India Is Now Home to the World's Largest Statue
By Lucas Reilly
At nearly 600-feet-tall, the world's largest statue was just recently completed. Depicting India's first interior minister and its most beloved deputy prime minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the statue was unveiled in late October 2018 and is nearly five times taller than Brazil's famed Christ the Redeemer, twice as high as the Statue of Liberty, and 180 feet taller than the previous record holder, China's Spring Temple Buddha.
The statue's subject, Vallabhbhai Patel, holds a special place in the country's history. Called the "Iron Man of India," Patel was one of country's modern founding fathers and was instrumental in the fight for India's independence, having worked directly with Gandhi to organize non-violent campaigns of civil disobedience. He was also a vital broker of peace, using his political acumen to convince more than 500 princely states to unite following the 1947 partition of India. For that reason, the memorial is called "The Statue of Unity."
Not everybody is a fan of the new landmark. The sculpture is located in a relatively remote part of Patel's home state of Gujarat and cost $430 million to build. Local farmers, who claim to have lost land because of the project, have protested construction and argue that the funds could have been put to better use. (Half of the money was provided by the Gujarat state government.) "Instead of spending money on a giant statue, the government should have used it for farmers in the district," farmer Vijendra Tadvi complained to the BBC.
The Statue of Unity, however, may not hold the title of the world's largest statue for long—although, if it does lose its title, the distinction will likely remain in India. Over in Mumbai, the Shiv Smarak statue is being constructed to honor the 17th-century Hindu warrior and Maratha kingdom founder, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. By its estimated completion in 2021, the memorial will tower at 695 feet.