A Visit to World’s tallest statue - The statue of Unity, Kevadiya, Gujarat

Dowsarpandi

Well-Known Member
India is the home of world’s tallest statue as on date. The statue of Shri. Vallabhai Patel, the first home minister and deputy prime minister of the country post independence was constructed and opened to the public in late 2018. It has been named as the “Statue of Unity” , crediting the man who was instrumental in creating a unified India by bringing 550 odd princely states together. It is located on the downstream of river Narmada near the Sardar Sarovar dam at Kevadiya, Gujarat. The statue is 182 metres tall housed on a base of 58 metres. This is atleast over 50 metres taller than the current tallest – Spring Buddha temple statue in China. I had an opportunity to visit the monument along with my colleagues recently (19th November 2019) and the experience was worthy of a write up.

Kevadiya, where the statue of unity is located can be accessed from the cities of Vadodara, Ankleshwar/Bharuch and Surat directly. We were told that road from Vadodara is an excellent road. We chose to go via Ankleshwar and return via Palsana (near Surat). The government of India is trying to promote the monument as a popular tourist destination and hence it is a work in progress. For time being it appears to me that the place is just adequate/self sufficient to cater the number of visitors per day. Various sources claim that the number of visitors cross more than 30, 000/ day during holidays and weekends. The monument is open to visitors from 0800 AM to 0600 PM all days except Mondays.

The prime attraction is the statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, a viewing gallery inside the statue at a height of 145 metres (Chest level in the statue) and a museum at the base of the statue, comprising details of construction of the state, life of Sardar and his contribution towards the unification of Indian princely states. The other attractions around the state include the Sardar Sarovar dam, Valley of flowers, ecotourism and more promised additions in future.

Every tourist is levied an entry fee based on three categories.

(1) Adult Rs 120, Child Rs 60 – Entry into the monument campus, access to the museum at the base, open gallery, dam site and valley of flowers. This ticket does not include entry to the viewing gallery as well as bus ticket.

(2) Adult Rs 350, Child Rs 200 – Entry into the monument campus, access to the museum at the base, open gallery, dam site, valley of flowers and access to the viewing gallery inside the statue. The ticket does not include bus ticket.

(3) Express entry – Rs 1000 per head (Adult/ Child) – This includes priority entry bypassing the queue and priority entry to the viewing gallery without waiting. The ticket includes bus ticket and priority entry to the buses as well.

There are ample number of Air conditioned buses operated in frequent intervals to ferry visitors across attractions. Tickets for the bus is charged at Rs 30 per head and valid through the whole day.

On a crowded day, the express ticket can really be very handy for it could be a time saver. The tickets can be purchased at the counters outside the monument or online at www.soutickets.in. The counters open at 0730 AM everyday. While booking tickets online, one has the choice of choosing the time slot for entry to the viewing gallery. Carrying hard copy is not necessary. The online booking can be made upto 24 hours prior to the entry. The online booking process was smooth and a confirmatory message arrived promptly on the registered mobile number. No ticket was sent to the registered email. As a precaution, I had taken the screenshot of QR code generated. It turned out to be a time saver later.

We had booked an express entry through the online portal and chose the 0800 AM – 1000 AM time slot for the viewing gallery in order to avoid the crowd. We left Ankleshwar before the dawn and reached Kevadiya before 0700 AM. The statue can be viewed from as far as 5 – 6km on the banks of river Narmada. Since we were one of the earliest to arrive, we had the entire parking area close to the entry gate to ourselves and could choose the slot. It also gave us and “human free” environment for photography. There were a couple of tea shops outside and they served few snacks as well. But 0800 AM was too early for anything other than tea. The statue didn’t appear that tall – that was my initial impression!!

Soon after turning off the Mumbai Delhi highway
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First sight of the statue from the river Narmada
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Getting closer..
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Even closer..
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The Caravan, Chariot and the champ..

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It was 0800 AM and the gate was opened for entry. There were about two dozen people at that time competing to enter (as usual). The private security guards greeted, checked and let us in. The open gallery has nothing much to write about, but well made and attractive enough for our public to ruin it. The place was still clean though. The walk to the statue is quite long – would be exhausting during the later hours of the day. At half way, we reach the counter where tickets are issued and the actual entry, where there is a security check. Those with online tickets can directly go to the entry point. There is a separate entry for those with express tickets. However, there was issue with systems there (apparently there was a migration to a newer software at the back end) and hence some delay in letting us enter beyond the security counter. Their system wouldn’t open nor their scanners would read the QR code. Hence we were asked to go through same queue (without priority entry). The issue persisted there for all online tickets – that was what presumed. In the end, the authorities clicked picture of the QR code and let visitors in. At that time of the day, with the crowd yet to build it wasn’t difficult to get through the queue. But if one pays a premium, it is only fair to expect better services.

