The Statue of Unity – A Tribute to the “Iron Man” of India
The history of India’s struggle for freedom is not a one-man saga but an epic with numerous dedicated freedom fighters who are heroes in their own right. Honoring one of the stalwarts of the Indian Independence movement, the Statue of Unity is built in dedication to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who played a decisive role in country’s unification following independence from British rule.
The 182-metre effigy of India’s first deputy Prime Minister is the world’s tallest statue at Sadhu Bet, a river island near the Sardar Sarovar mega-dam and towers nearly twice the height of New York’s famous Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Unity is a breathtaking sight set against the glistening basalt rocks of the Vindhya and Satpura hills of the Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 31st of October 2018 coinciding with the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Patel.
The foundation stone of this project was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 31st of October 2013 when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. The Loha (iron) campaign was the first step towards connecting the entire nation with the statue, in which scrap iron was collected from around 700000 villages across India, in reference to Patel’s nickname of India’s “Iron Man”. In this way 135 tons of iron was donated by Indian farmers to support the project. The slogan for this noble project was Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat (One India, Noble India). In tandem with this idea, there is a Shrestha Bharat Centre at the feet of the statue to house a research facility for agriculture and tribal development.
The unique sculpture is designed by the Padma Bhushan awardee Ram V Sutar and depicts Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel wearing a traditional dhoti and shawl with expression, posture and pose that justify dignity, confidence, iron will that his persona exuded.
The Statue of Unity is a mega project built within a period of three-and-a-half years by about 3000 workers, including 300 engineers from infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T). The statue is spread over 20000 square meters and is surrounded by a 12 square km artificial lake. The total cost of the project is estimated to be ₹2989 crore.
The iconic structure has a three-layered structure with the innermost layer made of reinforced concrete cement, the middle layer is a steel structure and the outermost layer is 8 mm bronze cladding. The statue also has two lifts near the legs of the statue which can carry 26 people each. There also is a visitor’s gallery at the height of 157 metres, which can accommodate around 200 people at a time and offers a magnificent view of the Satpura and Vidhyanchal mountain ranges and provides a bird’s-eye view of the iconic Sardar Sarovar Dam. Other major tourist attractions are the light and sound shows and a museum on the life and times of Sardar Patel. The project includes a 52-room 3-star hotel, and an auditorium.
The Statue of Unity is a befitting tribute to the Iron Man of India. A symbol of the country’s engineering and technical prowess, the Statue of Unity is not only the tallest in height, but it also stands tall for historical, academic, national and spiritual values.