Tribal Revolts in India During British Period

By SATISH KUMAR GUPTA|Updated : November 9th, 2019

British colonialism faced revolt not only by the civilian population but also by the tribes of various regions throughout colonial India. The strong wave of resistance against British rule was there in present-day Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bengal and North-Eastern state.

Tribal Revolts in India During British Period

  • The tribal population of the contemporary Orissa region is considered to be first among these groups to revolt against the tyranny of British colonial rule.
  •  On the basis of the geographical area occupied by different tribal groups, these uprisings are further subdivided into two categories:
    (a) Uprisings by Non-frontier tribes
    (b) Uprisings by Frontier tribes

The major Causes for such tribal uprisings were:

  1. Exploitative land Revenue Policies and Expansion of agriculture and plantation activities on forested land by outsider non-tribal population in areas inhabited by the tribal population.
  2. Works of numerous Christian missionaries were looked with suspicion and as interference in social-economic customs of tribal population.
  3. Due to increased demand for wood for larger construction projects like the expansion of Railways various Forest Acts were passed that established complete Government monopoly over forested lands of tribal areas.
  4. The uprisings by the north-eastern tribal groups were usually reactions against outsiders (dikus), zamindars and rulers, the support provided to the latter by the British administration.
  5. Due to the induction of notion of the private property now the land could be bought, sold or mortgaged which led to the loss of land by the tribals.

1. Non-Frontier tribal revolts



Facts related to the uprising


Pahriyas rebellion

Place: Rajmahal Hills

Led by: martial Pahariyas

Cause: against the British expansion on their lands


Chuar uprising

Place: Bengal

Led by: Chuar aboriginal tribesmen

Cause: economic privatization by the British


Kol uprising

Place: Chotanagpur

Led by: Buddho Bhagat

Cause: British rule expansion and land transfers


Ho and Munda uprising

Place: Singhbhum and Chotanagpur

Led by: Raja Parahat and others

Cause: British expansion and revenue policy


Later Munda and Ulugulan uprising

Place: Ranchi and Chotanagpur

Led by: Birsa Munda

Cause: against feudal and zamindari system and exploitations by money lenders, denial of their rights over forested areas.


Santhal rebellion

Place: Bihar

Led by: Sido and Kanhu


· Against feudal and zamindari system and exploitations by money lenders. It later turned out Anti-British and was suppressed.

· Among the numerous tribal revolts, the Santhal uprising was the most remarkable one. When the    Permanent Settlement was introduced in Bengal in 1793, the Santhals were employed as laborers with the  promise of wages or rent-free lands. However, they were forced to become agricultural surfs, exploited at will.


Kandh uprising

Place: from Tamil Nadu to Bengal

Led by: Chakra Bisoi

Cause: Interference in tribal customs and imposition of new taxes.


Naikada Movement

Place: M.P. and Gujrat

Cause: against British and caste Hindus.


Kharwar rebellion

Place: Bihar

Cause: against revenue settlement activities.

1817-19 & 1913

Bhil revolts

Place: regions of Western Ghats

Cause: against company rule and to form Bhil Raj.


Bhuyan and Juang rebellion

Place: Kheonjhar,Orissa

Led by: Ratna Nayak and Dharni Dhar Nayak

Cause: Policy of annexation


Koya revolts

Place: Godavari region of Andhra Pradesh

Leader: Raja Anantayyar

Cause: against feudal and zamindari system and exploitations by money lenders, denial of their rights over forested areas.


Bastar revolt

Place: Jagdalpur area

Cause: New feudal and forest levies.


Tana Bhagat movement

Place: Chhota Nagpur area

Led by: Jatra Bhagat and Balram Bhagat.

Cause: against interference of outsiders, began as Sanskritization movement.


Rampa revolts

Place: Andhra Pradesh region

Leader: Alluri Sitarama Raju

Cause: Interference in tribal customs and imposition of new taxes.

1920 onwards

Jharkhand uprising

Places: Chhotanagpur region; parts of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal.

Adivasi Mahasabha was formed in 1937.


Forest Satyagrahas

Led by: By Chenchu tribals & by Karwars


· British interference in internal affairs of tribal areas

· British administrative innovations

· Excessive land assessments


Gond uprising

· To bring together the believers of Gond dharma.

2. North-East Frontier Tribal Uprisings





Ahom’s’ revolt

Place: Assam

Cause: against non-fulfilment of the pledges of the British after the Burmese War.


· The British had pledged to withdraw after the first Burmese War(1824-26) from Assam but in contrast, the British attempted to incorporate the Ahoms territories in the company’s dominion after the war.

· This initiated a rebellion in 1828 under the leadership of Gomdhar Konwar.

· Finally, the company decided to follow a conciliatory policy and handed over upper Assam to Maharaja Purandar Singh Narendra and parts of the kingdom was restored to the Assamese king.


Khasi’s revolt

Place: Hilly regions of Meghalaya

Leader: Nunklow ruler Tirath Singh

Cause: against the occupation of hilly regions.


· Due to the compulsory enlistment of labourers for road construction led the Khasis to revolt under the leadership of Tirath Singh, a Khasi chief. The Garos joined them.

· The long and harassing warfare with Khasis continued for four years and was finally suppressed in early 1833


Singhpho’s rebellion

Place: Assam

Cause: British interference in internal affairs of tribal areas and administrative innovations along with Excessive land assessments.


Kuki’s revolt

Place: Manipur

Cause: aginst  Britsih labour recruitment policies during WW1.


Zeliangsong Movement

Place: Manipur

Led by: Zemi and Liangmei tribes

Cause: British failed to protect these tribes during Kuki’s violence.


Naga Movement

Place: Manipur

Led by: Jadonang

It was against British rule and about setting up of a Naga Raj.


Hereka Cult

Place: Manipur

Led by: Rani Gaidinliu

As a result of this movement, Kabui Naga Association was formed in 1946

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