Statue of Unity - A rare first
Two elevators take visitors up to the Viewing Gallery housed in the chest of the statue between the 2nd and 3rd buttons of the jacket.
Ensconced in nature’s lap, this tallest statue of the world is a sight to behold! One no longer needs to travel to China, Japan, the United States of America, or Russia, to look at statues that feature among the tallest in the world.
Standing majestically on the isle of Sadhu-Bet at a height of 182 metres from ground level, the Statue of Unity has left behind many a towering structure across the world.
It is an international practice to measure statues from ground level to top. Resting on a rectangular base 25 metre above the ground-level, the Statue measures 157 metres, at least 4 metres taller than the Spring Temple, Buddha, almost twice the height of Statue of Liberty and 5 times higher than Christ’s Statue at Rio de Janeiro!
Its height denotes the strength of Gujarat Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly).
Guided by eminent architect Ram Sutar, it took round-the-clock efforts to construct Sardar Patel’s statue on a base to withstand its 1700 tonnes of weight. The weight of the broadest part comes upon its narrowest part – a difficult adjustment to arrive at.
Sample the minute details. The feet are not parallel – one foot is slightly ahead of the other one, denoting a nation marching ahead. The sandals are 70 feet long. Small and big stitches reflect the possibility of human error in preparing hand-made footwear.
The Statue will gradually turn bluish-green, due to copper and oxidation process. In fact, the feet have already started turning green!
Two elevators take visitors up to the Viewing Gallery housed in the chest of the Statue between the 2nd and 3rd buttons of the jacket. The panoramic view spans across Sardar Sarovar dam, the reservoir, Satpura and Vindhya ranges and River Narmada winding majestically through the Valley.
The 4 metres per second speed of these elevators takes visitors to a height of 135 metres in just 36 seconds.
Light and Sound Show
The 23-minute Light and Sound Show at 7 p.m is the show-stopper. Colourful laser beams light up the Statue of Unity. The story unfolds on the Statue, which itself becomes the screen. Jet planes shooting across the statue keep the audience mesmerised. These Jets had flown over the Statue on October 31, 2018. The show aptly concludes with the National Anthem.
After dusk, roads, buildings and flora illuminated with neon light clusters make Kevadia look like a land straight out of a fairy-tale!
Several illustrious places - Nadiad, Karamsad, Mumbai, or even Bardoli could have fitted the bill. Kevadia and Narmada Valley, however, symbolise Sardar Patel’s vision of modern India. Sardar Patel had mooted the idea of a dam across Narmada in 1946.
Among the seven holy rivers, Narmada has ‘Narmada Puran’ and Narmadashtakam dedicated to it. It is one of the two rivers that flows westwards. A dip, or even a sight of Narmada is considered purifying and liberating. ‘Narmada Parikrama’ (circumambulation) is widely considered a lifetime pilgrimage!
Locals aver, “Jitne Kankar Utney Shankar” implying that each pebble in Narmada is a living manifestation of Lord Shiva.
Envisioned by Shri Narendra Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister, the contours of this pan-India vision were shaped much before the 2014 polls. Before 2014, it was unimaginable that the tallest statue in the world could be in India. The towering vision of ‘Karmyogi’ Prime Minister has filled every Indian heart with tonnes of pride.
Physical infrastructure at Kevadia is being expanded at a rapid pace. Dr. Rajiv Kumar Gupta, Additional Chief Secretary (Forest & Environment Department) and Managing Director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited says, “A few more tourist attractions are going to be added, but the priority at present is to expand accommodation facilities and making available more travel options to the tourists. In addition to the 4-lane road from Vadodara and Sea Plane from Ahmedabad, now broad-gauge train option will also be shortly available.”
The upscaled infrastructure is generating revenue and enhanced employment opportunities for local people. Already, about 100 local youth have been roped in as guides.
The statue is not the only tourist hotspot. An entire ecosystem has been developed, apparently rooted in the ancient Indian concept of Purush and Prakriti – maintaining a harmonious balance between man and nature. Other attractions include Aarogya Van, Jungle Safari, river rafting, cactus garden and Children’s Nutrition Garden.
The statue is a manifestation of Ek Bharat, Shreshth Bharat. A word of caution for visitors though - a three-day stay at Kevadia is a must to be able to fully explore the area. After all, who wants to return from nature’s lap in a hurry!
(The author is an officer of the Indian Information Service)