Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a towering statue of independence leader Sardar Vallabbhai Patel. Over 180 meters tall, it dwarfs the world's next-tallest statue, which is located in China.
The world's tallest statue was unveiled in India's Gujarat state on Wednesday in a ceremony filled with pomp, circumstance and heightened security.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the statue of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, a key Indian independence leader, dubbing it the "Statue of Unity." Patel also served as the country's first home minister after British colonial rule ended in 1947.
"To build this statue, hundreds of thousands of farmers from all over India came together to donate their tools, portions of their soil, and a mass movement developed around the statue," Modi said in his speech.
At 182 meters (587 feet), the statue is more than twice the size of the Statue of Liberty in New York City. It also dwarfs the world's next-tallest statue, the Spring Temple Buddha in China, which is 128 meters tall.
The bronze statue is made up of nearly 100,000 tons of steel and concrete. The site will also contain a museum dedicated to Patel's life and work, which will include some 40,000 documents, 2,000 photographs and a research center.
Air force jets and helicopters showered flower petals on the statue during the lavish ceremony, while some 5,000 police officers patrolled the area around the statue.
Modi has faced criticism for going ahead with the project, which cost some 29.9 billion rupees ($404 million; €356 million) to build.
Locals in the Narmada district of Gujarat state, where the statue is located, threatened to protest the statue's unveiling. They claim that the project has destroyed natural resources and that families that had to be relocated from the site of the statue haven't been compensated.
"I am not against Sardar, but what is the use of the statue if the people on the land have to suffer and are moved from their homes?" local legislator and community group leader Chotu Vasava said.
The government in Gujarat state has said that the 185 families that were moved to make space for the statue have been compensated.
rs/sms (AP, AFP)