Be­hind the mak­ing of Statue of Unity

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Nation - Hi­ral Dave hi­ral.dave@htlive.com ▪

A SHRESTHA BHARAT CEN­TRE IS TAK­ING SHAPE AT THE FEET OF THE STATUE, WHICH WILL ALSO HOUSE A RE­SEARCH­FA­CIL­ITY FOR AGRI­CUL­TURE AND TRIBAL DE­VEL­OP­MENT

GAND­HI­NA­GAR/NARMADA: In the sum­mer of 2010, the Gu­jarat cabi­net re­ceived a short but clear brief about an am­bi­tious project from then chief min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, who was soon to be­gin his 10th year in of­fice.

The scale and na­ture of the project was so daunt­ing that it raised scep­ti­cism even within a sec­tion of the state’s rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Just like they were about Modi’s plans to move to the na­tional cen­tre stage, the scep­tics were doubt­ful about his govern­ment’s abil­ity to ex­e­cute the plan.

On Oc­to­ber 6 the same year, the Modi for the first time made his plan pub­lic: to build a gi­ant Statue of Unity to com­mem­o­rate In­dia's first home min­is­ter Val­lab­hb­hai Pa­tel, known as Sar­dar, who played a de­ci­sive role in uni­fy­ing the coun­try fol­low­ing in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish rule. “A trib­ute to the Iron Man of In­dia. At 182 me­tres, not just in height, but it will also stand tall for his­tor­i­cal, aca­demic, na­tional and spir­i­tual val­ues. It will be the first such big project in any tribal part of In­dia and ded­i­cated to sub­jects close to Sar­dar saab – unity, good gov­er­nance and agri­cul­ture,” Modi said.

Eight years later, a con­sor­tium of world class con­struc­tion com­pa­nies that ex­e­cuted the project – Michael Graves Ar­chi­tec­ture and De­signs, Turner Con­struc­tion and Larsen &Toubro -- is over­see­ing the count­down to the Oc­to­ber 31 in­au­gu­ra­tion of the statue on Sadhu Bet, a hillock be­tween the Vid­hyan­chal and Sa­putara ranges lo­cated 3.5 km down­stream of the iconic, 138-me­tre high Sar­dar Sarovar Dam.

Four thou­sand work­ers toiled for years to raise the statue, which will be at the cen­tre of a pond that will be filled with over­flow­ing wa­ter from the dam.

Oth­ers may have had their doubts about the fea­si­bil­ity of the project, but Modi knew just what he wanted even be­fore its ground­break­ing.

“From the very point of propos­ing the project, he was very clear about all the as­pects– where, how and also why. It should be the tallest statue. It should be dou­ble the height of the cur­rent tallest struc­ture (Statue of Lib­erty), kind of that matches the stature of Sar­dar. And, where but in the

vicin­ity of Sar­dar Sarovar Dam in Narmada dis­trict,” chief sec­re­tary J N Singh told HT, re­call­ing the first brief on the colos­sal project, which was over­seen by Sar­dar Val­lab­hai Pa­tel Rashtriya Ekta Manch (SVPREM) with the then Gu­jarat chief min­is­ter as chair­man.

Stages in the con­struc­tion of the statue have co­in­cided with turn­ing points in the Modi’s po­lit­i­cal jour­ney. It was an­nounced at a time when In­dia had be­gun de­bat­ing a pos­si­ble na­tional role for the Gu­jarat chief min­is­ter. The foun­da­tion-lay­ing cer­e­mony, on Oc­to­ber 31, 2013, kick-started his 2014 Lok Sabha cam­paign. And its com­ple­tion and in­au­gu­ra­tion, ex­actly 5 years later on Oc­to­ber 31, is be­ing seen as the be­gin­ning of Modi’s cam­paign for a sec­ond term in next year’s gen­eral election.

NA­TION’S NEW ICON

“Tourists com­ing to In­dia visit the Taj Ma­hal. Soon, they will

also visit the Statue of Unity,” said Gu­jarat chief min­is­ter Vi­jay Ru­pani.

