On Wednesday, India unveiled the world’s tallest statue: The Statue of Unity, which depicts the country’s first deputy prime minister and major independence leader, Vallabhbhai Patel. It is about twice the size of the Statue of Liberty, and taller than the previous record-holder, China’s Spring Temple Buddha.
Funny enough, it will not be the tallest statue for long: India’s state of Maharashtra is constructing a memorial to the Maratha warrior king Shivaji that will be several meters taller.
In addition to playing a leading role in organizing nonviolent resistance against the British, Patel was instrumental in forging a cohesive, democratic republic from the politically fragmented British Raj, which included both British-controlled colonies and over 560 self-governing “princely states” that had been indirectly ruled.
Through both force of personality and de facto command of the military, he managed to cajole nearly all these states to join India; this uncompromising willingness to do whatever it took to form India earned him the moniker of the “Iron Man of India” and “Unifier of India”. Patel was also the founder of the country’s massive civil service, the “All India Services”, which he identified as the “steel frame” of the country that would cement a fractious, disunified society.
Although widely beloved for his decisive leadership in founding India, many locals protested the construction and dedication to the statue, believing it to be a waste of well needed public funds; demonstrators were subsequently kept at bay during the unveiling ceremony.
See a slideshow of its construction here.