Komaram Bheem was an Indian freedom fighter who belonged to the Gond Tribe communities of central and south-central India which are now officially designated as the Scheduled Tribes in India. He is best known for fighting against the local rule of Hyderabad ‘Nizamat’ along with other Gond leaders and revolutionary freedom fighters. An army was formed by Komaram Bheem to fight against the Nizams and the colonial rule in the early 1920s, and in 1946, this army ultimately merged into the Telangana Rebellion after his death in 1940. Komaram Bheem was killed in an open fire encounter by British officials in 1940. The Adivasi and Telugu folklore often remembers his patriotism and sacrifice for the people of India as a symbol of rebellion. The Gond culture worships him like a god who made history for their people while fighting against the Hyderabadi Nizams and the colonial rule. The slogan titled ‘Jal, Jangal, Zameen’ which means Water, Forest, Land was raised by him, and it was a symbol against the intrusion of Nizams and Britishers in the territories and rights of the Adivasis. This slogan was an Adivasi movement that was initiated by Komaram Bheem against the Telangana state and the Britishers.
Komaram Bheem was born on Tuesday, 22 October 1901 (age 39 years; at the time of death) in Sankepalli, Hyderabad State, British India (present-day Telangana, India). His zodiac sign is Libra. He did not receive formal education.
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name was Komaram Chinnu. His mother’s name is not known. He had a younger brother named Kumra Jangu, who was married to Kumra Jangu.
Wife & Children
Komaram Bheem was married to Som Bai. His grandson’s name is Sone Rao.
Komaram Bheem was brought up in the forests of Chanda and Ballalpur kingdoms of Hyderabad, which were the main abode for tribal people of South-central India. The ancestors and family of Komaram Bheem used to shift from one place to another in the dense forests of Hyderabad to escape the exploitation of the local zamindars and the businessmen who used to extort the Gondi people with the help of the local forests officials. In the early 1900s, when Komaram Bheem was a child, mining activities were strictly expanded in the region by the state government that affected the livelihood of the Gondi communities. The lands of the Gondi people were forcefully granted to the zamindars who imposed heavy taxes on the Gondi Podu farming activities. The brutal arbitration by the zamindars was the result of any refusals by the Gondi people. This forceful capturing of the cultivation land from the Gondi people resulted in their migration from one forest area to another, and such harsh rules motivated the Gondi people to often protest and retaliate against the Nizams of Hyderabad. Komaram Bheem’s father was among those who were killed by the forest officials in these protests against the state government rule.
At the age of fifteen, Komaram Bheem lost his father. His family moved to Sardapur from Sankepalli soon after the death of his father. His family started subsistence farming on the unproductive land of a local zamindar named Laxman Rao at Sardapur. They were forced to pay tax on cultivating barren land. In October 1920, a senior official named Siddiquesaab, who was sent by the zamindar Laxman Rao, came to seize the crops of Komaram Bheem’s family at the time of harvest, and the official was killed by Komaram Bheem in a scuffle. To escape the police arrest, Komaram Bheem and his friend Kondal ran away on foot from the crime scene. He was sheltered by Vitoba who was running an anti-British and anti-Nizam network across the regional railways in Hyderabad state. Vitoba taught Komaram Bheem Hindi, English, and Urdu languages during his stay with him. Komaram Bheem and his friend moved to Assam soon after the arrest of their friend Vitoba by the Britishers. For four and a half years, Komaram Bheem stayed in Assam, and during that time, he worked in tea plantations. Komaram Bheem got involved in the labour union activities of the tea plantation units of Assam that ultimately led to his arrest. However, he escaped the prison only after four days of his arrest, and by boarding a goods train, he came back to Hyderabad and started living in Ballarshah.
Follower of Alluri Sitaram Raju
Komaram Bheem came to know about the Adivasi movement called the Rampa Rebellion of 1922 which was started by Alluri Sitaram Raju when Komaram was in Assam. Komaram Bheem used to listen to the tales of Alluri Sitaram Raju and his bravery since his childhood from Ramji Gond. This motivated Komaram Bheem to stand alone for the rights of the Adivasis, and soon, he started opposing the colonial rule and Nizams of the state.