The first step to­wards con­nect­ing the en­tire na­tion with the statue was the Loha (iron) cam­paign, in which an agri­cul­tural tool each was col­lected from around 700,000 vil­lages across In­dia, melted and used. In all, 135 tonnes of iron was do­nated by farm­ers to sup­port the project, for which Modi’s slo­gan was Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat (One In­dia, Noble In­dia). A Shrestha Bharat Cen­tre is tak­ing shape at the feet of the statue, which will also house a re­search­fa­cil­ity for agri­cul­ture and tribal de­vel­op­ment.

A 52-room, 3-star ho­tel, au­di­to­rium, galleries with light and sound shows and a mu­seum on the life and times of Sar­dar Pa­tel have been in­cor­po­rated in the project.

“It will soon be­come syn­ony­mous with In­dia. Not only do we plan to hold na­tional and

in­ter­na­tional sum­mits there, but a spe­cial area in the vicin­ity will also be there for other states to have their own bha­vans (homes),’’ said Singh.

Modi tried to un­der­line its im­por­tance at the foun­da­tion­lay­ing cer­e­mony. “The world should know Sar­dar saab’s im­mense con­tri­bu­tion in build­ing In­dia,” he said. Naren­dra Modi has built other big projects in his home state.

“We should know out his­tory to get in­spired...we built Shaymji Kr­ishna Verma memo­rial in Kutch, state-of-the-art con­ven­tion cen­tre, Ma­hatma Mandir in Gand­hi­na­gar, and re­vived tourism on in Bud­dha cir­cuit,” he has re­marked, main­tain­ing, “Gandhi and Sar­dar did not be­long to the BJP. They had no prob­lem when I built Ma­hatma Mandir.

But they (op­po­nents) do not like me to build a Sar­dar memo­rial. His legacy can­not be di­vided. It is ours.”

THE MAK­ING

Teams com­pris­ing his­to­ri­ans, artists and aca­demi­cians, af­ter study­ing var­i­ous Sar­dar Pa­tel stat­ues across In­dia, ze­roed in on a de­sign pro­posed by Noid­abased sculp­tor Ram Su­tar.

“The Statue of Unity is a big­ger replica of the Sar­dar Pa­tel statue at Ahmed­abad in­ter­na­tional air­port.

The ex­pres­sion, pos­ture and pose jus­tify the dig­nity, con­fi­dence, iron will as well as kind­ness that his per­sona ex­udes. The head is up, a shawl flung from shoul­ders and hands are on the side as if he is set to walk,” Anil Su­tar, who has worked along with his fa­ther Ram on the de­sign, said.

They made three mod­els of 3 ft, 18 ft and 30 ft in height. When the 30ft model was given the go-ahead, a 3D soft ver­sion was made, based on which the Chi­nese foundry Ji­agxi Tongquing Metal Hand­i­crafts Co. Ltd has done the bronze cladding that makes for the ex­te­rior, and forged an in­ter­nal con­crete and iron struc­ture.

“Be­tween 2013 and 2018, we vis­ited the Chi­nese foundry nearly 10 times to over­see in­tri­cate de­tails like san­dal shape, face wrin­kles, shawl folds and nails. A huge ther­mo­cole replica of the shoul­ders and head was done to fi­nal­ize the jaw bone, eye­lids, retina size, eyes-ears, among other things,” Su­tar said. “Along with a mi­cro­scopic view, we took the pic­ture of the ther­mo­cole replica from a 10th storey build­ing be­fore seal­ing the de­tails,” he added. Over 5,000 bronze pan­els, made in China, were shipped for build­ing the statue. “It is just 8%’’ (of the cost), ar­gued Singh in re­sponse to op­po­si­tion party jibes that the statue had been Made in China.

From 157 me­tres, around the chest level, a vis­i­tor’s gallery with the ca­pac­ity to ac­com­mo­date a batch of 200 peo­ple of­fers a view of the Sat­pura and Vid­hyan­chal moun­tain ranges where the bor­ders of Gu­jarat con­verges with Mad­hya Pradesh and Ma­ha­rash­tra. It also of­fers a bird’s-eye view of Gu­jarat’s life­line -- the Sar­dar Sarovar Dam.The base of the statue , with an ex­hibit floor, will house a memo­rial gar­den and mu­seum on a mul­ti­me­dia plat­form. From here, two el­e­va­tors to carry 40 peo­ple each at a sin­gle time will take vis­i­tors to the view­ing gallery.

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