Amongst the great manmade places visible from outer space are the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, and the Palm Islands of Dubai. Now added to the list is the 600-foot figure of Sardar Patel — so tall, at dusk it casts a mile-long shadow over an enormous dry agricultural stretch. Without irrigation facilities in the fields around the statue, farmers face continual drought. Sadly, Sardar Patel’s high gaze ignores their fallow land, and is directed instead into a wilderness far greater, across all India (Ironically the base of the statue houses a research centre dedicated to good governance and agricultural development).
One of the unfortunate tragedies of building such a massive statue in undeveloped landscape is that its monumental impact is lost to the open terrain. Without active comparison to other manmade structures, the size of Sardar Patel is dwarfed by nature’s naturally monumental setting, and in the end the crucial aspect of height is lost. By contrast, the Statue of Liberty, which in reality is only one quarter the size of Sardar Patel is visually grander; its island presence a mere kilometre away from the backdrop of Lower Manhattan’s skyscrapers makes a stirring visual impact.
The government’s failure to comprehend the difference between a statue and a sculpture makes the reading of Sardar Patel merely one-dimensional, as if a child in a stroke of monumental play, increased the toy to giant size. In a country of India’s monumental size and equally vivid sculptural skills, the idea of building a blunt pictorial representation out of public funds, with an artistic hand from China, is a matter of colossal idiocy. The 42-month-long process and the unwholesome expenditure of Rs 3,000 crore can hardly be justified.
Beyond uniting the princely states into a union with India, what then is the larger idea of a statue of unity?