Komaram Bheem shifted to a village named ‘Kakanghat’ along with his family members and started cultivating on the land of the head of the village Lacchu Patel. Lacchu Patel initiated land legal actions against the Asifabad estate with the help of Komaram Bheem who gained experience in legal matters during his stay in Assam. Soon, Komaram Bheem took permission from Lacchu Patel to get married to Som Bai. Soon, they shifted to the Bhabejhari village and started cultivating a piece of land there to earn their livelihood. He was again threatened to leave the land by the forest officials at the time of harvest. The officials stated that the land belonged to the Nizams and so the crops. This time, he decided to directly approach Nizams along with the Adivasi grievances; however, all his efforts were in vain when Nizams did not respond to his grievances.
Komaram Bheem experienced repeated failures and disappointments after his continuous plead to the government. This peaceful fall down encouraged him to form his own army to fight against the Nizams of Hyderabad for the rights of Adivasis. Soon, he initiated an arm revolution against the oppression of the government and formed a secret army with the assistance of the Community Party of India. He then started assembling the revolutionary Adivasi freedom fighters at Jodeghat in Telangana and also involved the tribal leaders from the twelve districts of the state including Ankusapur, Bhabejhari, Bhimangundi, Chalbaridi, Jodeghat, Kallegaon, Koshaguda, Linepatter, Narsapur, Patnapur, Shivaguda and Tokennavada. A Guerilla Army was formed by Komaram Bheem, along with his companions, which was later declared as an independent army of the Gond Adivasis for the protection of their land and crops. Soon, the army men of Gond kingdom found attacking the landowners of the Babejhari and Jodeghat districts in 1928. In the same year, a large number of people from the Gond community started participating in this rebellion.
Soon, Komaram Bheem and his army started rebelling furiously against the Nizams of Hyderabad, and consequently, the Nizams declared him the leader of the Gond kingdom. The collector of Asifabad went to Komaram Bheem for some negotiating deals on behalf of the Nizams who assured Komaram and his community that they would get back their land soon. However, Komaram Bheem rejected their offer by stating that the Adivasis not only wanted their land back but also they need the forest officials and the zamindars to be thrown out of their land, and Bheem also urged the Nizam government to set free the Adivasis who were imprisoned in the jails of the Britishers and Hyderabad state. The demands of Komaram Bheem were rejected by the state government, and for more than a decade, the conflicts between the Adivasi communities and the state government continued. During these ten years, over 300 men from the Adivasi communities were recruited by Komaram Bheem to strengthen his army. Later, he also started raising his voice and attacking government officials out of the Jodeghat area. During his struggle for the rights of the local Adivasis, Komaram Bheem pioneered the slogan Jal, Jangal, Zameen which means Water, Forest, Land.
Koma ram Bheem died on 27 October 1940 at Jodeghat, Hyderabad State, British India. He was killed by the Britishers in an open fire encounter. A member of his own army named Kurdu Patel, who was a havaldar in the Gond army, informed about the whereabouts of Komaram Bheem to the British officials. A team of 90 police officials that was led by Abdul Sattar (talukdar of Asifabad) encountered Komaram Bheem and his fifteen revolutionary companions in 1940. On the spot of their encounter, the bodies of Komaram Bheem and his companions were cremated by the Britishers soon after their killing. Various renowned media houses claimed the death date of Komaram Bheem to be October 1940. However, the Gondi people considered his death date to be 8 April 1940 that made it disputed.
- His real name was Kumram Bheem.
- Komaram Bheem is worshipped and praised in various Telugu folk songs. He is considered the notable leader of South-central India who was the writer of the Gond community through Bheemal Pen.
- The Gond Community of South-central Indian celebrates his death anniversary as Aswayuja Powrnami every year at his place of death at Jodeghat. Jodeghat was the centre of his operations. Following his death, his followers named Bhadu master and Maru master carried forward his rebellion movement.
- An Austrian ethnologist ‘Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf’ was appointed by the state government of Hyderabad after the death of Komaram Bheem to find out the facts of the rebellion initiated by Komaram Bheem and his Adivasi community members. Haimendorf claimed in his report that the rebellion was a result of the conflicts between the ruler of Hyderabad and the local Adivasis. He remarked,
Rebellions of aboriginal tribesmen against the authority of the government are among the most tragic conflicts between ruler and ruled” and that “it is always a hopeless struggle of the weak against the strong, the illiterate and uninformed against the organised power of a sophisticated system.”
Soon after the submission of the Haimendorf report, in the same year, in 1946, the state government validated the Hyderabad Tribal Areas Regulation 1356 Fasli in the state.
- The revolutionary movement started by Komaram Bheem resumed four years after his death, and in 1946, it merged into another ongoing movement of the state called the ‘Telangana Rebellion.’ The Communist Party of India and its revolutionary freedom fighters started the Telangana Rebellion against the Nizams of Hyderabad. Komaram Bheem’s slogan Jal, Jangal, Zameen was adopted by the Adivasi Gond communities to revolt against the political exploitation when the Naxalite – Maoist insurgency broke out in the state, and a war between the state and Adivasi communities was initiated during the uprising.
- A movie based on the sacrifices of Komaram Bheem was released in 1990. This was a Telugu movie ‘Komaram Bheem,’ which was directed by Allani Sridhar. This movie was a recipient of the Nandi Award.
- In the 21st century, Telangana was declared an independent state by the government of India that ultimately sustained the legacy of Komaram Bheem, and later, his battlefield ‘Jodeghat’ was declared as a tourist place by the government of India.
- ‘Sri Komaram Bheem Project’ – a dam and reservoir were named after Komaram Bheem in 2011 by the government of Andhra Pradesh. To honour his struggles for the Gond communities of south-central India, a sculpture was placed at the Tank Bund Road in Hyderabad.
- ‘Komaram Bheem Museum’ was constructed by the state government at Jodeghat in 2014 soon after the declaration of the independent state Telangana with the expenditure of Rs. 25 crores, and at Jodeghat hill rock, Komaram Bheem’s memorial was built. This memorial and museum were inaugurated in 2016. In the same year, the Adilabad district in Telangana was renamed after his name.
- A book titled ‘Adivasi Jeevanna Vidhvamsam’ was written by an Indian author named Mypathi Arun Kumar in 2016 on the life sacrifices of Komaram Bheem for the rights of Adivasi communities in India. In his book, Arun Kumar mentioned that the body of Komaram Bheem was brutally sieved with gunshots by the British officials so that no one could recognise him, and he continued writing that the officials feared that Bheem would come back to life. He mentioned,
Assuming that Bheem knew traditional spells, they feared he would come back to life…They shot him until his body became like a sieve and unrecognisable. They burned his body at the instant and left only when they were assured he was no more. A gond star had fallen on that day of Ashauja Porunima….The entire forest resounded with slogans like, ‘Komaram Bheem amar rahe, Bheem dada amar rahe’ (Long live Komaram Bheem).”
- In 2021, a Telugu movie titled RRR was announced to be released which was based on the freedom fighting struggles of Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju. The COVID-19 outbreak delayed its premiere in cinema halls. The movie portrayed the friendship between the two freedom fighters during the Adivasi Rebellions initiated by them in the South-central states of India before independence. S. S. Rajamouli is the director of the movie RRR.
- In 2021, the posters of the movie RRR displayed the Muslim look of Komaram Bheem portrayed by the notable South Indian actor ‘Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao Jr.’ His look was claimed wrong by Bheem’s grandson in a video interview that went viral on social media soon after the release of the poster of the movie. He stated in the interview that the directors of the movie were supposed to consult the family members of Komaram during the research procedure of the movie plot. He stated,
Had the director and writers consulted us for research information about our hero, we would have helped them out. Bheem fought for the land, water and other resources of tribals. Representing him as a minority community member is nothing but a distortion.”
He further added that the misrepresentation of Bheem’s in a Muslim look hurt the sentiments of the Gond Adivasis, and they would protest against the movie until the look of Komaram was not changed. He said,
By misrepresenting a hero we all worship as a god, the film has offended us Adivasis. We request Rajamouli to withdraw the Muslim get-up. If he doesn’t withdraw the look, we will surely protest against the movie.”
- An article titled ‘Komaram Bheem: A forgotten Adivasi leader who gave the slogan ‘Jal Jangal Jameen’ which was written by Indian author Akash Poyam claimed that Komaram Bheem was not a Hindu nationalist, and he did not fight for the rights of Muslims against the Nizams of Hyderabad.