Icons on the road

- June 11, 2023

Delhi has statues of many historical personalities that may interest world leaders like Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin and Rishi Sunak during the G-20 summit

STANDING STRONG: The Gyarah Murti sculpture, which reminds one of Dandi March, lies at the T junction, where Sardar Patel Marg meets Mother Teresa Crescent. (Photo: Getty)

As the likes of Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Rishi Sunak and other Presidents and Prime Ministers attending the forthcoming G-20 summit to be held in September will move down Sardar Patel Marg on their way from Indira Gandhi International Airport to the President’s Estate, they will surely see the breath-taking group of statues known as Gyarah Murti.

Located at the T junction, where Sardar Patel Marg meets Mother Teresa Crescent, the sculpture created by renowned sculptor Devi Prasad Roy Choudhury shows Mahatma Gandhi on his revolutionary Dandi March in 1931. Giving Gandhi company in the sculpture are also two very respected freedom fighters — Matangini Hazra and Sarojini Naidu.

During their stay in the Capital, the world leaders would visit various parts of the city and in the process, they would see many, many impressive statues and busts here.

For instance, if British Prime Minister Sunak will visit the President House, he may take a look at the bust of Edwin Lutyens, chief architect of New Delhi. It was built and placed at the behest of Lord Mountbatten.

Sunak is most unlikely to visit Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC). If he does, he will able to see the life-size statue of Lady Hardinge inside the campus of LHMC near Connaught Place.

POWER WOMAN: Lady Hardinge, who established the Lady Hardinge Medical College, seated in this file photo as husband Charles Hardinge and their children look on. (Photo: Getty)

It is thanks to her untiring efforts that India got the first women-only medical college in 1916. Lady Hardinge was the wife of the then viceroy of India, Charles Hardinge.

Delhi should remain indebted to her husband too as due to the recommendation of Charles Hardinge, it became the capital of India.

Dr Suvira Gupta, an alumnus of Lady Hardinge Medical College, says, “For generations of students of this college, the statue has been an inspiration. They call her Amma.”

REMEMBERING THE PAST: Lady Hardinge’s statue at LHMC

There is a possibility that some G-20 leaders will also visit the Parliament house and see the Mahatma Gandhi statue designed by Ram Sutar. Since the statue was placed in the Parliament complex in 1993, the area adjoining it became a protest site for Parliament members.

It was unveiled by President Shankar Dayal Sharma on Gandhi Jayanti, 1993.

Ram Sutar, the 94-year-old master sculpture artist, says, “Even though I have made so many statutes, this one has given me lot of joy and happiness.”

Actually, the G-20 leaders and member of delegations can see the statues of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Dr BR Ambedkar, Chhatrapati Shivaji and several other stalwarts there.

STANDING TALL: Lutyens’s bust at
President’s House

While there are many statues of men in the Parliament premises, there are only two of women. Besides Indira Gandhi, the other statue of a woman is that of legendary warrior from Karnataka Kittur Rani Chennamma. It was unveiled in 2007 by the then President Pratibha Singh Patil. Chennamma was the queen of the princely state of Kittur in Karnataka and is remembered as one of the earliest rulers to have opposed the British tax-collection system.

The statue of Indira Gandhi is placed right in front of Parliament’s gate No. 5. It is a 16-feet tall statue. It was inaugurated on January 27, 1996 and designed by Ram Sutar, who is one of the finest sculptors of our times.

Apart from these statues of women of substance in Delhi, it looks that more or less the statues are reserved for men. Hence, this male bastion has to be challenged sooner than later. Yes, we have an equestrian statue of freedom fighter Rani Laxmi Bai, located on a street in Jhandewalan in central Delhi.

Even Ram Sutar admits the fact that in his very long career, he did not make many statues of women.

“I really do not know why those who matter are not keen to commission statues of women leaders. This anomaly should be amended,” he says.

Well, it would be fitting if the G-20 leaders can see the breath-taking life-size statues of ‘Yaksha’ and ‘Yakshini’, symbols of wealth and prosperity. They are arguably among the best statues in the Capital that were designed by Ram Kinkar Baij.

WEALTH AND PROSPERITY: Yaksha and Yakshini statues

Says Virender Wadhwa, former RBI employee who later taught in Delhi University, “Ram Kinker Baij used to make statues in a vacant plot on Rafi Marg with deep devotion.”

Born into a poor family in Bengal, he is considered to be the Father of Modern Indian sculpture.

Baij was a true artist – from paintings to portraits and sculptures, he was master of his craft.

Once he said, “The first task was to search for the stone. I went out searching. We found it in Kangra valley’s Baijnath, on way to Kullu. Sandstone – Shivalik sandstone. Quite to my liking.”

Meanwhile, if Putin can spare some time during the summit, he can look at the grand life-size statue of Lenin in Nehru Park in his trademark three-piece suit. It was unveiled on November 1, 1987 during the 70th anniversary of Russian Revolution by former Soviet Union Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov in the presence of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Putin can also see the statue of famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin just outside Rabindra Bhawan on Mandi House roundabout. He would surely feel at home seeing these statues in India’s Capital.

India would expect that G-20 leader and Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make some announcement in respect of installing either statue or a bust of Dr Ambedkar inside the house of his country’s envoy at 22, Prithviraj Road.

After all, the national icon used to live at a same house as a member of Nehru’s cabinet. There have been speculations since long that the Erdogan government would install the statue of Dr Ambedkar inside the home.

Finally, as Delhi is gearing up for the G20 summit in a big way, local authorities are also not sparing any effort to clean the gigantic statues that are dotted across the Capital.

“We will ensure that they (statues) are spruced up before the summit commences,” informs an official of New Delhi Municipal Council, who does not want to be identified.