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The history of the Grand Canopy at India Gate — and all about the statue of Netaji Bose that was unveiled there

The statue of Netaji will stand at the same place where his hologram statue was unveiled earlier this year by PM Narendra Modi. Earlier, the canopy at the India Gate complex housed a 50-foot marble statue of King George V until it was removed in 1968.

Statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose being installed at the India Gate in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

A statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at India Gate on Thursday (September 8) evening. The jet black granite statue was placed under the Grand Canopy to the east of India gate, halfway on the east-west axis to the National War Memorial.

How big is this statue?

It is 28 feet tall, that is, a little taller than a two-storey building. By the standards of other monumental statues in India, it is quite small — the Statue of Unity is almost 600 feet tall. But its size is limited by the height of the Grand Canopy under which it stands.

The statue has been carved out of a monolithic block of granite weighing 280 tonnes. The statue itself weighs 65 tonnes or 65,000 kg, and is the product of 26,000 man hours of intense artistic labour.

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The statue of Netaji stands at the same place where his hologram statue was unveiled earlier this year by the Prime Minister on Parakram Diwas, January 23 — Netaji’s 125th birth anniversary. On January 21, Modi had said that a grand granite statue of Netaji would be installed at India Gate as a mark of the grateful nation’s indebtedness to him.

Where did this granite block come from?

A 100-foot-long giant truck with 140 wheels was specially designed for the granite monolith to travel the 1,665 km from Khammam in Telangana, where it was excavated, to New Delhi.

As per a statement by the Ministry of Culture, the statue is completely hand sculpted, using traditional techniques and modern tools. The team of sculptors was led by Mysore-based sculptor Arun Yogiraj, who had earlier created the 12-foot statue of Adi Shankaracharya, which Modi unveiled in Kedarnath in 2021.

What is the significance of the India Gate Canopy?

About 150 m to the east of India Gate, at a centre of the C-hexagon, stands the 73-foot canopy, inspired by a sixth-century pavilion from Mahabalipuram. The canopy, designed by Edwin Lutyens, was added to the India Gate complex in 1936 as a tribute to the then recently deceased Emperor of India, King George V, and housed his 50-foot marble statue.

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The statue, showing George V in his coronation robes and the Imperial State Crown, was commissioned to Charles Sargeant Jagger, a well known sculptor of war memorials, whose work stands at many places across the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world, and was completed a couple of years after Jagger’s death.

After Independence, there was widespread opposition to the statue, and especially the fact that it occupied such a central location in the nation’s capital. Still, it stood at the site for another two decades, until it was moved to Coronation Park near the Inter-State Bus Terminus by the Yamuna in North Delhi in 1968.

Coronation Park was the venue of the Delhi Durbar of 1877 at which Queen Victoria was proclaimed as the Empress of India in addition to her existing title of Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, as also of the two subsequent Delhi Durbars of 1903 — to mark the accession of King Edward VII, the father and predecessor of George V — and 1911, when George V was proclaimed Emperor of India. The 1911 Durbar was the only one that was attended by the Emperor himself.

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Successive governments of independent India deliberated on whose statue should replace that of George V under the Grand Canopy. It was argued that Mahatma Gandhi’s statue would be ideal, or perhaps one of Jawaharlal Nehru. Following the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, it was suggested that her statue should be placed under the canopy.

The pedestal, however, remained empty. Historians of Indian history and culture argued that the emptiness would act as a reminder of the country’s past. For more than five decades, the canopy remained empty, and earned the name of ‘Empty Canopy’.

What will happen at the ceremony?

The Prime Minister’s arrival at the canopy for the unveiling of the statue of Netaji will be heralded with traditional Manipuri Shankh Vadayam and Kerala’s traditional Panch Vadyam and Chanda. The unveiling of the statue will be accompanied by the tune of Kadam Kadam Badhaye Jaa, the song of Netaji’s Indian National Army, which was first formed by Rash Behari Bose in 1942 and revived by Subhas in 1943, with regiments named after Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Azad, and himself, and a women’s regiment named after Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi.

A cultural festival by 500 dancers drawn from all parts of the country would be showcased on Kartavya Path, the erstwhile Rajpath. Glimpses of the same would be shown to the Prime Minister on the step amphitheatre near India Gate by 30 artistes who will perform tribal folk art forms such as Sambalpuri, Panthi, Kalbelia, Kargam and dummy horse with live music by Nashik dhol pathik tasha and the drums.

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Mangalgaan penned by Pt. Shri Krishna Ratanjankarji on the occasion of the first Independence Day in 1947 will be presented by Pt. Suhas Vashi along with a team of singers and musicians.

The ceremony at Kartavya Path will begin at 8.45 pm, and once the main event with the PM is over, will continue until September 11. A special 10-minute drone show on Netaji’s life will be projected at India Gate at 8 pm on all these evenings. Both the cultural festival and the drone show would be open to the public, with free entry.

First published on: 08-09-2022 at 01:34:46 pm
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