The efforts of ex-servicemen from Cuddalore district to pay homage to the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, who died in a helicopter crash in Coonoor on December 8, 2021, are finally bearing fruit as the ‘panchaloha’ bust commissioned by them is set to be installed on the premises of the United Service Institution of India (USI) Complex at Shankar Vihar, Delhi, next month.
A delay in getting clearance from the authorities had slowed things down, said S. Babu, an official of the Cuddalore-based Shine Indian Soldiers Social Welfare Foundation, which is executing the tribute with the support of ex-servicemen in the district. “After announcing the project in January, we hoped to finish it by mid-year and take the statue on a road trip from Cuddalore to Delhi, stopping in eight States along the way. Since we did not have complete clearance for the installation in the capital until this week, we had to change our plans accordingly,” he told The Hindu.
A letter authorising the installation was issued to the Cuddalore foundation on November 25 by the Ceremonial and Welfare Department, Adjutant-General’s Branch at the Army Headquarters in Delhi.
The statue, costing above ₹5 lakh, was coated with weatherproof gold paint in Kumbakonam this week as Shine members made arrangements for a train journey to deliver the bust in Delhi, where it is due to be installed by December 10. “We have been asked to come early so that a plinth can be prepared for the bust. Once this is done, we are planning to gather at least 30 ex-servicemen from Cuddalore and attend the commemoration events on December 10,” said Mr. Babu.
The three-foot-high statue, weighing 150 kg, was made by a team of five sthapathis — traditional sculptors trained in the art of metal and stone work used in temples, headed by A. Ramkumar, whose company — Ramasamy Sthapathi Sirpasalai — in Kumbakonam was involved in the project. Earlier this year, a clay likeness of the bust, fashioned using the photographs of General Rawat as reference, was shown to the media. The Kumbakonam artisans made a Plaster of Paris mould from this, with finer details of the General’s uniform and medals added in wax, following which the statue was cast in the five-metal alloy. The panchaloha alloy contains 85% copper, tin and zinc. Nominal quantities of gold and silver are added according to the traditional method.
On Sunday, the bust was taken to Thillai Natarajar Temple in Chidambaram for a prayer ceremony. Shine Foundation will transport it from Cuddalore to Delhi by the Puducherry to New Delhi Express train on November 30.