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Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav- Statue of Unity Travel log

Celebrating the 75th independence day, I had quite a few exciting moments. On 15th Aug, one of my friends shared a reprint of the 15th Aug 1947 edition of Free Press journal. While going through the paper, I came across this very interesting advertisement from Tata Mills on the state of India’s per capita cloth consumption then and how increased consumption can contribute towards India’s prosperity. 

Our colony had a special quiz on personalities and events since Independence that have been memorable and have made us proud. The quiz had special nostalgic moments for senior citizens as it took some of them to moments they have lived as youngsters.

Taking inspiration from the celebrations, we recently undertook a trip to Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s Statue of Unity at Kevadia, on the banks of Sardar Sarovar dam. The Statue of Unity (SOU) at Kevadia pays a tribute to Sardar Patel who played a very pivotal role in giving India’s map the current shape. 

We had originally planned to drive up and down (distance 400-500 kms/ 8 hours) together by road with another friend couple. However, as things turned out, something came up for our friends and they pushed their travel by a day. So we decided to take this opportunity to travel by train (Shatabdi) to Surat,hire a taxi till Netrang (90 kms) and drive down on the return with our friends. This gave me an opportunity to enjoy a fast and comfortable ride in the vistadome boggie with massive glass windows, 360 degree swivel seats and a lookout space at the end of the carriage. The Shatabdi (top speed 120-130 kmph) leaves Mumbai Central at 6:10 am and reaches Surat in just 3 hours (v/s 4-5 hours by road). The facilities in the vistadome brought back memories of a similar journey we had taken on the Golden Pass trail in Switzerland a few years back.

Arriving at Surat early gave us time to visit the Bhagal Char Rasta– the local khau galli enroute Netrang to sample some of the  recommended local gujarati breakfast specialities – khaman,khamni, chana kanda samosa, ola khobra kachori, mix farsan and Locho.Having ticked all the boxes on the recommendations by one of our neighbours who is from Gujarat, enroute Netrang, we went on to buy a highly recommended dryfruit date chikki.

The road to Netrang was a bit bumpy and the 90 kms took us about two and half hours. Club Mahindra Netrang is located in a forest area with low to nil connectivity. The property has all the amenities expected of a Club Mahindra Resort and is a good place to chill. The resort surprised us with a radish halwa specially crafted by their halwai chef for dessert. 

Since the SOU is about 60 kms and takes about an hour and a half and the laser show ends only around 8 pm to avoid a hectic day, we decided to book a 1 night stay at Tent City -1 nearer the SOU. The Tent City provides plush luxurious tent accommodation by the lake which is the backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar dam. Tent city is about 6 kms from the SOU and their stay package includes a bus ride to and fro to the SOU. The area around the SOU and the surrounding catchment area has been developed for tourism. It includes attractions such as Butterfly garden, Cactus Garden, Valley of Flowers, Sardar Sarovar view point. (Travel Tip:Those interested  in covering all these should plan for a two night stay near the SOU, else just 1 night is enough to cover the SOU and the valley of flowers.) A large designated parking area for compulsory parking of all vehicles has been assigned. From here on only authorised vehicles such as pink e-rickshaw with lady drivers and authorised tourist buses are allowed to enter the SOU and other attractions.Since we were there for just a day, our package included a sit in bus (SIB) ride to the Sardar Sarovar view point, valley of flowers and a visit to the SOU – the museum, elevator to the viewing gallery and the laser show in the evening. The strict screening at the entrance ensures no bags or eatables are allowed inside. This keeps the massive SOU area well maintained and clean. Moving sideways alongside the bridge connecting to the Sadhu Bet river island, on which the SOU has been installed, is very visitor friendly.

The SOU is 182 metres tall (i.e 2X the Statue of Liberty), looks very imposing and is really grand. The legend created around the height is about the number 182 representing the number of MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly. The museum at the base covers the story of the making of the SOU, sculpted by 92 year old veteran statue maker, Shri Ram Sutar. It also extensively covers the pivotal role played by Sardar Vallabhai Patel in working tirelessly to get the princely states to merge with India.  To go up the SOU, there are  2 high speed lifts with a capacity of 26 pax which cover the height of 400 ft to the viewing gallery in 40 seconds.The viewing gallery is located at the chest level just below the second button of Sardar Patel’s jacket. It overlooks the Sardar Sarovar dam which was the original vision of Sardar Patel. At the top attendants guide groups of visitors and also narrate the story behind the statue. As you are done with the viewing gallery and come down, you can visit the base of SOU for a walk around. As you look right up the massive structure from the base, you understand the massiveness of the humongous structure as you struggle to capture from up close the SOU from top to toe in a single frame. (Smart Tip: if your mobile camera function has a panorama mode, use that to take a selfie in front of the statue in a single frame.)

The viewing area closes around 6 pm, after having enjoyed the SOU, you need to make way towards the food courts to grab a bite and a bench in the open area for the laser show which is scheduled for 7:30 pm every day (except Mondays). The Food court has Starbucks, Subway , CCD and other local stuff..however, surprisingly, given the emphasis on make in India theme, the home grown Amul is missing amongst the stalls.

As the sun sets and it gets dark, the laser show takes you through the historical nuggets on Sardar Vallabhai Patel,his contribution to the freedom struggle and integration of the princely states into India. It is a 20-25 minute show, executed with state of the art sophistication and finesse.  As it culminates with the national anthem, it brings the audience to its feet.

Post the show, it’s time to catch your bus back to where you came from. Our bus took us back to Tent City 1 where we were treated to a dinner buffet with gujarati specialties – tamatar sev, kadhi khichdi, undio to be had with hot off the pan rotla with gur and ghee. Masala chaas is an accompaniment available to help you digest and go for more. Dessert included crisp jalebi with vanilla ice-cream. Next morning as we were driving back, we were early for breakfast and were treated to upma kadhi, faphada kadhi,dhokla, thepla, chunda etc..As the drive back was a 8 hour drive and the Cyrus Mistry incident was fresh, we planned to take our time with breaks.

Near Charoti, we stopped over at the Parsi Diary for masala paneer,milk puff and then at Ahura, just down the road, for authentic Parsi berry pulao, mutton dhansak for lunch and their bakery products viz oats chocolate cookies, sweet buns and butter masala toasts for back home. We left Tent City close to 9 am and reached home around 5:30 pm with breaks for lunch.

Everything about our Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav trip to the SOU was nice except for the hot and humid weather. However, if I have to recommend a time of the year for the trip, I will recommend planning a trip closer to Dec/ Jan to benefit from the weather. Cheers!!

Acknowledgements- My friend Sheetal Nagle for being a solid member of my blog support team.

P.S To read my other blogs on Cricketing / Corporate Tales; Start up stories; Covid Times; Friends, Family and Marriages go to the Home Page


Published by Salil Datar

Eager beaver , enthusiastic but amateur blogger !!

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