Published: 27th September 2018
From facial recognition to 3D printing, everything that went into Mahatma Gandhi's two-sided bust in South Africa
A two-sided bust of Mahatma Gandhi, conceptualised and designed by Birad Rajaram Yajnik and team, was installed at the iconic Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa recently
On June 7, 1893, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was then a young practicing lawyer, was thrown out of a train at the Pietermaritzburg Railway Station in South Africa. "Get off the bloody train," yelled the railway official and threw young Gandhi on the platform for travelling in the first class compartment which was reserved for whites. Gandhi spent the night in the railway room and as the morning dawned, he came out a changed man because it was during this cold night that Gandhi ruminated over the idea of Satyagraha. This incident was reenacted in the presence of Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, granddaughter of the Father of the Nation, Ela Gandhi and other dignitaries to mark the 125th year of this historic incident that changed the course of history for India, and perhaps the world, on June 7, 2018.
When Yajnik discussed the idea of a two-sided bust with India's high commissioner to South Africa Ruchira Kamboj, who was also India's ambassador to UNESCO, she said, "What a brilliant idea!"
Back to Bapu's beginnings
But what took centre stage that day was a bronze two-sided bust of Mahatma Gandhi. On one side is Bapu, as we know him, bespectacled and in his khadi angavastram while the other side is the young lawyer, all suited up. The bust is named the Birth of Satyagraha and rightly so. Even the pedestal the statue is erected on has an interesting story, as the bricks are sourced from the rubble of dilapidated buildings — made from the same kind of bricks that the station is made of. The force behind this project is Birad Rajaram Yajnik and his team of 20 professionals including graphic designer Gantapaka Anil Kumar (33), and technical head Raghava Gurajala, (41).
The A-Team: The team behind the bust
More than words
"But we were not happy with just the bust, we wanted Gandhi to really speak," says Yajnik, the curator of Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museums and Managing Director of Visual Quest India. Near the statue, one will find a Smart Sound Kinetic Power Device, which was imported from Hong Kong. Self-explanatorily, it runs on kinetic energy. Walk up to it and wind it up to hear Gandhi's favourite bhajans Vaishnava Jana To, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram and a speech in Gandhi's own voice, informs Raghava. "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.
In the lead: Birad Rajaram Yajnik has given talks on Gandhi at national and international venues
The Gandhian legacy
Yajnik, who is also a member of the Project Implementation Unit for the Prime Ministers of India Museum recently conceptualised by the Indian government and Trustee of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, says that, "Today, we need more Gandhis, not Gandhians." By this, he means that the country doesn't just need khadi-wearing, vegetarians to change the world but someone who follows Gandhi's principles and knows how to implement it in this day and age. "Gandhi is truly a world citizen and a ticket for the youth as I don't know of one university which won't appreciate a paper written on the Mahatma," he says. The key lies in making Gandhi and his principles more relevant to the youth and that is the quest of Yajnik and his team.
The bust weighs a 100 kilos, is 36 inches in height and is placed on a three feet tall pedestal. Over six to eight weeks, 6,000 man hours were put in to make it
How the bust came to be
Mission Impossible-level Mapping
Advanced imaging techniques were used to attain multi-dimensional measurements from photographs of Gandhi. Facial recognition techniques were used to make sure that every wrinkle was depicted. About five to six old, sepia-toned and black and white photographs of Gandhi were used
Go small before you go large
To understand how the bust would turn out, two miniature models of the young Gandhi and the Mahatma were made separately using additive manufacturing. When the team was happy with the results, a miniature model of the bust was welded together
You gotta 3D print that
A life-size model was made using 3D printing technology again. "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," says the team.
All about Aluminium
Another life-size model was made in Aluminium which now resides in the Visual Quest India office in Hyderabad. The model was made in pieces, which were then put together to make the life-size model
Let's get sanding now
Using ancient sand casting techniques, the mould of the statue was made by artisans of Hyderabad, who have been using this technique for a long time and then finally, the bronze bust was made. It was also polished later on
The final product
Finally, the bust being unveiled by Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj
For more on them, click on peacetruthahimsa.com