You might have read about it and seen it on television or on the Internet, but nothing prepares you for an actual visual encounter with the Statue of Unity, in Kevadia. The 182m-tall statue – the world’s tallest – of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel is amongst the most awe-inspiring and imposing man-made structures we have ever laid our eyes on.
Patel’s statue has been built on ‘Sadhu Bet’, a river island in the middle of the Narmada that flows onward to the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat. The statue is flanked by the Vindhya and the Satpura ranges, which, along with the serene river, present a becalming picture when seen from the viewing galleries on the statue. We learn several things about it as we gaze at its sheer magnificence: about how its height matches the number of assembly constituencies in Gujarat; about its base that has been constructed with over 129 tonnes of scrap iron donated by thousands of farmers across India; and about the 1,700 tonnes of bronze that went into its making.
The man whose life and work it honours was indeed a giant among men. He is rightly known as the unifier of modern India, and his role in integrating the over 500 princely states into the dominion of India is among the most seminal accomplishments in this country’s history.
Celebrating India’s unity amid its splendid diversity was why we were at the Statue of Unity last month. As far as venues go, there couldn’t have been one more apt. As part of Hyundai Motor India’s Great India Drive (GID), the route we had chosen – from Kevadia to Nashik to Kanyakumari – was charted out this way to give us a chance to pay homage to the other titans from across the centuries whose appeal transcended social and geographical barriers and whose message was heard loud and clear in the sub-continent.
SS Kim, MD and CEO, Hyundai Motor India, flags off the Great India Drive.
Our journey would be punctuated by tributes to other colossi. In the Mangi-Tungi hills near Nashik, we would be introduced to Lord Rishabhanatha, the first tirthankar (spiritual teacher) of Jains. Further south, in Karnataka, we would pay obeisance to Gomateshwara Bahubali. Finally, in Kanyakumari, we would meet Thiruvalluvar, the celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher, and Swami Vivekananda. The car that would take us on this over-1,000km journey was the Hyundai Venue. It is a warm day and the sun is shining bright, and we point the nose of the car towards Nashik.
Connected, capable, cool
There are many reasons why the Hyundai Venue is the car of choice for Hyundai’s GID, but prime among them is that it is the country’s first connected car, one that has found favour with thousands of young buyers. The Hyundai Venue, which comes with an embedded SIM card, was launched in May this year, and the response to it has been staggering. Between May and September, the Venue garnered over 72,000 bookings and 42,681 customers.
Nearly half of all Venue buyers prefer it with the Blue Link system, which is powered by an e-SIM.
If you are in your late 20s or early 30s, you’d love the way the Venue has been put together, and about 10km from the former princely state of Rajpipla, one gets to know why so many young buyers are united in their appreciation of it.
A lot of it has to do with several typical Hyundai attributes. For example, at 10kph on an unusually traffic-free state highway, the Venue feels planted, and the feel of the cabin is top class. Its turbo-petrol engine is so refined and smooth. And when you’re in the mood for some fun, the 172Nm of torque satiates your need for speed. The light controls make it more manageable while negotiating traffic in small towns.
The Hyundai Venue feels planted at high speeds
The Venue might be a sub-four-metre car, but Hyundai has worked well on extracting the maximum space for passengers. If you, like us, prefer the driver’s seat, you’d be glad to know that the high seating position affords excellent visibility. There are other reasons for the Venue’s shattering sales performance. Case in point?
As we home in on Rajpipla, we are hungry, and we simply call up the concierge service and it directs us to the best place for thalis in town. Et voila! That bit is just one of the many features the car’s much-admired Blue Link tech delivers. Blue Link allows users to manage and perform a host of functions, thanks to a dedicated server the SIM talks to. A suite of safety and security features, location-based services, driver alerts, voice commands and remote assistance can be accessed via a smartphone app.
And all of it actually works – our journey was made much smoother by the likes of Live Traffic Information and Live ‘Point of Interest’ search – just the things to have when are you out on the road. Not surprisingly, 50 percent of Venue buyers opt for the Blue Link technology in their car.
Rajpipla is a lovely town; its centerpiece is a magnificent palace that is over a century old. With fantastic Gujju food in our bellies, we thumbed the starter button again, and guided the Venue along tiny towns such as Kochbar, Netrang, Ukai and Songadh. Winter is yet to make its appearance, but along the way we saw nature preparing for it. In some places, the lush green glow of the monsoons gave way to more austere colours, and one could sense that the days would soon get shorter. The Venue made short work of the distance – about 300km – to our destination.
The Hyundai Venue at the Vijayraj Palace Complex in Rajpipla
You might have never heard of Mangi-Tungi, but take our word for it – as far as sights go, it is a memorable one. Mangi-Tungi is a twin-pinnacled peak, about 120km from Nashik. At over 4,000ft, the peaks are respectably tall – but that is not the reason that pulled us to the hills. Both Mangi and Tungi are of great significance to Jains, and the hills are dotted with several caves that contain several images of Jain tirthankaras or spiritual teachers.
Mangi-Tungi is of great significance and the hills are dotted with caves that contain several images of Jain tirthankaras.
However, while the ancients engraved images of their spiritual guides on the walls of caves and monasteries, men today erect gigantic statues as tribute. The one at Mangi Tungi is, in fact, the tallest Jain statue in the world, and depicts the first of the 24 Jain tirthankaras – Rishabhanatha. It has been fittingly named the ‘Statue of Ahimsa’, since Jains consider non-violence to be the most essential duty for everyone (ahinsā paramo dharma). That message, of course, has universal appeal, and it was Rishabhanatha who first articulated the founding tenets of Jainism.
The 108ft idol has been carved out of a single rock, and even on a weekday morning, there are streams of devotees paying obeisance to the tirthankar. We crane our heads to get a better look. The statue, set against the hills, rises high, bearing a peaceful visage. A lot of that peace also appears to radiate around the place. We spend about an hour at the complex of temples, and then get back into the car.
Our next destination will take us down south, and there, we will encounter Bahubali. That, however, is another story, for another issue.