A massive egg-shaped mirror-finished structure in Hyderabad with a giant reddish-yellow flame atop is all set to symbolise the essence of decades-long struggles that led to the creation of India’s youngest state. Touted as an upcoming major tourist attraction beside the historic Hussainsagar lake, the new Telangana Martyrs’ Memorial — a Rs 179 crore project that’s soon to be unveiled to the public — is deemed the world’s largest seamless stainless steel structure.
The polished and puffed exterior may evoke similarities to the ‘Cloud Gate’ or the Chicago ‘Bean’ and ‘The Bubble’ in the western Chinese city of Karamay. But this, the makers say, is a lit traditional earthen oil lamp conceived as a tribute to the martyrs of separate statehood agitation that culminated in today’s Telangana. Only that at a height of 161 feet and width of 158 feet, this is five to six times bigger than ‘Cloud Gate’.
Telangana’s new secretariat and new Martyrs’ memorial. A 125-feet Dr Ambedkar statue is also getting ready in the bg. Photo: govt https://t.co/3Sc9YiPLjj pic.twitter.com/7KGs5ey0uv
— Rahul V Pisharody (@rahulvpisharody) November 24, 2022
Telangana was bifurcated from Andhra Pradesh on June 2, 2014 after over 2,000 people sacrificed their lives during the separate statehood agitation that started in the mid-sixties. The second phase of agitation that kicked off in 2001 saw K Chandrashekar Rao snap ties with the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to form Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS, and now Bharat Rashtra Samithi) and the coming together of rally students, civil society, government employees and political forces for the common cause. Thirteen years later, Rao emerged as the first Chief Minister of Telangana.
Eminent sculptor M Venkata Ramana Reddy, who conceived the design and supervised the project, said it was the fifth design that was submitted to Chief Minister KCR for whom the memorial is a flagship project. “All over the world, people light a candle or lamp to offer respect to the departed souls. It was around the festival time that this design occurred to me and four of the previous designs were already rejected for various reasons. A lit lamp as a tribute to the sacrifices of statehood martyrs got everyone on the same page,” he said.
Inside the building will be a museum, an audio-visual hall to accommodate 75 people, a convention centre with seating arrangements for 650 people, a restaurant and other amenities for tourists, including parking for 350 cars and 650 bikes. Spread across a sprawling 3.36-acre land opposite the new Telangana Secretariat complex, the stainless steel structure has a built-up area of 2.85 lakh square feet. The kitchen and restaurant set up at two levels on the terrace floor give a full view of Hussainsagar and iconic monuments such as the Buddha statue, Birla Mandir, upcoming 128-foot-tall Dr B R Ambedkar statue, apart from the Secretariat and the NTR memorial.
According to Ghanta Chakrapani, a professor in Sociology and a veteran of the statehood movement, the aspirations of the people of Telangana to remain independent have roots in the ‘idli sambar go back’ or ‘ghair mulki go back’ movement of 1953 in Hyderabad.
It was during the times of military rule in Hyderabad after it acceded to Indian Union in September 1948 and till the first elected government came to power in March 1952 that scores of settlers from the then Madras state and Andhra region moved into Hyderabad and thereby threatening employment for the locals. “Seven students were killed in police firing during this agitation. The crux of the statehood movement was always ‘neelu nidhulu niyamakalu’ (which translates into water, resources, and employment),” said Prof Chakrapani.
The linguistic reorganisation of the states that saw the Telugu-speaking regions of Hyderabad state forcefully merge with Andhra to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956 led to a further influx of thousands of settlers from Andhra into Hyderabad. In ten years, the government’s failure to commit to the promises and conditions of the merger led to a violent uprising among students and government employees who saw themselves losing their career prospects and opportunities. “It was a violent war that lasted a year. Though the movement was brutally suppressed by the then government, it matured intellectually and politically over the decades,” Prof Chakrapani added.
At the new memorial for martyrs, engineers used as many as 3,000 stainless steel plates weighing over a hundred tonne for the external cladding. These were fabricated in Dubai, assembled on-site with extreme precision and welded together seamlessly using laser technology. While only the internal walls and slabs are made of concrete, the building used another 1,200 tonne of mild steel used in construction. The flame on top made of carbon steel has been set up in such a way that it can withstand winds speeds up to 130 kmph.
As many as 5,000 people have worked on this project in the last three years. As challenging as it was to implement the design, Reddy said the building has no ventilation and is fully air-conditioned. It was a challenge to ensure that the structure does not heat up from the inside. While the shiny exterior of 4-millimetre stainless steel will reflect heat, the puff material and supporting GRC (fibre-reinforced concrete) sheets underneath will help control the temperature inside.
While some believe that justice has remained elusive for those who sacrificed their lives in the movement, most agree the unique monument certainly is one of the ways to honour their sacrifices. Though the building is slated for inauguration on February 17, the birthday of the Chief Minister, along with the new Secretariat, others feel that it would be ideal to inaugurate the martyr’s memorial on the state formation day, ie; June 2.
“This is a symbolic space to pay our respects. As our collective wish of a separate state was fulfilled in 2014 and our state continues to surge ahead, it is important to remember the aspirations and dreams that fuelled the movement,” Prof Chakrapani stated.