India to Build Immense Statue, Twice the Size of the Statue of Liberty, of Medieval King Shivaji
India intends to construct the world's tallest statue. The massive construct is meant to honor a medieval King named Shivaji. Once completed, the gigantic structure is expected to be twice the size of the Statue of Liberty and will sit on land reclaimed from the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai. However, there is also a great deal of controversy saying that the tax-money set for the statue could be better used.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj: Founder of Maratha Empire in India
Shivaji Maharaj is widely remembered as a medieval Hindu ruler in the western state of Maharashtra who fought the Muslim Mughal dynasty and carved out his own kingdom. He was born in 1627 AD (or 1630 AD) at Shivneri, a hill fort near Puna.
His father was an officer in the army of the Sultan of Bijapur and Shivaji was brought up under the care of his mother and guardian Dadoji Kondadev. Shivaji’s mother Jijabai and his guru Ramdas inspired him with noble and patriotic ideas and infused him with a love for religion and his country.
A statue of young Shivaji with Jijabai installed at the fort of Shivneri in 1960s. (Public Domain)
Shivaji received military training and learnt the art of government from a very young age; he then went on to organize a number of Marathi hill-folk into a fighting force and began to raid neighboring territories. By 1674, he had become the Chhatrapati (Monarch) of his realm at Raigad. His numerous triumphant battles made him one of the bravest Indian warriors in history.
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Early 1900s depiction of Shivaji’s coronation. (Public Domain)
Shivaji is also considered a pioneer for establishing a progressive civil rule under the wings of a disciplined military. He innovated military tactics, pioneering non-conventional methods and strategies that focused on surprising his larger and more powerful enemies. He also revived ancient Hindu political traditions and court conventions and promoted the usage of Marathi and Sanskrit, rather than Persian, in court and administration. For these reasons, he is considered by many historians to be one of the first nationalists and is the most recognized patriotic Hindu hero.
However, heated debates over his legacy and significance for Indian history have become the reason for violent confrontations between local disparate groups. This issue is especially persistent in Maharashtra.
A statue of Shivaji Maharaj at Raigad fort, Maharashtra. (GNU Free Documentation License 1.2)
New Statue Will Cost Over $530 million
The Indian government unveiled a project to construct the world's tallest statue of the legendary king, which at 192-meters (630ft), will be twice the size of the Statue of Liberty. At an estimated cost of about 36 billion rupees ($530m), the creation of the memorial is expected to be completed in 2019.
The foundation stone for the venture was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often sees Shivaji as one of his inspirational icons: "Even in the midst of struggle, Shivaji Maharaj remained a torchbearer of good governance. So many aspects of his personality inspire us," the Indian Prime Minister said at the inaugural event on Saturday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his way to lay the foundation stone for the giant Shivaji statue. (Sky News)
Highlighting the global prestige the construction could give India, Devendra Fadnavis, the chief minister of Maharashtra, also publicly stated, “Shiv Smarak (the memorial) in the Arabian Sea will be the tallest memorial not only in the country but in the entire world.”
Another artistic interpretation of what the statue may look like. (@CMOMaharashtra)
Despite Shivaji being a greatly-admired historical figure for many of the locals, the project has attracted much criticism for the way the government chooses to spend taxpayer money. And this is not the first time that so much money from taxpayers’ pockets is being used for the construction of an immense memorial. In 2014, shortly after Modi became prime minister, the national budget set aside about $34 million to create a huge construction to honor independence leader Vallabbhai Patel. That project is underway in Modi's home state of Gujarat. Once completed, it is expected to cost about ten times the amount set aside in the original budget.
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"Apart from a waste of money, this statue is going to be terrible for the environment, for the traffic situation in South Bombay and a security nightmare. This is taxpayers' money and I am sure we would all like this money to be spent on something better – education, infrastructure, food...anything but a statue that is of no use to anyone. This is not what Shivaji would have wanted and I am sure we can find other ways to honor him."
A Shivaji statue already in Mumbai. (CC BY SA 3.0)