Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

PHOTOS: World's Tallest Statue Ready For Its Inauguration In India

The Statue of Unity, seen dressed in scaffolding just two months ago.
Sam Panthaky AFP/Getty Images
The Statue of Unity, seen dressed in scaffolding just two months ago.

Deep in western India, a giant larger than any in the world awaits its imminent welcome to the world. The Statue of Unity, a 600-foot monument to a founding father of independent India, is set to be inaugurated Wednesday.

Presumably that will leave just enough time to finish scrolling through all of the photograph below.

The statue depicts Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who together with Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru helped lead India to independence from the U.K. Often known as the Iron Man of India, served as the independent country's first home affairs minister and deputy prime minister, and he's credited with helping unite its hundreds of disparate states into a coherent, functioning entity before his death in 1950.


Now, the late Indian leader will enjoy not just a towering reputation, but also a literally towering memorial in the region he hailed from, the western state of Gujarat. The $400 million Statue of Unity overlooks the Sardar Sarovar Dam near the city of Vadodara.

To give you a little sense of scale: It would take about four Statues of Liberty, each one standing atop the last, just for Lady Liberty to reach the crown of the Iron Man's head with her torch.

And as for his toes — well, his big toe alone stands easily taller than the construction workers putting the finishing touches on the statue.

It dwarfs its nearest competition, the Spring Temple Buddha in Henan, China. That copper behemoth stands 420 feet tall atop a 66-foot pedestal containing a monastery.

The Henan Buddha will relinquish the title of tallest statue in the world when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the Statue of Unity in person Wednesday. Modi, also a native of Gujarat, plans to perform a special prayer at the feet of the statue and deliver a speech in dedication before an air force flyby.


The colossus has not been without controversy, though.

Local tribe leaders have announced a boycott of the inauguration ceremony, citing the destruction of the natural resources nearby, according to Indian broadcaster NDTV.

"These forests, rivers, waterfalls, land and agriculture supported us for generations. We survived on them," they said in an open letter quoted by the broadcaster. "But, everything is being destroyed now and celebrations are also planned. Don't you think its akin to celebrating someone's death? We feel so."

They also asserted that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the statue could have been better used elsewhere — including on the unreliable nearby canal system.

"This is being done for political gains as tribal groups in Gujarat are still suffering and devoid of basic human necessities," one local leader said.

Such objections have done little to dampen Modi's enthusiasm.

"Every Indian will be proud of the fact that the world's tallest statue is now in India. Sardar Patel, the man connected with the land, will now adorn the sky," he said Sunday. "I am sure every Indian will take pride in telling the world about this great accomplishment."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit