Merging Odisha’s ‘Gadajat’ States: Know Why Sardar Patel’s Visit To Cuttack Proved Crucial

Cuttack: As we mark the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, responsible for merging the hundreds of princely states with India after Independence, the occasion is fit to recall his visit to Cuttack in 1947, which proved a major milestone in the unification of Odisha.

When India gained Independence in 1947, the country was a mosaic of 560 princely states, many opposed to merging with the Republic. Odisha was no different with 26 princely states at that time, known as ‘Gadajats’. They had to be unified. Their kings had to be brought around to accept the new reality.

Like in the rest of the country, it fell upon the Iron Man of India to unify them, helped by the then Prime Minister of Odisha Harekrushna Mahatab and VP Menon, Patel’s right-hand man.

Their efforts faced fierce resistance but a major milestone was reached during Patel’s visit to Cuttack to persuade the kings of the ‘Gadajat’ states to merge with the Republic.

Mahatab had called the meeting in Cuttack on December 24, 1947. Not surprisingly, the kings opposed Patel’s proposal. As the kings stuck to their stand not to give up their independence and prepared to leave Cuttack, Patel once more persuaded them to think over their decision.

The kings may have left but Patel, astute as he was, did not leave Cuttack. He waited patiently at the Cuttack railway station. By this time, Menon returned with the good news that the kings had given their signatures for merger with Odisha.

Only the king of Mayurbhanj said he would establish a constitutional government that was later absorbed by Odisha.

The process of merging the ‘Gadajat’ states with Odisha had finally been successful.

The merger did not come about without its fair share of rebellion though.

After India’s Independence, Nilgiri was the first ‘Gadajat’ state in Odisha to revolt against any unification.

Befriending the tribal people, the king succeeded in turning the adivasis against non-adivasis, who they fought with bows, arrows and spears. The king believed this would strike fear in the ‘prajas’, who would turn to him for protection. But the strategy backfired. The ‘prajas’ revolted.

Mahatab seized the opportunity, flew to Delhi and asked Patel for permission to merge Nilgiri with Odisha. Defeated, the king of Nilgiri surrendered his state to Odisha.

Mahatab continued with his merger efforts, calling a meeting in Sambalpur on October 16, 1947 of the princely states’ kings. But he again faced opposition. The kings saw no merit in the merger, arguing that if they acquiesced it would mean giving up the privileges they had enjoyed for generations.

Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo, the king of Patna, tried to sabotage Mahatab’s efforts. Singh Deo was instrumental in establishing the Eastern Zone Native States Association, which encompassed the ‘Gadajat’ regions of Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

But thanks to the untiring efforts of Patel, Mahatab and Menon, all the ‘Gadajat’ states were finally merged with Odisha. While Mayurbhanj became a part of Odisha, only the ‘Gadajat’ states of Sareikela and Kharsuan went to Bihar. These states’ desire to merge with Odisha remained unfulfilled.

(With inputs from

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