31 Oct 2018
#StatueOfUnity: About Ram Sutar, sculptor of the world's largest statue
Written byShiladitya Ray
On Wednesday, all eyes were on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he unveiled the world's tallest statue, the 522-ft tall 'Statue of Unity' of Sardar Patel, on an island on the Narmada near the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
While the nation is abuzz with talk of the statue, we take a look at the extraordinary life of 93-year-old Ram Vanji Sutar, the sculptor.
Sutar had already developed a reputation by his teens
Sutar was born in 1925 in a village in Maharashtra's Dhule district.
Owing to his father being a carpenter and a blacksmith, Sutar was familiar with the ways of crafting from an early age and, as a teenager, made a name as a prodigious sculptor in Dhule.
In 1952, Sutar earned a diploma from JJ School of Art in Mumbai, thereby kickstarting his career.
Sutar's career began with restoration work on the Elora Caves
Following the completion of his diploma, Sutar worked with the Archaeological Survey of India on the Elora Caves, and was involved in the restoration of broken bronze sculptures.
In 1959, the sculptor moved to Delhi and worked as a technical assistant at the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) for a short while, before quitting to become a freelancer.
1966 onwards, Sutar started building his reputation as a sculptor
As a freelancer, Sutar's first major break came in 1966, when he was tasked with sculpting a 10-ft bronze statue of Pt Govind Ballabh Pant, which was installed at the Krishi Bhavan roundabout after completion.
Since then, Sutar has made numerous statues of national leaders, ranging from Gandhi to BR Ambedkar to Jawaharlal Nehru and Ram Manohar Lohia.
Several of his statues feature inside the Parliament.
Sutar had a successful sculpting career spanning several decades
With work going well, Sutar built his first studio in Delhi in 1970, and in 2004, moved to a new, modern studio in Noida, designed by his son Anil.
Even before Sutar bagged the Statue of Unity deal, he was among India's foremost sculptors, credited for sculpting over 800 statues.
His Gandhi statues and busts also feature in over 350 cities across the world.
Statue of Unity
The Statue of Unity was Sutar's most challenging project
Commenting on the Statue of Unity, Sutar had earlier said that it was, by far, the most challenging project he had undertaken.
That's understandable, given that his tallest creation prior to the 522-ft Statue of Unity was a 45-ft statue of 'Goddess Chambal' he had made in 1959.
Now, however, Sutar is also making a 250-ft Ambedkar Statue, and a 400-ft Shivaji statue.
Stuff of dreams
The Patel statue marks the realization of Sutar's childhood dream
Yet, despite the challenge, completing the Statue of Unity marked the realization of a childhood dream for the 93-year-old sculptor.
From childhood, Sutar had been fascinated by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi's 305-ft Statue of Liberty, and had always dreamt of making a statue that would dwarf the iconic robed figure.
Having completed the Statue of Unity, Sutar said proudly, "It is almost double the size of the Statue of Liberty."
Sutar is one of the most prolific sculptors of recent-times
"It's impossible to know if he's the most prolific monumental sculptor in human history, but if he's not, he's got to be pretty close. He's certainly the most prolific of the last century," said Melia Belli Bose, an assistant professor of Asian art history at the University of Texas.