a fire God, which required his followers to raise sacred hearths in front of which Bhils pray while performing the purifying havan called dhuni. Guru Govind ji lost his wife and three children during the છપ્પનીયો દુષ્કાળ( 56th Draught?) in the year 1899-1900. This, although a personal tragedy, became turning point in his life and after this he became completely devoted to the upbringing and welfare of the Bhil community. With his persistent efforts and spiritual guidance, a section of Bhils named themselves 'Bhagat'(devotees) and stopped taking bride-price, drinking liquor, non-vegetarian food and abandoned the practice of animal sacrifice to the local deities. Bhils also began to bathe every day and sing sacred Hindu hymns. Guru also promoted live by agriculture and in peace with others, to abandon their exorcists and spirit mediums, to wear a yellow turban and rudraksh beads around their neck, and to fly a special flag over their houses.
Bhagatism depicted socio-religious renaissance. Bhil population of the states of Dungapur and Banswara in Southern Rajasthan became his followers.Guru Govind preached monotheism and moral precepts to the Bhils to convert them to mainstream Hinduism. Acceptance of the core belief in Karma, reincarnation, omnipresent and omnipotent God was one of his key message that Bhils received well.
Success of Guru's Bhagat movement had also become an eyesore for the missionaries working overtime even in those days to baptize the local community. David Hardiman (University of Warwick) notes
Perhaps the most important reason for the limited success of these missionaries was that they had in many cases been preceded by indigenous movements for social and religious reform which proved to have far greater resonance among the people. The most important of these was that of the Bhagats. These were adivasis who had developed a faith in Vaishnavite or Shaivite deities, and had reformed their lives accordingly. Commonly, they gave up meat, fish and liquor. They generally followed the bhakti path of worship, singingIt is important to note that this was not the only(or the first) 'Bhagat' movement. In the early 18th century, a Brahman Vaishnavite mystic called Mavji had also started such reformist movement. Another such leader, who emerged in the late nineteenth century, was called Surmal Das. He was a Bhil of Lasudia/Lusadia, which was in Idar State on the border between Gujarat and Rajasthan. In early life he had lived by robbery, but he later repented and spent thirteen years redeeming himself through hard penance, which it was believed gave him miraculous powers. He demanded that his followers give up killing animals, drinking liquor and practising witchcraft, abjure robbery and violence and live by tilling the land. He told them to worship the god Ram. Another Bhil leader Gulia (later he assumed the title of Maharaj: a saint) started similar reform campaign of religious nature. He asked them not to consume liquor or tadi. Influenced by his sermons, many of the Bhils became teetotalers. Smarting under the consequent loss of revenue from liquor sales, one of the dealers arranged to have Maharaj murdered. Another Hindu/Bhil monk named Viswanath Maharaj of Rewakantha also initiated a reformatory movement. He is said to have given the Hindu sacred thread, Janoi, to 75,000 Bhils. They all become Bhagats, i.e. devotees. They stopped drinking haro and tadi. They took vows not to eat meat, not to drink tap water and not to consume foods prepared by a non-Bhagat. These devotees would visit Maharaj’s place once a year on foot and take Prasad (sacred offerings) from him.
bhajans which celebrated their devotion to their deities.The missionaries most affected by Govindgir’s movement were those of the Irish Presbyterian Jungle Tribes Mission.
Coming back to Shri Govind Guru, in 1903, he set up main 'dhuni' on Mangadh Hill. It is said that on every Purnima(fool moon) day a mela(festival) was organized where he would deliver religious preaching. In 1905, Guru established village-level units of the Samph Sabha, a socio-religious organization to strengthen his Bhagat movement. Some accounts say by now the number of Bhagats in the organization had reached five lakhs. Under his leadership bhils made resolve to rise against oppressive policies of the British and forced farm labour imposed by the local princely rulers of Banswara, Santrampur, Dungarpur and Kushalgarh. Mobilized and motivated by Guru and with self-respect and self-confidence swelling, the Bhils placed a charter of 33 demands before the British by 1910 primarily relating to forced labour, high tax imposed on Bhils and harassment of the guru's followers by the British and rulers of princely states. The British, as elsewhere in other such movements across Bharat, were dismissive of such demands and refused to accept it. This is believed to be turning point when Bhagat Movement turned into rebellion. In 1913, the annual gathering of Samp-Sabha (on Magshar Punam) which was continuously held annually since establishment of main Dhuni in 1903 was approaching and Bhils had started to assemble for the same in the foothills of Mangadh two months prior to the fateful day of confrontation with British. As it is customary even today, back then the Bhils carried their traditional weapons such as spears and swords which fueled suspicion of revolt in British raks' minds. On 31st Oct,1913, guru's second-in command Punja Dhirji Parghi and his supporters attacked Gadra/Gadhran police station of the then Santrampur state near Mangadh in which an inspector Gulmohammed was killed. Rulers of princely states exploited this event to convince British that Bhils aimed to overthrow princely states and British Raj must be quelled. British forces started encircling the Mangadh Hill from three sides and neighbouring peaks under the command of British officers Major S. Bailey and Captain E. Stoiley. It is said machine guns and canons were brought loaded on donkeys and mules and positioned. British Mewar Bhil Corps and the police forces of the rulers of princely states led by three British officers surrounded Mangadh laying siege. An ultimatum was given to Bhils to vacate Mangadh hill by November 15, 1913. They refused. A final offer by the British administration via village head Dhirabhai and Nanjibhai to give Bhil farm labourers Rs.1.25 per plough per year was also rejected outright by the Bhils.
Now there is little discrepancy on the actual date of the massacre. Some sources suggests it was 13th November and others suggest 17th November(Magshar Sud Punam per Hindu calendar). Some. such as Mr. Sukhvir Singh Gehlot also suggests it was actually in 1908,7th December and not 1913.
Govind Guru was later captured, tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. Owing to his popularity and good conduct in jail, he was released from Hyderabad Jail in 1919 but banned from entering many of the princely states where he had a following. He settled down in Kamboi near Limbdi in Gujarat and died in 1931. Even today, his followers come to Kamboi to pay homage at the Govind Guru Samadhi Mandir. Punja Dhirji, his aide, was sentenced to life imprisonment and despatched to the Cellular Jail in the Andamans. He died years after he had served out his sentence.
Would like to conclude by saluting living legend Shri Modi ji to bring this story to mainstream and motivate me to write. It does not surprise me a tiny bit that following his announcement in July'12 to honor this forgotten Bhil community leader and true nationalist, Congress CM of Rajasthan also made a similar announcement in Nov'12. (After all Ashok Gehlot is only following a legendary leader like other millions of Indians. Can we blame him?!)
Culture And Integration Of Indian Tribes by Rann Singh Mann.
Hinduism, Gregorian Biblical BookShop, 1988.
|India Today Archive|
E-Book for Gujarati Readers :
Christianity and the Adivasis of Gujarat - by David Hardiman