Over One Billion People.

Over One Thousand Languages.

Over One Hundred Castes.

Over One Dozen Religions.

How and why did such a vast group of people become One Nation?

Map India fractured.jpg
Broken and Fractured : This is what India could have looked like had it not been for the stellar contribution of two great men!

Now that’s an interesting thought and discussion to have with your children this Independence Day!

The Story of India
In 1946, when the British decided to leave India within the next one year, they gave local kings the right to choose what they wished to do after their exit. The Rajas and Nawabs were told they could join either India or Pakistan or remain free. The choice was theirs.

pre 1947 map.jpg
The Native Indian States (marked in white) were ruled by Rajas and Nawabs, who had accepted British paramountcy. With the exit of the British, the paramountcy lapsed and they were free to do as they wished. They would join India or Pakistan or remain independent.

Both the Congress and the Muslim League swung into action to approach the various royals to join India or Pakistan respectively.

As India was to be partitioned on religious grounds, it was expected that kingdoms with a majority of Hindus would join India while those with a Muslim majority would go with Pakistan.

However, there were several states where the choice was not so easy.

India or Pak
As Partition was to take place on religious grounds, Kingdoms with a Hindu majority went with India and those with a Muslim Majority went to Pakistan. But for many kingdoms, the choice was not so easy.

States such as Kashmir where the ruler was Hindu and the population, a mix of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists found themselves sitting on the fence.

States such as Junagadh in Gujarat where the ruler was Muslim but the population largely Hindu, were also on a wet wicket.

Kashmir accedes
The present-day situation in Kashmir is a fall-out of events that happened way back in 1947-48.

Some other states such as Travancore (present-day Kerala), Bhopal (present-day Madhya Pradesh) and Hyderabad (present-day Telengana) did not wish to join either India or Pakistan and saw this as their opportunity to be an independent nation.

The Nizam of Hyderabad, the richest state of India, had no intention of joining India and prepared a guerrilla force to fight to remain independent.

The Nawab of Bhopal indicated his desire to remain a separate country.

The Maharaja of Jodhpur was presented with a signed blank sheet of paper by Jinnah to put in whatever conditions he wanted to join Pakistan.

The eccentric Nawab of Junagadh, who declared a state holiday to celebrate the marriage of his pet dogs, joined his kingdom in the heart of Gujarat with Pakistan!

Junagadh map.png
Junagadh, deep within Indian territory, acceded to Pakistan! Had that gone through, a piece of Pakistan would have been within Indian borders. (another East Pakistan situation)

Travancore, the southernmost Indian kingdom, declared itself to be an independent country!

Such was the situation in mid 1947 when India stood at the threshold of Freedom. A perfect recipe for Disaster.

Bringing Order to Chaos

It was then that two men took charge of the chaos and carved out a nation.

On the broad shoulders of Sardar Patel and V.P Menon fell the task of uniting over 563 kingdoms across the length and breadth of the subcontinent into one country.

patel and menon
Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon took upon the humongous task of integrating over 500 kingdoms into a nation in record time.

The States Ministry was constituted to bring about the unification with a 72 year-old Patel at the helm. Patel was also in charge of the critical Home Ministry and a member of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India.

V.P Menon, who had ably assisted Patel for a number of years had expressed his desire to retire from public service, now that India was about to achieve her dream of freedom. But far from allowing him to disappear into quiet retirement, Patel roped him in, in the task of carving out modern India.

What they did and how they did in such record time is a long long story.

They tried every method they could. From gentle requests to stern threats. From encouraging mass opposition to out-right military solutions. Few people know that a full-scale military operation was launched against the state of Hyderabad (now Telangana) by the Indian Army before it became a part of India. Or that a war broke out in Kashmir compelling Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to India. The story of Accession and Integration is truly remarkable.

Incredible. Unparalleled. Historical.

Had it not been for their toil and efforts, the Indian map would have looked dangerously different.

India would have had large glaring gaps within her borders and what’s more, a part of Pakistan and other nations right inside her belly!

The India that is. And the India that could have been. But for the Iron Man of India.  (Vallabbhai Patel National Memorial, Ahmedabad)

That such a vast number of people belonging to so many different languages, religions, castes and regions became one nation is the legacy of these two men.

Three Museums

If this story grips your attention, I would recommend three Museums in India where you can learn more about this fascinating saga in India’s History.

National Memorial Ahm.jpg
Housed in the grand Moti Shahi Mahal built in 1622 by Shah Jehan, the Sardar Patel National Memorial and Museum in Ahmedabad is one of the finest museums I have seen in India. The interactive exhibits and the thoroughly well-maintained vast collection are a delight to see.

Sardar Patel Memorial and Museum, Ahmedabad

One is often found lamenting about the state of museums in India. Not the Sardar Patel Museum in Ahmedabad. It fills you with pride.

The setting and location are impressive (Moti Shahi Mahal built by Shah Jehan in 1622), the vast collection is over whelming and the interactive exhibits are fascinating.

