How Shapoorji Pallonji E&C applied its engineering genius to create an awe-inspiring statue
Nathdwara near Udaipur in Rajasthan is famous for the Shrinathji Temple. This holy town now boasts a 351 feet (107m) tall statue of the trident-wielding, stoic, and compassionate Lord Shiva - the largest Shiva statue in the world and amongst the five largest statues in the world. With the recent completion of its construction, devotees now have yet another reason to visit Nathdwara.
Envisioning the Statue
The Shiva Statue, also known as the ‘Statue of Belief’, was envisioned by Madan Paliwal, Chairman of Miraj Group, Udaipur. He conceptualised a giant statue of Lord Shiva built on Ganesh Tekri, a hillock in Nathdwara. His vision also included putting Nathdwara on the tourist map of the world. The concept was further developed by renowned studio Maturam Art that designed the 351 feet high statue, while the structural design was rendered by Skeleton Consultants. The construction contract for the statue and other amenities in the complex was awarded to Shapoorji Pallonji E&C, and the work started in early 2016.
The Shiva Statue (seated over a pedestal that resembles a hillock), is designed as a three-layered structure. The innermost layer comprises of four RCC core walls that rise from the base of the hillock and form the structural core of the statue. The second layer is a structural steel framework. The third layer is a concrete shell built using ultra high-performance concrete and moulded to the statue’s profile. All three layers are structurally connected. The statue has been designed to have all the details, expressions, features, and emotions of Shiva cast in shell concrete. The surface of the statue has been coated with zinc and finished with copper to increase its longevity, with a lifespan of 250 years. It can withstand wind speeds up to 250 kmph and earthquakes of Zone IV intensity, even though Nathdwara is in Zone II.
Facilities within the project include a Meditation Room, Visitors’ Room, Administration Office, and a VIP Lounge. The hollow space within the shell skin has slabs at various levels to enable horizontal and vertical access inside the statue. Two viewing galleries have been provided at 270 ft and 280 ft levels.
Based on a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) study of the statue, the required number of ventilators and shafts have been provided for natural ventilation, and LED lighting inside the Statue and in the allied buildings, to reduce power consumption.
A water jet at the apex of the Statue represents the Holy River Ganga, flowing from Shiva’s Jata (matted hair). A 25-ft high Nandi Statue (the celestial bull and vehicle of Lord Shiva) has been built facing Shiva, beholding his divine form with reverence and love.
The area surrounding the Statue includes facilities for parking, pavements, a water body, bridge, landscaping, an amphitheatre, food court, handicraft shops, and an amusement park for children.
The SP E&C team that had built many buildings and factories in the past was confounded with the challenge of creating this one-of-a-kind statue. Unlike modern day statues that are generally built using profiled metal claddings or with metal pieces assembled together, the Shiva Statue was built using monolithic concrete moulded to get the required features. Owing to the organic form and shape of the proposed construction, the engineering skills, and the conventional methods of construction (which are more suitable for geometric designs and structures), were useful - but only to a certain degree. Hence, a customised and flexible approach was adopted for the construction.
The four RCC cores that rise from the base of the hillock, together accommodate three stairwells and four elevators to access the floors. Shiva’s trident is built using an RCC core wall from the base of the hillock and is free standing from the top of the hillock. All the RCC cores were built using dedicated slipform moulds. The heights of the four RCC cores inside the statue vary, with the tallest being 340 ft. The trident head is fabricated from structural steel framework covered with a 10-mm thick cover plate to the required profile.
The hillock is built with 300-mm thick RCC peripheral walls, while the skin of the statue is built using 200-mm thick RCC walls. The exterior surface of the hillock was finished to resemble a snow-clad mountain.
Single use FRP moulds were specially designed and made by the sculptor to obtain the required exterior profile and features of the statue. The inner profile was obtained by using custom-made plywood moulds to suit the profile. The construction involved 2,650 MT structural steel fabrication and erection; 2,700 MT of reinforcement steel; and 8,500 Cum of ultra-high-performance self-compacting concrete.
Initially, two tower cranes were provided. Once the hillock was built, only one tower crane was retained for the statue portion. The peak labour strength was 1,000. Post erection, the structural steel was painted with epoxy paint and vermiculite coating was applied for fireproofing.
