Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the legend who united the nation, was born in a small town of Nadiad, a few kilometers away from his family residence in the Karamsad village, Gujarat. Although the entire country commemorates his achievements as the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas or the National Unity Day on his birthday, 31st October, it is interesting to know that this date is, in fact, not his real birth date!
Well, this is not quite as strange as it sounds. In those days, it was common for parents to forget their children’s birthdays. Belonging to a huge family of farmers and having four other children, Vallabhbhai’s mother was no different. So, when a young Vallabh had to fill his school examination form, he randomly entered 31st October 1875 as his date of birth. Since then, the entire country remembers the great man on this date.
So how did a man from a humble family of farmers become the first Home Minister of the country? Let’s go back in time and live the journey of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Iron Man of India.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: The Iron Man of India
A Young Vallabhbhai
Vallabhbhai Patel's initial education began relatively late. He was already 7 or 8 years old when he joined the village school. Here, he learnt Gujarati and Arithmetic, but the ambitious boy wanted more. So, when he reached the age of 14, he persuaded his father to send him to an English School. After finishing his fifth grade, he desired to join a school in the town of Nadiad. However, his father, who had high hopes from his other children, wanted Vallabh to stay in the village and look after the family’s fields. But Vallabh was not the kind of child who would surrender without a fight. He persisted, and finally, his father had no choice but to give his consent.
At the age of 22, when most people today complete their graduation, Vallabhbhai Patel passed high school. But he knew very well what path he wanted to pursue.
Young Vallabhbhai Patel
The Famous Barrister
In those days, people weren’t obsessed with doctors or engineers. Instead, it was the field of law that attracted hordes of Indians. And why not?! Barristers who returned from England attracted lots of wealth and fame in Indian society. Maybe that’s why notable people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, etc. pursued law. For Vallabhbhai, a young man from a humble background, becoming a barrister was the answer to solving all his financial and esteem needs.
However, studying law was a costly affair. He didn’t even have enough resources to purchase books or attend a local law college. So, he borrowed books from his friends and studied law on his own. After three years of dedicated hard work, Vallabhbhai came one step closer to achieving his dream. He had passed the District Pleaders Examination and now earned large sums of money by fighting criminal cases. In some time, he saved up sufficient money to support his trip to England. But fate had a different plan.
Vallabhbhai had to wait a little longer as his elder brother boarded the ship to England first. It was in 1910 when Vallabhbhai was 35 years old, he attended the famous Middle Temple of England and passed his law examination with a first division. He finally became a barrister!
Vallabhbhai Patel with his elder brother Vithalbhai
An English Man turned Swadeshi
In 1913, Vallabhbhai returned from England and established his practice in Ahmedabad. However, Britain had its magical effect on him. He left the traditional apparel of Indians and embraced western-style suits and stylish shoes. He mostly spoke English and had become an "English Babu" in every sense. Being one of the most famous and highest-paid lawyers in the town, he lived life lavishly in a double-storeyed house opposite Gujarat Club, his favourite hangout place.
Another barrister who was attracting a large population of Indians, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was a subject of mockery for Vallabhbhai initially. He didn’t find Gandhi’s ideals of non-violence and satyagraha practical concepts to free the nation from the British Raj. But Gandhi’s victory in the Champaran movement of 1917 changed Vallabhbhai’s perception towards him completely. He gave up his successful law practice and followed Gandhi’s footsteps to oust the Britishers from India.
Vallabhbhai Patel with Gandhi
The English Man now altered his lifestyle drastically. From western suits, he shifted to wearing Khaki Kurtas and dhotis. He adopted a simple living, slept on the floor, ate plain food, and performed all his chores.
The Respected Sardar
Vallabhbhai soon showed the country his mettle. His back to back victories in the satyagrahas organised by Gandhi proved that he was not merely a man of words but action. His first victory in the Kheda movement- a non-tax campaign against Britishers made him the first president of the Gujarat Provincial Congress Committee in 1920. He became the right-hand man of Gandhi.
His victory in the Bardoli tax movement was one of his most exemplary achievements. The Bardoli movement was one of its kind non-violent satyagraha that involved the participation of farmers from varied communities such as Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, etc. who were fighting against the unjust tax hike of the British government. The movement also had the active participation of women who later lovingly awarded Vallabhbhai the title of “Sardar” meaning great chief.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel