The imposing statue of legendary Ahom General, Lachit Barphukan being sculpted at a workshop at Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh has almost reached Assam in its entirety. Parts of the statue has arrived in Jorhat, firmly under wraps.
Built at a cost of ₹120 crore, the 125-ft statue weighing 95 tonnes made of bronze and steel is being sculpted by the renowned sculptor Padma Bhushan recipient, Ram Vanji Sutar.
Of the 125 ft, 84 ft is the actual height of the statue with a pedestal measuring 41 ft. That is the staggering scale of the project that seeks to memorialise the legendary Ahom warrior in bronze and steel.
Nonagenarian Sutar (now 98) has crafted some of the most iconic monuments in the country, the most famous being the Statue of Unity, the world’s tallest statue with a height of 182 metres (597 feet), exceeding the Spring Temple Buddha by 54 metres.
Sutar, born in 1925 in Gondur, Maharashtra, to a carpenter, went to the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai. At a fledgling stage in his career, he was commissioned to assist in restoring statues in the Ajanta and Ellora caves.
A patriot to the core, at the heart of each of his creations, the veteran sculptor is reaching out to the patriot in us.
Tucked away in a corner in Noida’s industrial sector stands out Sutar’s studio with tall and humongous statues peeking out. The one thing that fails to escape one’s notice is that the workshop has several 3 ft statues of Sardar Vallabhai Patel which constitute Sutar’s base models over which giant statues are designed.
Sutar has come a long way from his first statue of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 to the world’s largest statue (also known as the Statue of Unity) that of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The Government of Assam went about in its task to erect a giant statue of Lachit Barphukan, who crushed the formidable Mughals in the great Battle of Saraighat in 1671, following suggestion from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to build a towering monument on the concluding function of the 400th birth anniversary of the great warrior in the national capital in November last year.
The work on Lachit’s statue which began eight months ago, is expected to be completed in early January next year. It will be installed in a sprawling area of 50 bighas.
Around 100 artisans are at work at the Ram Sutar Fine Arts Workshop under the watchful eyes of the sculptor giving casting of face and chest cladding of the statue. With meticulous planning and execution, the mammoth statue of the great Ahom General in battle gear with the hengdang (a single-edged sword with a long handle) in hand is being erected, block by block supported by iron structures. “First, we make a 3-ft model, then an 18-ft model and then a 30-ft model and so on. So, we basically scale up. You can imagine the size of the task,” says a craftsman, referring to the magnitude of Barphukan’s statue.
“Before taking up any project, like the ongoing statue of Lachit, we study the person minutely,” says Anil Sutar, architect-turned-sculptor, and son of the veteran sculptor, about the delicate process of getting to the face through the person. “We look at various photographs of him or her from all angles and also study them at different moments of time, in different contexts, so we know what face to go with,” he quipped.
Most of Sutar’s “soft works” (drawings and paintings) are mannered to a predictable script, seldom exceeding that format in imagination. It is his sculptures that affirm the magnitude of his craft.
Magnitude is important here because Sutar’s oeuvre itself is a play on the idea of scale. At that scale, a statue becomes a monument. An artist working to that degree of scale is extremely difficult to showcase in a gallery.
The transportation of the giant statue of Lachit is itself an uphill task. “The statue will be carefully wrapped up in several boxes measuring 10 ft in length and will be shipped to the final destination where it will be reassembled,” Anil told this reporter.
Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma took stock of the physical progress of the statue during his visit to Ghaziabad on July 15. He appreciated the eminent sculptor for being so passionate about his work despite his ripe age of 98 years.