Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel is a prominent character one is bound to come across when discovering about the latter half of the Indian freedom struggle movements that arose during the 20th century. Said to have been born on October 32, 1875 in Nadiad, Bombay Presidency, Vallabhbhai Patel went on to become the first deputy Prime Minister of the free republic of India.
Rightfully given the sobriquet ‘Iron man of India,’ Vallabhbhai Patel is credited with moulding the country into a unified nation as we know it. With a strong knack for persuasion and diplomacy and a vision of an integrated union of India he wished to bring to life, he was able to convince over five hundred princely states, who had been a part of the Dominion of India, to become a part of the country after independence from British rule.
His endeavour to solidify India as a republic went even further as he became the Minister of Home Affairs in the country under the leadership of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. During his short term, he worked to provide relief to the refugees who had fled Pakistan to arrive in Punjab and Delhi
In India, and around the world, he is awarded the endearment ‘Sardar’ — meaning chief — to symbolise his hard work and leadership under which India was equipped to stand as a strong, independent nation during the first few turbulent years of its inception as an integrated, democratic republic.
Even though Patel died in 1950, and was unable to see the fruits of his labour as India forged itself into a global superpower, his mark on the Indian freedom movement and how the country came to be is irrefutable, and his legacy unforgettable.
As an irreplaceable part of Indian history, here are 10 facts you might not know about the iron man of India:
1. Sardar Patel has received many aliases during his decades-long political career, courtesy of his unforgiving efforts to build a vital foundation for India to stand upon before and after independence. Besides being dubbed the Iron man of India, he is also recognized as the “patron saint of India’s civil servants” for having established the modern All India Service system.
2. Before he joined the freedom struggle with full vigour, Patel was a practitioner of law at Godhra, Borsad and Anand in the state of Gujarat, after passing the bar examination. It is believed that as a poor student, he used to borrow books from senior lawyers to study for his bar examination.
3. Patel was an exceptional student during his academic life. At age 36, Patel travelled to England and enrolled in the Middle Temple Inn, a higher education Institute for barristers. There, he graduated from a 36-month course in just 30 months and topped the final examination despite not having any experience of college education beforehand.
4. The exact date of Sardar Patel’s birth is still a matter of dispute. There are no recorded documents of his date of birth as he was born before recording such aspects became a norm. However, he wrote October 31 as his birthdate during his matriculation examination, and thus, his birth anniversary is celebrated on that day every year as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas or National Unity day to commemorate his efforts to unite India into an integrated whole.
5. Sardar Patel was not interested in joining the freedom struggle during its initial days, nor was he fond of the principles propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. But, after meeting Gandhi in 1917 in Godhra, Gujarat, he was taken with Gandhi’s vision and wisdom and went on to become one of his earliest political lieutenants and close confidants.
6. As a central political lieutenant of Gandhi, Patel quit his job as a practising lawyer to immerse himself fully in resisting the British colonial rule and fighting for freedom through the non-violent methods directed by Gandhi. Subsequently, he became the secretary of Gujarat Sabha after joining the Indian National Congress and remained an essential part of the party even after Independence.
7. As a social reformer, Sardar Patel worked extensively to eradicate many social evils that plagued Indian society at the time. He fought for the rights of minorities and negotiated emancipatory measures for the upliftment of women. He was also vocal regarding his support for the abolition of untouchability and the discriminatory caste system.
8. Known as the architect of the modern republic of India, Sardar Patel played a key role in the unification of India. He is credited with integrating a total of 562 princely states into the Republic of India due to his unbound wisdom and tactical knowledge.
9. Vallabhbhai Patel was posthumously bestowed with the Bharat Ratna — the country’s highest civilian award — in 1991 in recognition of his contribution to pre and post-independent India, forty-one years after his demise in 1950.
10. The Statue of Unity, constructed in honour of Sardar Patel and his unprecedented efforts in forging the country into a united republic, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Rashtriya Ekta Diwas in 2018. Standing on the banks of the Narmada river, it is 182m or about 600 feet tall, making it the tallest standing statue in the world. The statue was built at a reported cost of Rs 2,989 crore.