The iconic Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa recently unveiled a two-sided bust of Mahatma Gandhi.
The railway station is iconic because it was here that a young Gandhi was thrown off the train for travelling in a first-class coach meant only for white people. This incident affected Gandhi to the extent that he decided to stay on and fight the oppression of Indians in South Africa, and it was during this struggle that he developed his unique resistance movement known as Satyagraha.
The bust was unveiled at the station to mark the 125th anniversary of this incident. It features Gandhi as a young lawyer wearing a suit and tie, on one side, and as the older, bespectacled Mahatma Gandhi on the other.
Birad Rajaram Yajnik, the curator of the Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum in Hyderabad, led a team of 20 professionals to build this bust.
Here’s how they did it:
Yajnik and the team wanted the bust to be perfect and the task was going to be difficult. Each hair strand, each wrinkle had to be just right for the 36-inch-tall bust to look perfect.
“The face goes through certain changes once it starts to age like the nose and the earlobes are different, and then, there are the wrinkles. So that was a challenge for us,” the team told Edex Live.
So the team began with working on advanced imaging techniques using 5-6 photographs of Gandhi. Multi-dimensional measurements of his facial features were gathered from these. Then, they made a miniature bust that would give them an idea about the final statue.
The next step was to make a life-size model using 3D printing technology. This was still not the final product, and another life-size model was made in aluminium
Finally, the artisans made a mould for the statue using ancient sand casting techniques, and the bronze statue was made. It was polished when the artisans got satisfactory results.
But this is not all.
For the three-feet-tall pedestal on which the statue stands, Yajnik used bricks that are made from the rubble of broken-down buildings in South Africa. The brick material is the same as the one used to build the station!
Yajnik has installed a Smart Sound Kinetic Power Device near the statue that plays Gandhi’s favourite bhajans and a speech in his voice. You need to walk up to it and wind a key for it to play these recordings. “We were not happy with just the bust, we wanted Gandhi to really speak. Our intention was to create a bust that speaks, is mapped from images of his face and will remain for 100 years, and by the end of it, all these challenges were met,” says Yajnik.
It took over 6000 hours over a period of six to eight weeks for the team to finish this iconic statue, which will undoubtedly serve as a wonderful reminder of the man and place that changed the course of India’s history, and to some extent, that of the world.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)