Photography was not permitted inside the Museum and hence I have no photos of the inside to add here but do make it a point to stop here on your visit to Ahmedabad. You will be only too glad that you did. And slot at least 2-3 hours if you really want to to justice to the collection. (Interested to know about another fantastic museum in Ahmedabad? Click here.)

Patel’s Childhood Home and Museum in Karamsad, Gujarat

As I was researching the life of Sardar Patel, I travelled to his hometown in Gujarat and was surprised to find not only a fantastic museum in a little village but also his house, well preserved and maintained by the Patel Trust.

Inside Borsad Museum.jpg
The Vithalbhai and Vallabhai Patel Memorial and  Museum in Karamsad, Gujarat, houses many of Sardar Patel’s personal articles.
Bharat Ratna to Patel.jpg
One finds here also the Bharat Ratna posthumously awarded to Sardar Patel
Patel's home.jpg
One can visit the home where Patel grew up in Karamsad. The house is well maintained and cared for by local caretakers in the village. A gallery of photos takes one through the many highlights of Patel’s life.

If you chose to visit Karamsad (about 3 hours from Ahmedabad), you can also stop at the Amul Factory at Anand (not far from Karamsad). Children would enjoy the free factory tour (usually 2-4 pm daily but check their site for the latest) of the legendary milk factory and watch how their favourite icecreams and cheeses are made. One can also visit the Amul museum here, made in honour of Kurien, the man who brought about India’s White Revolution. And ofcourse, stop at the Factory Parlour for some fresh icecream too!

But if Karamsad is off your track and Gujarat not in your immediate plans, here’s a museum in Delhi I would highly recommend too!

Permanant Exhibition “Uniting India” at the National Science Centre, New Delhi.

The National Science Centre at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi has a Permanant Exhibition entitled Uniting India, which takes the viewer through the history of Unification and Integration through several interesting exhibits.

Delhi Museum India unification story.jpg

Delhi Museum Uniting India.jpg
The interactive exhibits at the Permanent Exhibition Uniting India at the National Science Centre in New Delhi tell the fascinating story of India’s integration and are worth a visit.

Located as it is in the Science Centre, unfortunately, not many know about this. If you happen to be in Delhi, I would highly recommend a visit to this Exhibition as well.

All these museums make for great .visits to understand and share the story of those difficult days in 1947 when a nation was born.

And here are some reading recommendations should you wish to share the story of Patel and his legacy with your child.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (Amar Chitra Katha)

Tell your Children about Patel’s Life and  Contribution

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (Wilco Picture Library)

A short and interesting glimpse into the life of Sardar Patel 

Should you wish to read about Patel’s life and legacy, here are some books I would recommend for adults.

Integration of the Indian States (by V.P Menon, Orient Blackswan, 2014)

I read this book repeatedly for my research into the life and work of Sardar Patel when I created and curated the content on the NVLI website on Sardar Patel. It tells the dramatic saga of  of how over 500 princely states were integrated into one nation. And the story is straight from the horse’s mouth as V.P. Menon was Secretary to the States Ministry under Sardar Patel. The stories of Junagadh, Jodhpur, Hyderabad and Kashmir in particular, are riveting!

The Story of India’s Integration is a fascinating one. Read a first-hand account by V.P Menon

Patel a Life (by Rajmohan Gandhi, Navjivan Press)

Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, is one of the foremost biographers in India today. His book gives a detailed account of Patel’s life in an engaging manner. It is interesting to read about Patel’s life starting with his young days as a rebellious school-boy who did not fear authority to his early days as a barrister when he mocked and scoffed at Mahatma Gandhi, only to make a complete turn-around and become Gandhi’s most ardent follower soon thereafter. Rajmohan Gandhi’s thorough research and lucid writing style make this a great read.

Two recently published books speak about Patel’s efforts at uniting India Sardar Patel: Unifier of Modern India and The Man Who Saved India. Not having read the books, I cannot give personal insights about them. But from reviews, it does seem like both books give a comprehensive account of Patel’s work in achieving Unification.

RNP Singh’s work published earlier in 2018 speaks about his effort of Integration.

Patel’s life and contribution have been chronicled in this recently published book.

A United India lives on as the lasting legacy of Sardar Patel and V.P Menon.

May their stories live on too!

Looking for more on his thread? Click here.


  1. A fascinating read with balanced point of view, I’m congratulating you for selecting this topic for young readers.

    1. Thank you. It’s a story young Indians should know. 🙂

    • Jigna Jimulia

    • 2 years ago

    Lovely write up on independence day. Will surely share it with my kids.

    1. Thanks Jigna.

    • ovcsridhar

    • 2 years ago

    Excellent read. Very well written. Has definitely raised my eagerness to know more about how these men went about unifying India.

    1. Thank you so much. makes for quite a story.

    • Ramesh V

    • 2 years ago

    Nice, informative piece!

    1. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Stefania. So happy to hear that.

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