India Just Unveiled the World’s Tallest Statue, and It’s Twice as Big as the Statue of Liberty
Called the Statue of Unity, the 597-foot-tall bronze depicts India’s first deputy prime minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, unveiled the world’s tallest statue on Wednesday as military aircraft flew overhead and released flower petals and colored balloons in the shape of the Indian flag. The 597-foot-tall bronze sculpture, called the Statue of Unity, dwarfs the previous title holder, the 420-foot Spring Temple Buddha in China, and is roughly twice as big as New York City’s Statue of Liberty.
The massive monument depicts the country’s first deputy prime minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875–1950), and has been erected in his home state of Gujarat. Patel, who would have turned 143 yesterday, helped unite the modern state of India following Partition in 1947, earning him the nickname the “Iron Man of India.”
“This statue is an answer to all those who question India’s power and might,” said Modi during his remarks, calling the massive artwork “a symbol of India’s integrity and resolve,” and noting that “Patel converted India’s diversity into its biggest strength.”
The piece cost 29.9 billion rupees ($430 million) and required some 2,000 workers to erect. Half the bill was footed by the Gujarat government, and the rest by the federal government or donations.
The work of Indian sculptor Ram V. Sutar, the project has been in the works since 2010, when it was commissioned by Modi, then chief minister of his home state of Gujarat. The construction process took nearly three years, and required 7,416,080 cubic feet of cement, 25,000 tons of steel, and 1,700 tons of bronze.
Sutar, who will turn 94 in February, claims to have created more than 200 monumental sculptures over the course of his 60-year career, beginning with the 45-foot-tall Chambal monument, carved from a single rock in Madhya Pradesh. To sculpt Patel, Sutar referenced over 2,000 photographs. According to the artist’s website, building the world’s tallest sculpture is his “long-cherished dream.”
The hope is that the new statue will become a major tourist attraction, although it’s home on the Narmada River near the Sardar Sarovar Dam—also named for Patel—is quite remote. Getting to Sadhu Bet, as the spot has been christened, will be a challenge as the nearest town, Kevadia, isn’t accessible by plane. And once you get there, there are no regulated taxis or public transportation to bring tourists to the statue, which could lead to tourists paying exorbitant fees to ride in private vehicles.
It will cost 350 rupees ($4.75) to take an elevator to the statue’s viewing galleries and museum, perched almost 500 feet above the ground. (The official website includes a bus ticket option but offers no details about from where it departs.) Officials are predicting 15,000 daily visitors, and the monument complex includes a 52-room hotel, shopping center, and designated selfie spot in what’s been dubbed the Valley of Flowers.