Indian Embassy in Washington commemorates 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

In India, world’s tallest statue is unveiled on scenic banks of the Narmada

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, November 5, 2018 – It was a packed house at the Indian diplomatic mission, Friday evening, for a special event commemorating the 143rd birth anniversary of independence leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875-1950).

Earlier, on Wednesday, the world’s tallest statue was unveiled on the scenic banks of the Narmada river near the town of Kevadiya in Gujarat. The Statue of Unity, some 600 feet high and costing over $400 million, is a towering tribute to Patel who devoted his life towards nation building, creating a unified India. To put things in perspective with the intent to inform, it is almost double the height of the Statue of Liberty (305 feet) and has superseded the previous holder of the world’s tallest statue, the Spring Temple Buddha (420 feet) in China.

Hailing Patel as “one of the tallest leaders in the freedom movement”, Deputy Chief of Mission Santosh Jha commenced the program at the chancery by paying a floral tribute to the statesman, independent India’s first deputy prime minister and home minister.

Deputy Chief of Mission Santosh Jha paying a floral tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel during the celebration of his 143rd birth anniversary at the Indian Embassy in Washington

“We marked his birth anniversary on October 31 with a small event at the embassy”, Jha said reminding the gathering that the day is celebrated as ‘Rashtriya Ekta Diwas’ (National Unity Day) in India. “As public servants, we take an oath to maintain the unity and integrity of India”, he revealed adding it was administered by ambassador Navtej Sarna here in Washington.

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Among other stellar accomplishments, Patel is credited for uniting 565 princely states to build the Republic of India for which he earned the title, ‘Iron Man of India’. Earlier, he was conferred with the title of ‘Sardar’ during the Bardoli Satyagraha (1928) by women. Patel took up the cause of farmers burdened by high taxes and deprived of their land and livelihood. He successfully spearheaded a non-violent movement based on Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals which led the British government to lower taxes and return confiscated land to the right owners. Post-independence, he founded the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and transformed the Indian Police Service (IPS).

Admitting that “it is very difficult to talk about such an illustrious character as Sardar Patel”, Jha underscored his role as “one of the makers of modern India, one of the leading freedom fighters, one of the tallest leaders in the freedom movement” and the integrator of India.

A cross-section of the gathering at the celebration of the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel held at the Indian Chancery in Washington, DC. Photo credit: Embassy of India – Washington

Welcoming the gathering to the event, Shambhu Hakki, First Secretary, Press Information and Culture, at the Indian Embassy, said, “Today, we have gathered here to celebrate the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a great leader who devoted his entire life to nation building”.

During the course of the program, two informative works were screened: a documentary on the life and contributions of Patel; and a Statue of Unity Anthem highlighting the bronze monolith inaugurated earlier this week.

The Statue of Unity was unveiled by Prime Minister Modi who called it “a symbol of India’s integrity and resolve”.

The Statue of Unity, a towering tribute to independence leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was inaugurated October 31, 2018 by Prime Minister Modi. Located on the banks of the Narmada river in Gujarat, it is the world’s tallest statue, nearly 600 feet high, and cost over $400 million. Photo credit: PMO India

Jha noted, “While inaugurating the statue, the prime minister reminded us of two elements: Patel had the diplomacy of Kautilya, a reference to Chanakya — India’s great political thinker and economist, much before Machiavelli was born; and he had the courage of Shivaji (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, warrior king and founder of the Maratha Empire). So, two greats in one person”, he said.

Interestingly, the Statue of Unity will not hold the distinction of being the world’s tallest statue for long as another one is currently under construction in Maharashtra – a memorial to Shivaji which, upon completion (2021), is estimated to be over 623 feet tall, and will cost about half a billion dollars.

A photo exhibit on the life of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was held during the celebration of his 143rd birth anniversary at the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC

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