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From there on, there are travelators with covered shade all the way upto the base of the statue. There were guards and guides everywhere, politely guiding the visitors (Thumbs up for that). As one gets closer to the statue, I realized its sheer size.. It was indeed colossal!!. We chose to go the viewing gallery before the crowd came in. There again the software issue cropped up. We were guided to the express entry queue, our QR code was clicked as a picture and we were guided to the elevator – thanks to that unruly crowd who were arguing with the authorities to let them in without a ticket. Apparently, they were not issued viewing gallery ticket because of the software issues. This meant we were the first and only visitors to the viewing gallery till then (it was close to 0830AM). There are two high speed elevators taking visitors from the foot of the statue to 130+ metres in under 30 seconds.

So we were at close to 200 metres from the ground level (Remember - the statue is housed over a 50 metres base) equating to being on top of a 45 story building. The earth movers and bull dozers working round the clock in the river bed for creation of more attractions appeared tiny (really tiny!!). The guides available there voluntarily greeted us and explained the features of the monument, exact location inside the statue and how we have reached there (Thumbs up again!!!). The statue faces the east and hence photography in early part of the day becomes an issue (with basic cameras and mobile cameras) while attempting to capture the dam gates. When we visited (in late November), the dam gates were closed. Am sure it must be a great sight to be there at that height with the dam gates open!!. One gets a 3 degree panaromic view from that height – would not fascinate anyone who has lived in a hill station or used to high rise buildings. We had the whole of the viewing gallery for ourselves, till a gang of visitors arrived. It gave us enough time to sit and relax, try various modes of photography, satisfy the selfie craze (not for me though) and get group pictures clicked. We left back once the crowd started to pour in.

View from the top
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The guide explaining the features of the statue
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It was getting hotter and it was time to go indoors. After clicking enough pictures around the statue, we headed to the museum, which in my opinion is the second best thing in the monument. The museum comprises of the details of the construction of the statue, Sardar’s life and historical events pre and post Independence. Quite a few things attracted and impressed me the most. The miniature statue, replica of the head and the time lapse video of the construction phase to name a few. It was late morning and quite a lot of tourists had arrived, so was the noise and unruly behaviour. Plenty of school students too had come (probably one day pic for all schools around now on). The museum could easily engage the visitor for an hour or more depending on individual’s interest on the history.

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The food court near the open gallery had multiple outlets included the popular brands. We chose to have light snack and headed out to the dam site. Outside the gate, another round of snacks and hydration with flavoured milk followed. Visitors can board the shuttle buses and designated spots for which clear signage are present. The buses are operated at short intervals, so one does not need to wait long. Express ticket helps one bypass the queue and get onto the bus right away. By mid day, there was atleast two buses crowded there. Our express entry ticket got us priority, but we chose to forgo the option and took a later bus to the dam site – we were quite tired as the mid day heat was taking toll on us. Dam with closed gates doesnt offer any extravagant sight. Fatigue and tiredness got the better off us and we chose to skip the valley of flowers.

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Back at the parking, we were charged Rs 150 (valid for whole day), and headed to the nearest accommodation available. We wanted to be there in the evening for the light and sound show which usually starts at past 0700 PM. The entry is free for all. The show can be viewed from the open gallery. There were multiple advertising boards guiding us to BRG budget lodging which actually turned out to be a steal. A pretty new place offered us a huge AC room at a fair bargain. So the scorching afternoon was spent in AC room where we had good rest. So far everything went as per plan. We wanted to rest as we had plans to drive that night.

By 0600 PM we vacated the hotel and headed back to the monument. Spent time lazing around and snacking. The crowd was building up as it was getting dark. We managed to find some place to have a clear view of the statue. The show commenced at 0700 PM. One gets to appreciate the perfection that has gone into the making of the statue during the light show. The statue has been designed in a way that it fits various younger ages/versions of Sardar so perfectly!!. The show lasts for about 25 minutes. The light and sound show in my opinion turned out to be the best attraction in the monument. (Dont miss it!!!!). I have witnessed enough light and sound shows across various monuments across and the country as well laser show abroad. While this show may not be on par with laser shows, it still scores above the rest that we have seen.

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Depicting Sardar at various ages
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Various phases during construction
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The statue in future
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While there are polarizing opinions and debate on whether a monument should have ever been made splurging tax payers money, there is no doubt that Gujarat state as well as the government of India have made earnest efforts to attract visitors. With more attractions due to start in future, the place is going only going to get more popular. At the same time, I start wondering what if other states follow this statue culture and start splurging tax payers money!! For now, I am happy that the Government of India chose to honour the Iron man who unified this beautiful country.
 

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This was the tallest statue in the world? That means my teacher lied to me when she said it was Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer.
 
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