Ahmedabad/Mumbai: The states of Maharashtra and Gujarat appear to be in competition with each other to build the world’s tallest statue. While the Gujarat government started building a colossal statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first deputy prime minister, in October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for Shiv Smarak, a grand memorial to Chhatrapati Shivaji, in Mumbai on 24 December 2016, at a reclaimed land site in the Arabian sea.
Both projects in the two BJP-ruled states idolise figures long viewed by proponents of Hindutva ideology as icons with contemporary political relevance.
Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, announced the Statue of Unity project (the Sardar Patel statue) in 2013 on 31 October, the birth anniversary of Patel.
“Post completion in 2018, the Statue of Unity will be the world’s tallest statue," claims the official website of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust, a special purpose vehicle set up by the Gujarat government to develop the memorial.
The Statue of Unity will be 182 meters tall while the Shivaji Memorial will be about 190 meters high. However, with the base, the height of the Sardar Patel memorial will be 230 metres and that of the Shivaji statue will be 210 metres.
The Maharashtra government plans to build the memorial over 16 hectares of reclaimed land in two phases, of which the first is proposed to be completed by the end of 2019.
The two statues are expected to be about twice the size of the Statue of Liberty in the US and four times that of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Patel’s statue, projected to be the tallest in the world on completion, will take that position from the Laykyun Setkyar Buddha statue in Myanmar, which is about 115 meters high, a senior Gujarat government official close to the development said, requesting anonymity.
“We are not in the business of competition and the Gujarat government has in fact supported and advised Maharashtra government for their Shivaji project," the official said.
“Both the leaders are iconic figures and after economic development, India needs cultural development and these iconic figures are a step in this direction," the official said, adding that “we feel that the Statue of Unity will be the largest if one looks at an individual figure. The Shivaji statue project which is aimed to be 190 meters tall also includes a horse. But both these projects would be in India which is something we all should be proud of".
Another Gujarat government official said while the Shivaji project may score on height, if the base height is counted, the Gujarat one will be the tallest.
Vinayak Mete, chief of the Maharashtra government-appointed Shiv Smarak Samiti (Committee on Shivaji Memorial), said the Shivaji statue will be a 210-metre high monument. Mete pointed out two differences between the proposed Shivaji and Vallabhbhai Patel statues, as well as the Statue of Liberty and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.
“All these statues are vertical where in the central figure is standing. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue is also going to be in a standing position. However, the statue of Shivaji Maharaj is going to be a horizontal one with him riding a horse and wielding a sword. We feel this is a more wind-resistant design," Mete said.
The second difference is that almost 30% of the overall height of 210 metres is going to be a wide pedestal where the statue would be standing," Mete said.
A Maharashtra government official, who is part of the committee and who did not wish to be named, said the Patel statue might still be taller than the Shivaji one.
“The reason it is going to be a standing figure unlike Shivaji Maharaj. What, however, would be the stand-out feature of the Shivaji statue is the sword pointed at the sky. That would make it look more majestic and add character to the monument. We aren’t competing with the Sardar statue at all and the designers for these two memorials are the same," said the official.
Statue of Unity will be built on a rocky island on the Narmada river, about 3.5km south of the Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in Narmada district of Gujarat.