The unveiling of the Statue of Unity, representing one of India’s most revered leaders, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, in Kevadia, Gujarat, Oct. 31, has drawn worldwide attention to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s quintessential mix of national pride and grassroots politics, including from Indian-Americans. Nevertheless, as expected or even predictable in a democracy, it has become subject to acrimonious party politics inside a country looking to hold general elections in mid-2019,
The unveiling of the 182 meter statue on Sadhu Bet Island in the Narmada river, nearly double the size of the Statue of Liberty (93 meters), and for now considered the highest such monument in the world, surpassing China’s Spring Temple Buddha (153 meters), is not only a fete of engineering but also one that the government of India expects will enhance the tourism potential of the country.
More than 70,000 tons of cement, 18,500 tons of reinforced steel, 6,000 tons of structural steel and 1,700 tons of bronze, were used to build the structure, according to the Indian government.
The video of the impressive yet solemn and simple inauguration ceremony circulating on the Web, shows Modi alighting to the first level (where Sardar Patel’s feet rest) via an impressive escalator, in the middle of a vast open landscape, and conducting a Hindu prayer ceremony, casting flowers in all directions. Helicopters flew over the statue showering petals like confetti from the sky.
The statue is reached by a 17-km-long Valley of Flowers, and also includes a Tent City for tourists, and a museum recounting Sardar Patel’s life and contributions. A viewing gallery at 153 meters allows a panoramic view of the surrounding area including the Sardar Sarovar Dam, and the Satpura and Vindhya mountain ranges.
Dedicating the Statue of Unity to the nation, Modi called on citizens to remain united despite forces of disunity, and hit out at the politicization of a leader who was instrumental in bringing hundreds of princely states together to make the new India a reality back in 1948 as the former Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister.
“Statue of Unity is to remind all those who question India’s existence and its integrity. This country was, is and will always be eternal,” Modi said in Hindi (as translated by Indo Asian News Service), contending that the enormous height of the statue was a reminder to youth of how high their aspirations could go.
“The only mantra to fulfill these aspirations are ‘Ek Bharat-Shresth Bharat’ (One India, Best India). Statue of Unity is also symbolic of our engineering and technological affordability,” Modi said.
Keeping the nation’s unity, diversity and sovereignty intact is one such responsibility which Patel has given to the countrymen, Modi said. “It’s our responsibility to give reply to every effort of dividing the country. We will have to remain vigilant and united as a society,” he said.
“They considered our diversity our biggest weakness but Sardar Patel converted this into our biggest strength. India is moving ahead on the path shown by him,” Modi is quoted saying said.
“If today we are connected from Rajasthan’s Kutch to Nagaland’s Kohima and Jammu and Kashmir’s Kargil to Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari, it is because of Patel’s strong resolve and determination. “Had Sardar Patel not done it, the country would have needed visas for offering prayers at Somnath and visiting Charminar in Hyderabad,” Modi said referencing the late Indian leader’s work in bringing some 550 princely states into the Indian Union after the Partition of 1947.