The most difficult portion to construct was the folded left leg which is 60-ft cantilever from the thigh portion to the knee and resting on the other thigh which is of 60 ft unsupported length. The entire portion was temporarily supported over a sturdy scaffold frame till the concrete attained its strength. The concreting of the right arm resting on the left leg was equally challenging. It was cast from the left leg portion moving in upwards and then joining the shoulder. The structural framing comprising of various elements was carefully assembled by means of the tower crane prior to the final welding. Most of the work was carried out in during the daylight hours owing to the safety risks associated with structural steel erection and working at heights.
After completion of the structural works, the metallizing work was taken up. The surface of the statue was cleaned, sand blasted and then sprayed with liquified 99.9% pure zinc with the help of a metallizing machine to form a protective coating. The entire surface was then finished with a coating of copper. These works were executed by a specialist agency.
Focus on Quality Control
Ultra-high-performance self-compacting concrete of M-50 grade was used for the Lord Shiva Statue and Nandi. The concrete mix was designed using locally available good-quality coarse aggregate and fine aggregate with Alccofine-1203 as pozzolanic material and performance enhancer for meeting the durability parameters.
Concrete mix-designs were finalized locally with guidance from subject experts of Rajasthan Technical University, Kota. The sources of concrete ingredients were carefully selected to ensure uniform properties throughout the project lifecycle and to ensure high durability throughout the design life of the structure. The concrete mix for the skin of the statue was designed as ultra-high performance self-compacting concrete taking into consideration the durability parameters along with the requirements of SCC viz., low yield stress, high deformability, good segregation resistance and moderate viscosity.
All the lab tests for ingredients and the concrete mix were conducted in a well-equipped quality control laboratory established at the project site. All grades of concrete were produced under controlled conditions from an on-site batching plant.
The thickness of skin concrete is 300-mm with double layered corrosion-resistant steel. Concrete in formwork was poured through funnels from four designated locations to enable the concrete to flow in either directions in the formwork. Concreting height was restricted to 1-m in the entire perimeter of the statue per day to ensure formwork safety for lateral concrete pressures. Special precautions were taken for concreting during hot weather conditions to prevent formation of thermal and shrinkage cracks in concrete. Proper curing of skin concrete was carried out for a period of 28 days by frequent sprinkling of water to keep the concrete surface moist. The curing for the core walls was done through sprinklers installed in a slip form set-up.
As important as it was to pay attention to the concrete ingredients and the mix design, the quality control while achieving the dimensional accuracies, proportions, profile, features, and expressions of the statue, deserved equal attention and care. The task was pretty challenging considering the organic form of the construction. The final result is a testimony to the SP E&C team’s ability to manage complexity and attention to detail.
The project has received many awards such as Excellence in Concrete Structures by the American Concrete Institute, Outstanding Structure by the Indian Concrete Institute, and the Golden Peacock National Quality Award from the Institute of Directors (2020).
The organic form of the statue coupled with the high-rise nature of this construction posed many challenges during construction. The workers had to execute many high-risk activities in hot weather and high wind speeds at scaffold heights of up to 370 feet.
Shapoorji Pallonji had prioritised hygiene, health and safety of the construction crew and workmen at the site. In addition, the company’s construction management team had established a robust HSSE monitoring system and the right work processes to ensure that the standards were adhered to on a continual basis. Moreover, the senior management was committed to provide the necessary support for successful completion of this prestigious project.
The safety measures at the construction site added to the smooth progress of the construction work and motivated the construction crew towards successful completion of the project. The hard work of the project team has been recognised by the National Safety Council of India and the Construction Industry Development Council. The project won the NSCI safety awards in 2017, 2018 and in 2019, and the CIDC Vishwakarma Award in 2018.
Despite several technical challenges, the Shapoorji Pallonji E&C team successfully delivered the Shiva Statue project along with the amenities in June 2020. It was indeed an enlightening and uplifting experience for the project team, which had developed a strong collaborative relationship with the client’s team to realize the project’s completion.
Says Rajesh Mehta, Managing Director, Miraj Developers, “This Statue of Belief is symbolic of the firm belief our Chairman has in the infinite power of the universe. The monumental scale of the Shiva Statue made it a unique and challenging project. The highly committed Shapoorji Pallonji team has transformed the grand vision of the Miraj Group into a concrete reality.”
The Shiva Statue is an awe-inspiring marvel in the holy town of Nathdwara and a symbol of India’s engineering prowess. The Statue will be unveiled formally to the general public very soon and is expected to draw large crowds of pilgrims.