The World’s Tallest Statue

After going to Vadodara, how can one not make a visit to the Statue of Unity, the tallest statue in the world?  The schedule of the Masters Games that was held in the city was such that our basketball team doubted we could make it. All we were doing was to go to the Sama Indoor Sports Complex for practice, play matches, and cheer our other teammates who had competitions at the same venue.

Only on the day of our finals was it announced that the organisers had done some rescheduling so as to leave the Sunday fully free. We were quite fortunate to have taken a ride that morning with a taxi driver Hitesh, with a very pleasing and respectful personality. We’d saved his number in case we needed it. Over the days of competition, many of the athletes had done the trip and told us how they went about it – public bus, private tours, vans, etc. We needed to be able to go to the statue and return to Vadodara in time for those who were catching an early evening flight back home, and Hitesh’s taxi service was ideal to do this for us.

We started at about 6:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, from Dairy Den Circle, where incidentally, stands a small statue of Sardar Patel. There were seven of us and we went in two vehicles, so that those who were taking the flight could return earlier if required.

Sardar Patel Statue Dairy Den
Sardar Patel Statue, Dairy Den Circle, Sayajiganj, Vadodara

We had been told that the Statue of Unity at Kevadiya is packed on weekends with long queues for everything.  The entry to the viewing gallery is slot-based so we ensured that we booked our tickets online (https://www.soutickets.in), for the earliest 8-10 a.m. slot (Rs 380/- includes general entry, viewing gallery, dam, valley of flowers, bus rides to the dam/valley of flowers/parking area). Our aim was to be there as soon as the place opened. Our driver wanted a short tea break on the highway, and apart from this we didn’t stop. The roads are excellent and in an hour and a half or so, we had covered the 90 km and the statue was in view.

statue from a distance

statue from the road
From the road

After one enters the compound, before the ticketing gates, there is a “Wall of Unity” that has soil from thousands of villages of India, to symbolically show the contribution of the farmers to the project.

Wall of unity

wall of unity text

Entry was smooth. There were hundreds of school children, but we were early, so the crowd was limited. Food, cigarettes, and some other things are not allowed to be carried inside. There were people who’d come like they were on a picnic. They had to go to leave their food back in their vehicles. Those with small things were asked to put them in a locker facility.

entry gates

entry gates2

It’s quite a long way to the statue and building that is below it. There is a travelator that gives a view of the Narmada River below, and good for those who want to conserve their footsteps for a lot more walking that would be necessary later.

on the walkway

a lady on the travelator
A lady on the travelator

It is only when one starts climbing the stairs to the garden (or riding the escalator), that the magnitude hits. A stitch on the sandal is over two hands long!

to the garden

to the feet

the foot

sandal stitch

Inside the building is the museum of 4,647 sqm. There is lots of space to move around, and there are many interesting things to see and do.

There’s a SOU replica – for those who want to see a close-up, and a huge head (statue-size I suspect) – for those who want an idea of the real size. There are two theatres that run films about Sardar Patel and the Narmada Dam. One can read about how Sardar Patel was the architect of India uniting 560-odd princely states, get a feel of Sardar Patel’s own study, learn about watersheds, wetlands and the environment, take a pledge (choose one from a pre-written list) and see it popup on the screen, or just sit around and watch others enthusiastically take selfies.

the price of freedom

museum view

replica and head

the study

pledge

20200209_095108-001

One can easily spend a couple of hours at the museum, so it’s best to go to the viewing gallery (as per the chosen time-slot) as soon as possible and avoid the long queues that we subsequently saw build up. That’s what we actually did.

The high speed lift takes about 40 seconds to cover 400 feet, to the chest region of the statue, where the viewing gallery is located. The walls of the lift carry information about how Sadhu Hill became the Statue of Unity on one side, and about the world’s tall statues on the other.

sadhu hill to statue
Inside the lift – Sadhu Hill to World’s Tallest Statue
at the viewing gallery
At the viewing gallery

Staff at the viewing gallery have been well trained to tell people about the history of the area Sadhu Hill, Sardar Patel, Narmada River and Sardar Sarovar Dam and the making of the statue. It was interesting to know that where we were standing was where the second button of Sardar Patel’s coat was located, and that he is looking towards the dam. It was decided to make the statue is 182 metres tall as there are 182 assembly constituencies in Gujarat. It is built to be earthquake proof. We were told that the statue is clad with an alloy of four metals – copper, tin, aluminum and zinc (hope I got this right!) to resist corrosion. Notably, at close quarters one can see a green layer starting to form over the metal, similar to other ancient metal statues we see all over the world.

guide
The guide shyly poses for a pic
second button
The second button

The view from Sardar’s chest is nothing to really write about. There is no place from where one can get a “view”, given the gaps of the coat are rather small. Moreover, apart from the dam that is in the distance, and the Narmada River (that looked rather dry), there is nothing to look out for. There is quite a bit of construction activity in progress, which in future could improve the view and ambiance of the place.

the view
The view from the gallery at the statue’s chest

Now does this statue monument do justice to the 3000-something crores that it took to build? And there is lots more to be invested for development of the area it seems.

As a monument it’s a nice place to visit if one is in the area. It’s something like going to see the Gateway of India when one visits Mumbai. I don’t think many would make a trip just to see the World’s Tallest Statue, in the same way that one goes to see the Taj Mahal. During the four hours we spent here, we didn’t see anyone who looked like a non-Indian. So this is clearly not a foreign tourist attraction as of now. We do have enough Indians so the statue should be able to build the numbers, over many lifetimes that the statue would survive. Train connectivity that is planned, could help in future. It’s great for a school field trip on Indian History. What the statue has definitely done is give recognition to a very important person in India’s history. In this case, we should not be looking at the cost or the return on investment and other financials, as long as it shows that it is more-or-less self-sustaining.

I do wish though, that Sardar Patel was made to look a bit more lively. I am no architect or designer, and I am aware that it took some time to arrive at the design of the statue, but I do feel that one arm folded gives more character to the man – like the statue at Dairy Den that was already staring in their faces. Alas, it is much too late!

Pictures at the Statue of Unity taken on 9th Feb 2020

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