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Statue Politics In Modi Raj: Recognising Unsung Heroes

The Hindutva push is so compelling in the statue culture that even opposition parties, hitherto hostile to Hindus, are now vying to woo the native community

No one ever in his or her wildest dream would have thought that the statue of Subhas Chandra Bose would be placed where once stood the statue of George V, which was removed from India Gate premises in 1968. The canopy under which the statue of George V stood remained unclaimed for almost 53 years before one of the rightful claimants got his due, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi informing the nation about the government decision in his signature style on Twitter. The prime minister will inaugurate also a 216-foot statue of Saint Ramanujacharya in a sitting position in Hyderabad on 5 February to celebrate his 1,000th birth anniversary. The statue of the saint-philosopher will be called the Statue of Equality.

But as far as inaugurating Bose’s statue is concerned, the prime minister already informed people that now Republic Day celebrations will start from 23 January, the birth anniversary of Bose, instead of 24 January. A hologram of Bose has been projected at the site of the statue till the time installation of the actual statue in granite is completed. What is important to note here is that the incumbent government has the propensity of recognising such unsung heroes or people from history who were denied their dues.

Prime Minister Modi recently unveiled the statue of Rani Ahilyabai Holkar in Varanasi while inaugurating the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. She is credited with the restoration and rebuilding of the present-day Kashi Vishwanath temple in 1780. The temple was demolished by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The prime minister also unveiled the statue of Adi Shankaracharya at Kedarnath Dham in Uttarakhand in November 2021. The entire Kedarnath Dham kshetra is being rebuilt. There is a samadhi of Shankaracharya and his statue on the premises, which has added glory to the entire area.

These are a couple of such examples that tell the present-day government’s intention, work culture and planning, demonstrating how it can bring about glory to the lost icons and places of the country. It all started with the conception, planning and execution of the idea of building a colossal statue of first Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, which is also known as the Statue of Unity situated at Kevadia in Narmada district of Gujarat. Now, the place has not only become one of the most sought-after tourist destinations after its inauguration on the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel but also given Sardar Patel his due in the consciousness of the people of the country that he deserves.

Ostensibly recognising the unsung historical, cultural, political and religious leaders of the country has become a hallmark of the various BJP dispensations. To take the initiative further, statues of several other such icons will also be unveiled very soon. The government has plans to unveil a statue of SriRama embracing Nishada Raja at Sringverpur in the Prayagraj district where a park is also being developed. The other is the statue of Guru Gorakhnath on the Gorakhgiri hill in the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh where he used to meditate in a cave that is now named after him. A 40-feet statue of Maharaja Suheldev on a horse in Bahraich will be a reality soon and a 12.5-feet statue of Maharishi Valmiki in the Valmiki Ashram in Chitrakoot district of Uttar Pradesh. A 251 m high statue of Lord Ram is already planned in Ayodhya at the bank of River Sarayu. Rs 2,500 crore for the project was approved by the Yogi Adityanath cabinet and some money has already been sanctioned. These projects will become a reality very soon and work on them is already underway. These projects have evoked Hindutva sentiment on one hand and on the other have filled people of that particular region with pride. Despite local people celebrating these places for their importance, they were neglected by the successive governments.

A magnificent temple of SriRama is being built in Ayodhya which will emerge as the biggest shrine of any religion in the world giving pride to the people of Ayodhya with an international airport in the city and various other facilities. But it is an old story now. What is new is the statue of SriRama embracing Nishada Raja on the Ram Van Gaman Path at Sringverpur, which has not only religious, political but also cultural importance. In Indian cultural tradition, Sringverpur is not only the place from where SriRama crossed the Ganga to the other side but is also associated with Shringi Rishi. At Shringaverpur, cultural sequences as old as the 11th century BC up to recent times were found. The Archaeological Survey of India has published relevant information about the same. Similarly, the statue of Guru Gorakhnath to come up near Gorakhgiri hill in Mahoba close to the Nataraja painting recalls the legend that Alha and Udal, the two warriors of Chandel Kingdom, captured legendary Prithviraj Chauhan and imprisoned him in one of the caves there and was released on the intervention of Guru Gorakhnath.

The importance of Chitrakoot is very important, where remnants of Lord Rama’s exile from Ayodhya and his stay there are present at every nook and cranny of the holy city which is very pious to Hindus. Sage Valmiki is especially revered by the Valmiki Samaj that is generally neglected. Maharaja Suheldev on a horse in Bahraich will certainly cajole the Rajbhar samaj that was being wooed by the BJP for a long time. The prime minister laid the foundation stone for the construction of this statue in February 2021. Chief Minister Yogi unveiled the statue of Mihir Bhoj in Dadri in September 2021 will revive the memory of the forgotten hero. A 63-feet-tall statue of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, the most important ideologue of the party in power in and in the union government, was inaugurated in February 2022.

Needless to say, all these initiatives of the government, with subtle Hindutva overtones, will have a lasting impact on the minds of the people. The way BJP governments have forced leaders of every other political party to visit temples and take a dip in the Ganga, even the was compelled to announce its plan to install a 108 ft statue of Lord Parashurama along the Lucknow-Agra Expressway near Lucknow to woo Brahmin voters but with a rider that if the party returns to power in 2022.

Vinod Shukla
Vinod Shukla
Senior journalist and political commentator

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