The Patel Brotherhood is a social organization that is predominant in East Africa, the United Kingdom and North America destinations of thousands of migrant Indians from the State of Gujarat, India, over the past hundred and twenty years. The Brotherhood was formed by the immigrants in their “new homes” with a view to retaining traditional customs and values of their ancestors and passing down this rich heritage to the generations that follow. This was deemed crucial in maintaining the identity of the immigrants in the new lands where religion, tradition and rituals were obviously very different to those of their own.
Although the ‘Patel” hail from Gujarat, their roots are actually in the LEAVA and KARAD villages of the GUJARANWALA district, West Punjab, presently in Pakistan. In 1000 A.D., a tyrannical Afghan King conquered Punjab and persecuted the Hindu citizens who fled to escape from the atrocities of his soldiers. They first went to Marvard and then on to Kheda and Surat areas of Gujarat in search of land for cultivation. They eventually settled and became successful farmers. It was customary in those days that a percentage of the cultivated crop was given to the King as a form of a Tax. However, as a cost of collecting this tax from each farmer was very high, the King appointed a headman for each village to collect crops on his behalf. The records of the crops were kept in the PAT (record or log book) and the person who entered and kept these records was known as “PATLIKH”. Patlikh was shortened to PATAL and then became PATEL. In 1400 A.D., the tradition of giving part of the crop to the kingdom was abolished and a permanent propriety of the land was granted. Those who had propriety of the land were called PATEDAR which later became PATIDAR and later, PATEL PATIDAR.
Presently, the Patel community is huge and spread worldwide. There Muslim, Parsi, Cutchhi and Kathiawadi Patels but the Brotherhood was formed by the patels from the Province of Charotar in Gujarat. The first three Partidars from Charotar province arrived in East Africa in 1895. They were Maganbhai Naranbhai Patel, Ishwarbhai Natha Patel and Umedbhai Bhalabhai Patel. According to available records, there were 126 Partidars in Kenya by the end of 1910.
Patel Brotherhood, Nairobi came into being in 1917 by the efforts of a small Partidar community then Residing in Nairobi. Their first office was located in river road. The main function of this fledging organization was to provide a forum for meeting and bonding in effort to unite and address the problems of the Patidar community and also to ensure that religion, customs and traditions were upheld. This unity enabled the community to forge ahead in business, civil service and education amongst a variety of other professions. They crowned their achievements by organizing an opulent welcome to Kenya for the Maharaja of Baroda, Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad, in February 1937. He was the ruler of the Varodara Rajya at the time and most of the Partidars were his subjects.
The traditions of Patel Brotherhood as a hub of the social activities of the Patidar Community in Nairobi, is still prevalent today as it was in the early 1900’s. However, as the community has expanded, grown and dispersed, the organization has evolved accordingly to meet the demands and challenges of the modern Patidar. Patel Brotherhood is actively involved in organizing social, cultural, health, sporting and educational activities, not only in Nairobi but in East African as a whole. Its customary annual activities are the Mini Sports festival, Uttarayan, Navratri, Sharad Purnima, Diwali and New Year celebration which are well supported and attended by the Patidars. Also noteworthy is the Charotar Patidar Sports & Cultural Festival, which unites the Patidars of East Africa over the Easter weekend every two years. This important event has been held for the past 21 years and has greatly assisted in uniting the large numbers of Patidars dispersed within the religion.
The above mentioned activities are augmented by regular meetings and monthly social, sometimes accompanied by dinners. To keep pace with the requirements of the modern world, additional activities have been added, notably the Free Medical Clinic and Social and Educational financial support to needy Patidar Families. The Free Clinic has been operational every Sunday for the past eleven years and provides a valuable service not only to the Patidars but the Indian Community at Large. Periodical Medical Camps and subsidized vaccination programmes are an extension of the service and have been successfully held many a time. General awareness on health and other issues are promoted throughout the community by lectures and presentations from various fields and professions. Financial support for education and basic existence is accorded through its sister organization, The Charotar Patidar Foundation.
The future of the organization is in the hands of capable young men and women guided by the elders. The Ladies’ and Youth wings are actively boosting the activities of the parent body and there are currently over 1500 family members. As time progresses, the activities of the organization will vary according to the needs of the community but Patel Brotherhood will ever retain its strong attachment to traditional values, education and unshakable family unity.
The Patidar, once of peasant agricultural stock, has evolved into the successful modern, educated, consummate professional of the 21st Century precisely because of appending vital importance to staunch morality steeped in tradition. He will continue to flourish as long as he never loses sight of his proud ancestry.