Statues have captivated humans for thousands of years. The first known statues depicted gods, then eventually kings, and then we saw the famous creations of male and female forms in the statues of the Greeks.
Nowadays, statues are still used to memorialize, to honor, and to represent important figures in society (you might be able to think of an example yourself).
Here in the United States, people often mention the Statue of Liberty when thinking of important statues; it’s a staple of New York City and a symbol for the country as a whole, a famous figure most will say represents freedom. This statue is no joke, either, as anyone who’s seen it will likely agree. The green goddess stands a towering 151 feet tall (not including the pedestal) with her torch held defiantly in the air.
But how does the Statue of Liberty measure up to other statues in the world?
You might be surprised to learn that Ms. Liberty is nowhere near the tallest statue in the world – in fact, she comes in at number 47 on the list. Instead, we must travel across the globe to India to find the tallest statue on Earth today.
The Statue of Unity
Standing over the water on a small river island near Rajpipla, Gujarat, India, previous deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is forever immortalized in steel, cement, and bronze.
According to National Public Radio, the man the statue depicts is famous for working with Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru to achieve Indian independence from the United Kingdom. People especially admire him for uniting hundreds of separate Indian states into one cohesive entity, and he has been dubbed the “Iron Man of India”. Fitting, isn’t it?
And now, the Iron Man of India has one gigantic work of art created in his likeness. The $400 million statue took 33 months to complete, required a workforce of no less than 3,400 people, and will require roughly 12 lakh per day to operate and maintain, as reported by the Times of India. Given that 1 lakh is 100,000 rupees, with a little math we can determine that 12 lakhs is roughly the equivalent of 16,800 USD. That’s quite the investment!
Okay, okay, but how tall is it?
The Statue of Unity soars an impressive 600 feet into the air. That would be about four Statues of Liberty stacked on top of one another. To put that in perspective, even the Patel statue’s big toe is taller than the construction workers that put him together.
Some runner-up statues
The Statue of Unity was just unveiled in 2018, so it’s relatively new to the statue scene. Before its construction, the Spring Temple Buddha statue in Zhaocun, China, held the crown as the tallest statue in the world for ten years.
This elegant figure comes in at 420 feet tall. That’s still almost three Statues of Liberty stacked on top of one another, and it took a solid eleven years to build. No surprise there!
Third in line is Laykyun Setkyar, located in Myanmar. Another Buddha statue, this one measures 380 feet tall and is positioned next to its neighbor statue, a giant reclining Buddha. While perhaps not as tall as the others, the Setkyar is more colorful, with gold, white, and bluish hues that help bring the Buddha to life. When gazing up at it, the statue almost seems to leap forth from in front of a blue sky.
After Myanmar’s statue comes the Ushiku Great Buddha in Ibaraki, Japan. This gray masterpiece is 330 feet tall, and a well-known attraction in its region. At the Ushiku, visitors can take a ride to a viewing gallery inside the statue, and on a good day, they might just see the Tokyo Skytree in the distance.
As you can see, many of the top statues reside in the eastern regions of the world. And many of them depict Buddha!
But they are not always celebrated
As with many large-scale projects, the Statue of Unity in India was not erected without its controversies. India Today reported that strong opposition to the statue came from local tribal organizations.
The tribes spoke out against the effect the statue had on their land. They claimed that land was taken from them to fulfill the purposes of the project, not only at the location of the statue, but including the land all around the statue’s perimeter. Tourism in the area was also going to encroach upon areas that were originally the tribe’s property.
Because of this, tribes and anyone else supporting them decided to observe a rule of “no cooking” on the day the statue was unveiled in October of 2018. This was meant to express their mourning and heighten awareness of their protest.
Despite the unfortunate problems that may have arisen from the construction of the Statue of Unity, the message behind the figure remains the same. Vallabhbhai Patel still represents independence and unity for India, and many still revere his actions in life. Because of this, he has received the grand honor of being the model for the tallest statue on Earth.
But if history tells us anything, the Statue of Unity may not be the tallest statue for long. What country will be the next to build the tallest statue? Who will it be modeled after? These questions are sure to be answered, but only time will tell.