India's prime minister on Wednesday unveiled a towering bronze statue of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, a key independence leader and the country's first home minister after British colonialists left in 1947. At 597 feet, the statue, built at a cost of $430 million, is the tallest in the world, almost twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, the BBC reports. It was erected in Kevadiya, a village in Gujarat state. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Patel hail from Gujarat state. Modi inaugurated the "Statue of Unity" on the bank of the Narmada river. He had promised the project despite criticism that India couldn't afford to spend so much money on a statue. Indian air force planes showered flower petals on the statue.
Patel was known as the "Iron Man of India" for integrating various states in the post-independence era as the creation of Pakistan led to a massive bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims moving between the two nations. On Wednesday, Modi said Patel was a beacon of hope for India in the time of crisis and he will be a source of inspiration for ages to come, the AP reports. The monument will have a museum with 40,000 documents, 2,000 photographs and a research center dedicated to Patel's life and work. Thousands of police officers were deployed across the district to deal with protests. (A huge statue of the creator of the AK-47 was unveiled in Moscow last year.)