by Kalpana Pandey

 

When you drive to Nathdwara, a small town near Udaipur in Rajasthan, you will now be greeted by a looming bronze statue of Shiva. Famous for its Shrinathji Temple, Nathdwara now has another sight in store for us.

Promoted as the Statue of Belief, this 351-foot-tall (107 meters) statue is the largest Shiva statue in the world and the fifth largest statue in the world. Coincidentally, this is the second statue from India on the roster, after the one of Sardar Vallabhai Patel in Gujarat.

 

It was built by Madan Paliwal, who is the chairman of the Miraj Group, one of India’s leading conglomerates. The construction for the statue started in 2012 and it has only reached completion recently. Since then, many tourists have put this on their must-visit list.

In his own words, Paliwal wanted to put Nathdwara on the tourist map by creating something gigantic and worth seeing. This is indeed a good step in that direction as Nathdwara has seemingly become more popular among travelers. Earlier, loyal devotees visited the city to see the legendary Shrinathji temple, but now, this statue attracts many sightseers, families and even more religious tourists.

 However, this isn’t the only thing that Nathdwara has to offer. You have the land of Haldighati and the village of Molela. Nathdwara has contributed a lot to Indian crafts – it is famous for its intricate Pichhwai works honouring Shreenath ji. (See -> Pichhwai Painting)

 

 

While on one hand the statue makes one feel good about India’s heritage and rich culture, it also raises a pointed question – was it really necessary?

Don’t get me wrong, the statue is beautiful. It is good to know that India is building monuments to reclaim its heritage and rich mythology. From what we have read about Lord Shiva, someone of his stature does deserve an ode so grand. However, what does it actually do for the people? If this statue was not to be made, where would the labor and money be put to use instead– if at all?

This isn’t a new discussion; it was mused about before by the public when the Sardar Vallabhai Patel statue was inaugurated. Many believed that in order to honour a person who has done so much for the country, the money used to construct the statue should have been used to better the land he fought to unite.

Some might say that the decision belongs in the hands of the Shiva statue’s financier Madan Paliwal. He can do whatever he wants to do with his money– a fair argument. However, if rich benefactors like him and so many others in India want to do something for their hometown and community, then wouldn’t  the more ethical solution be to give back to the lowest rungs of their community?

 

We have all heard the saying that gods don’t want statues, temples or blind faith. Rationally, we have to help each other in order to continue the string of humanity that binds us all for posterity. 

But perhaps, there is some good to it. The Statue of Belief has an inner three-layer structure with a meditation room, a VIP lounge, a visitor’s room and an administrative office. In a way, this has generated some employment for the locals, and at least in theory, will also help the local traditions and crafts gain more recognition– even if by mere association.

Ultimately, you get to form your own opinion. Should a small town like Nathdwara direct resources to become a tourist spot to be flocked and forgotten about, or should the natives first be given a better standard of living through modern infrastructure and wellness programs? 

 

Not just that, who should be responsible for this decision– only the government or the rich as well?

 

Largest Shiva Statue in the World in Nathdwara

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