Instead of constructing a tall, hollow statue from several fitted pieces, NTR chose to build his mammoth Buddha from solid granite, making the figure extraordinarily heavy. “He didn’t realize that the Statue of Liberty is not one solid piece,” said Channa Reddy, the then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state.
Famous sculptor and Indian architect Sattanatha Muthaiya Ganapathi Sthapathi, the man behind the iconic monolithic statue of Gautama Buddha located at the centre of Hyderabad’s Hussian Sagar is no more.
According to reports, Ganapathi died of old age in Chennai on Friday.
An expert at traditional architecture, Ganapathi was known for various important contributions over the years, and also received India’s fourth highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri, in 1990.
Born on April 26, 1931 near Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, Ganapathi was said to hail from a family of traditional staphathis — experts on Hindu temple architecture.
After training and practicing for years, Ganapthi’s first big project was reportedly for the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams (TTD), which manages the Sri Venkateswara temple in the holy town.
His challenge was to dismantle and re-erect the Vasantha Mandapam, which he executed successfully.
He also worked on two halls for the famous Bhadrachalam temple in Andhra Pradesh.
According to the Sri Sankara Silpa Sala, an institute offering the services of experienced Stapathis, of which Ganapathi was a founder, his work was just beginning.
Following his restoration works, the Andhra government hired him under a special post of ‘Chief Stapathi’, under the Endowments Department. He also served as the Superintending Engineer of the department.
During Indira Gandhi’s tenure as PM, Ganapathi was called to rework the Badrinath temple in Uttarakhand, and he supervised and built everything in Hyderabad, following which it was transported to the temple.
When the Nagarjuna Sagar dam was being built, roughly 48 temples, each more than 1,000 years old, were on the verge of being submerged. Ganapathi stepped in and was able to shift all the temples to safer spots.
However, Ganapathi’s most visible piece of work stands atop the Gibraltar rock in Hyderabad and attracts scores of visitors every day.
The year was 1984 and then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao was on a trip to New York, when he saw the Statue of Liberty.
“You (Americans) have the appreciation of the liberty of the nation. I wanted something like that. . . . That would have been my contribution to society,” he later said in an interview.
Thus, began plans for the state’s own statue in Hyderabad.
NTR chose Buddha because he was a ‘humanitarian’, and was born in India himself as Prince Siddhartha.
After around a year of searching, NTR found a large granite rock near Bhongir in Telangana (then Andhra), and works were inaugurated in 1985. It was here Ganapathi was called upon.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Ganapathi supervised the work of hundreds of labourers for over a year, as they chipped and hammered away at the rock, until the giant statue was ready at the spot itself.
However, the plan to install the statue did not go as planned. Many people lost their lives, as the statue tipped over when it was being transported in the water and it stayed at the bottom of the Hussain Sagar lake for two years.
After it was recovered and installed successfully in 1992, it has remained the pride of the city ever since.
In fact, the Dalai Lama visited the state and consecrated the statue in 2006, raising its overall cultural and religious importance.