Statue of Unity: India unveils world’s tallest statue

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India has unveiled the world’s tallest statue, depicting one of the country’s independence leaders, in a lavish ceremony featuring fireworks, fighter jets and rose petals showered by helicopters.

The 182-metre sculpture of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, known as the Statue of Unity to commemorate his efforts to corral hundreds of princely states into the Indian union after independence, was revealed on Wednesday by the prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Modi said the structure, which is twice the size of New York’s Statue of Liberty, was “an answer to all those who question the existence of India”.

“The height of the statue is to remind the youth that the future of the country will be as huge as this,” he said, and is symbolic of “our engineering and technical prowess”.

The bronze-clad figure of Patel, which houses a memorial garden and museum in its base, cost an estimated Rs 2,989 crore and has been under construction for four years.

Lifts have been installed to take up to 15,000 tourists each day to a viewing gallery about 152m high. The admission fee is 350 rupees.

The statue dwarfs the 128-metre high Spring Temple Buddha in China, the world’s next-largest statue, and was built with iron gathered from around the country.

Patel, often called the “Iron Man of India” was the first deputy prime minister of India. He is revered for persuading, and in some cases threatening, the more than 550 princely states that existed in the country before independence in 1947 to join the Indian union.

“Had Sardar Patel not united the country, we would need visas to see lions or pay homage at Somnath or view the Charminar in Hyderabad,” Modi said. “Patel converted India’s diversity into its biggest strength.”

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The Statue of Unity’s reign as a world record holder could be short-lived, however, with work due to begin on an even larger statue of a Hindu king off the coast of Mumbai.

The 212-metre statue, depicting the 17th-century Marathi ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji, is scheduled to be unveiled in two years’ time. Its height was revised upward by four metres this year after Indian officials learned that China had raised the height of the Spring Temple Buddha, which would make it slightly larger than the Shivaji statue, taking into account the base.

Published on 31 October 2018

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