The Statue of Unity is the tallest statue in the world, towering so high that the Statue of Liberty’s outstretched arm barely reaches its belly. Standing at 182 meters (597 feet) tall, the giant statue can be found gazing over the Narmada River near the town of Kevadia in Gujarat, India.
It depicts Vallabhbhai Patel, an Indian independence activist and India’s first deputy prime minister who was born in Gujarat in 1875. Working alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Patel played a fundamental role in the non-violent civil disobedience that eventually managed to liberate India from British colonial rule in 1947. He is often known as the “Iron Man of India” due to his uncompromising leadership and determination.
The Statue of Unity cost a massive $422 million to build and consists of steel framing and reinforced concrete that’s covered in bronze cladding. Despite its colossal size, it has been designed to resist winds of up to 50 meters (164 feet) per second and has been classified as an earthquake-resistant structure.
Upon its completion, the Statue of Unity took the title of the world’s largest statue from the Spring Temple Buddha in China, surpassing it by 54 meters (177 feet). To give some perspective on its size, take a look at how his toes compare to the size of some tourists:
The mega-project to construct the statue was announced in October 2013 by Narendra Modi when he was serving as Chief Minister of Gujarat. It was finished in October 2018, by which time Modi had risen to become Indian prime minister, to mark the 143rd anniversary of Patel's birth.
Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been keen to co-opt heroes of the independence movement, such as Patel, in a bid to promote India’s history and a strong sense of Hindu identity.
"The statue will remind those who question India's existence that this nation was – is and will be – eternal," Prime Minister Modi said at its unveiling ceremony.
“The height of the statue is to remind the youth that the future of the country will be as huge as this. It is also symbolic of our engineering and technology affordability,” he added.
While the monument was intended to be a symbol of national unity, not everyone was happy about its construction. The day before it was officially unveiled, at least 300 activists were arrested for protesting against the statue. After the construction reportedly displaced farmers and nearby villagers, some argued that the project only benefited the tourism industry and construction contractors, not local residents.
The Statue Of Unity might not hold the crown of the world's largest statue for long, however.
India has announced plans to build a statue that stands up to 212 meters (696 feet) tall on an artificial island in the Arabian Sea, just off the coast of Mumbai. Known as Shiv Smarak, it is intended to depict Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the 17th-century Indian warrior king and founder of the Maratha Empire. Although it was hoped the statue would be completed by 2022, it is still yet to be finished with no opening date in sight.