Entrepreneur Nikhil Nanda has a special connection with Lord Hanuman. His family, which originally lived in Panipat in Haryana before moving to Delhi, has seen a leap in their fortunes, and he credits the god with it. Nanda chose to return the favour in a massive manner! He commissioned a 108-foot-tall statue of the deity at Jakhu Mandir in Shimla—arguably the tallest in the world built at such a height—which was opened for visitors in 2010. Now, two more such structures are being built, and another is in the site selection stage.
“My family moved from Panipat to Delhi when I was in college. First, we lived in Derawal Nagar and then moved to Defence Colony. In all this time, my company has become the top manufacturer of toothbrushes in India. I have had a dream run, and I wanted to thank Lord Hanuman for all his blessings, by making this statue. It’s so exciting for us that the statue has been filed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest one at the highest point, for which we are currently awaiting certification,” shares Nanda, whose JHS Svendgaard Laboratories is one of the leading toothbrush manufacturers in India.
Nanda is now working on two more Hanuman statues, exact replicas of the one at Jakhu Mandir, in different pilgrimage sites of India. The next one is set to come up in Morbi in Gujarat, and the third will be at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, from where Hanuman is said to have jumped to reach Lanka. The fourth site is currently being identified.
The work on the Shimla statue began in 2008 through the HC Nanda Trust, which is the philanthropic arm of Nanda’s dental care company, and it was completed two years later. On this ambitious project, Nanda says, “I believe we were the chosen ones to construct it. It was a real blessing and a privilege to build Hanumanji’s statue at Jakhu Mandir in Shimla, which is visited by thousands of devotees every month.”
Jakhu Mandir is an ancient temple best known as the spot where Lord Hanuman rested when he was on his arduous search for the sanjeevani booti, or the plant of life, needed to revive Lakshman. The temple is situated on Jakhu Hill—Shimla’s highest peak—at a height of 2,455 metres (8,054 feet) above sea level. Nanda and his family have been visiting this temple for over 40 years.
The idea of the statue occurred to Nanda after he saw the colossal Christ the Redeemer at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He felt compelled to recreate the same grandeur in an Indian context. Undoubtedly, Lord Hanuman was the perfect muse. “Hanumanji is the only god who has been present in all four spiritual ages or yugas. Our country has such a rich heritage of pilgrimage spots like the Jagannath Temple at Puri and so many others, then why not Jakhu Mandir?” he asks.
This giant statue at Shimla, which surpasses the one of the Christ in Brazil, was unveiled by actor Abhishek Bachchan in November 2010. Though it took only two years to build the structure, getting clearances to make it a public attraction took a long time. The temple can be accessed by foot, horse, taxi or even the ropeway, which remains the most popular mode of transport to reach the place. An aerial lift that became operational in 2017 was developed by Jagson International Ltd, and it links a point near the centre of Shimla to the temple.
Sculptor Naresh Kumar from Pilani, Rajasthan, was commissioned to build the statue. He says, “It was the most challenging assignment of my career, both in terms of the size of the piece and the extremely harsh winters of the city.” He used nearly 1,500 tonnes of material, including cement and steel. The concrete used for the project was specially designed by a team from IIT Delhi, keeping in mind the immense wind velocity at that height. In order to safeguard the statue’s balance and proportions, 178 feet were dug under the ground to make it stable. Not a tall order for a devotee like Nanda!
Jakhu Hanuman Statue, Shimla Height: 108 feet (33 metres)
Material: Concrete, with some metal and stone
Artist: Naresh Kumar
Period of Construction: 2008-2010
Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu