Credit: SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
India prepares to inaugurate the world's tallest statue
India is set to unveil the world's tallest statue next week, the towering figure of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a popular political and social leader, who was part of the freedom struggle that resulted in India's independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Looming 182 meters (597 feet) above the Narmada River in the western Indian state of Gujarat, the statue is set to be unveiled on October 31, revealing a figure molded from approximately 1,850 metric tons of bronze.
"In the world, people talk about America's Statue of Liberty. We want to make a statue of Sardar Patel at twice the size of the statue of Liberty," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2013. The Statue of Liberty is 93 meters high, including its pedestal.
The ambitious project was announced by Modi in 2010, when he was still the chief minister for the state of Gujarat. Built with funds allocated by the Gujarat state government, it has also received support from the federal government and individual contributions.
Estimated to cost over $410 million, the committee overseeing the construction asked for the public donations to finish the statue. Modi called on farmers across the country to donate iron.
Images show Indian workers putting the final touches on the statue of Patel, who's wearing a shirt, shawl and loincloth with detailed folds. Promoted as a dream that Modi is keen to fulfill in his first term as Prime Minister, the project includes a museum, research and entertainment center. A 3-star hotel has been built in a complex nearby.
Modi is expected to inaugurate the statue next week in a grand ceremony with senior party and government leaders.
For critics of Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, the statue is an example of their effort to appropriate a popular national figure. Patel was a member of the Congress Party, which now sits in opposition in India's parliament.
Best known for his role in India's non-violent struggle to free itself from British rule, he became the country's first deputy prime minister and home minister after independence in a government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister. Patel was central to the effort to merge small princely states into a unified independent India -- and his success there made him a lasting nationalist symbol.
The Statue of Unity is not the only one that is waiting to break records. A new statue dedicated to a famous Maharashtrian warrior, Shivaji, is being built in the Arabian ocean, just off the coast of Mumbai.
Set to reach a height of 212 meters, this new statue could upstage Modi's dream project.