Childhood photograph of Sardar Patel

Born on 31st October 1875 in the village of Nadiad in Gujarat, Vallabhbhai Patel was the fourth in a family of six children. Growing up in Karamsad under the care of his mother Ladba, he often joined his father Jhaverbhai, a farmer, in tilling the land. His father is said to have fought against the British in the army of the Rani of Jhansi in the Uprising of 1857. By the time Vallabhbhai was born, Jhaverbhai had settled into a quiet life of a peasant tilling the ten acres of his ancestral land that belonged to him. Vallabhbhai's mother Ladba was said to have been a very competent woman with a lovely voice. She gathered the children together in the courtyard every evening to sing devotional songs and narrate stories from the epics to them.  

Although Vallabhbhai joined the village school as a boy, he learnt simple arithmetic and tables from his father whilst accompanying him to the fields. Curious to learn, he asked his teachers in school too many questions. Annoyed, they told him to learn for himself. Taking the cue, much of his learning was self-taught. Feeling the urge to study English, at the age of sixteen after completing his seventh grade in Gujarati, Vallabhbhai moved to Petlad, a small town seven miles from his home, for further studies as his hometown Karamsad did not have an English school. Pursuading six other boys from Karamsad to move with him, he rented a small house in Petlad where they cooked, shared chores and studied.

At the age of 22, he completed his matriculation from Nadiad. Thereafter, he aspired to study in Bombay but life took him in another direction. 

In the meantime, at the age of 16, he married Javerbai, a girl from a nearby village. Unfortunately, very little is known about Javerbai. Later, two children were born to them. Mani, a girl, born in 1904 and Dahya, a boy, born in 1906.