Upon its inauguration in October 2018, the Statue of Unity officially became the tallest statue in the world. Reaching a height of 597 feet (182 m), the colossal statue of the Indian statesman and independence activist Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.
In 2010, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to build a statue in honor of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875 –1950), one of the founding fathers of the Republic of India. And while the announcement of a new statue typically evokes a few nods and disinterested shrugs, this announcement immediately fired the imaginations of people around the world.
The Statue of Unity was to be the tallest statue in the world, twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and surpassing the previous record holder, the Spring Temple Buddha in China, by 177 feet (54 m).
Construction began in October 2014 at a site on the banks of the Narmada River in Gujarat. In charge of the project was Larsen & Toubro, one of India’s leading construction companies. The cost: a cool US$420 million.
Workers labored for about four years to build this gargantuan statue. The materials used included about 1,800 tons of bronze, 20,000 tons of reinforced steel and more than 7,000 tons of structured steel, with around 235,000 cubic yards of concrete filling the statue’s interior. And to prevent a very embarrassing and costly disaster, the statue was built to withstand winds of up to 140 miles per hour and earthquakes measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale.
The statue was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi on 31 October, 2018 (and a month later was photographed from space). For many it was a source of national pride and a clear demonstration of Indian construction skills. But it wasn’t without its detractors. The sheer cost of the thing was and is an obvious bone of contention, with some arguing that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel himself would never have approved of such a costly project.
Had the statue not attracted sufficient tourism to the area, it may have been even more controversial. But despite being able to see the statue quite clearly from miles away, tourists have flocked to see it up close. In the first few days of December 2018, the site was attracting around 30,000 visitors every day.