Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 15/02/2022
I have not written a travel post for a long time and the reason is obvious. The prerequisite for a travel post is travel (for pleasure) which became one of the first casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the good thing about COVID-19 (if there is any) is that once you get infected, you have antibodies which will be effective for three months. This window period is perhaps the time when you may consider, going back to life of the pre-COVID era. As they say, make hay when the sun shines! So travel for pleasure, as long as the immunity lasts!
As an adherent of this philosophy, my family and I finally decided to travel after more than two years. The three month period was too precious to fritter away at home. The perfect weekend getaway for someone based in Mumbai is Kevadiya (Gujarat) which is now home to the world’s tallest statue.
Situated about 415 kilometres from Mumbai and connected by a direct overnight train, Kevadiya is doable over the weekend. The colossal statue of the architect of independent, united India – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – has a towering presence. It has an aura that leaves the onlooker spellbound. The closer you get to it, the more puny and humbled you feel. The statue which is 182 metres tall rightfully dominates the landscape. You can look at it from different angles as you travel around the precincts and each view of it is not just impressive but unique too!
A veritable attempt has been made to document the entire process of erecting the statue. The role of Sardar Patel in the freedom struggle and his relentless efforts in unifying India by achieving the integration of the princely states when the British left in 1947 is also well chronicled in the ground floor museum. The audio visual display tools too have been used to good effect. Unfortunately, a number of the visitors treat the place as just another tourist spot. They engage with history very superficially. They make best use of the selfie point to announce to the digital world about their location. I was actually aghast to see a visitor standing against the model of a prison gate, smiling for a picture.
For a number of visitors, the bigger attraction is the elevator which takes one to the chest height of the statue and offers a breath taking view of the Sardar Sarovar dam. The elevator which takes one up to the viewing gallery, operates at a speed of 4 m/s; it tells on your ears, as the change in pressure is very rapid. The best part of the visit to the Statue of Unity is outside the statue – as you stand alongside the toes of Sardar Patel, after climbing four flights of stairs / escalators. This is the time when you begin to understand the stature of Sardar Patel in the true sense.
The projection mapping show which is held in the evening around 6:45 pm is one that fills one with pride for our nation. It showcases not just the life and contribution of Sardar but also the manner in which the Statue of Unity became a reality. What was also quite remarkable at Kevadiya was the Radio channel – FM90 Radio Unity which I heard, when I was there. This community FM radio service has helped to harness local talent and instil in the youth of Kevadiya a sense of confidence. There are also pink e-rickshaws operated by women plying in Kevadiya to facilitate smooth movement from spot to spot. These initiatives are rather unique and praiseworthy.
There has been an attempt to develop allied activities around the statue, though I believe that these still need to take off in a big way – be it the valley of flowers or the butterfly garden. A lot of work is still in progress. The Ekta mall is one such venture. It reminds you of Baba Kharak Singh Marg of New Delhi, where all state emporiums are located in close proximity. There has been an attempt to set up parallel outlets of these at one location which is called Ekta Mall. For a handicraft and handloom aficionado (like me !!), this was heaven. However, the mall was rather desolate and the emporiums wore a forlorn look. Tourists seemed to be frequenting the mall for the washrooms and the air conditioning rather than shopping. This explains why there were no chairs to sit in the mall!! There is a need to increase footfall in the mall by more aggressive marketing and some attractive deals at least till the sales pick up. The Ekta Food Court situated near the mall too had very few operational outlets.
As I sign off, I can only say that our visit to Kevadiya was quite fulfilling. One must visit Kevadiya at least once to see the statue, which is both an engineering marvel and a tribute to one of the most committed visionaries of modern India. The other activities essentially draw inspiration from Sardar Patel’s vision of a strong, unified, sublime and incredible India. As we drove out of Kevadiya, the enduring image was of the silhouette of the statue of Sardar Patel, with its quiet but strong presence.