GWK Bali : Face-to-Face With the Largest Vishnu Statue in the World

Candid shot of Vishnu's head, a part of Garuda Wishnu Kencana sculpture in the making, one of the largest sculptures in the world, made by Nyoman Nuarta, photo by Ivan Kralj, made in NuArt Sculpture Park in Bandung, Java, Indonesia, May 2017

NuArt Sculpture Park in Bandung, on the Indonesian island of Java, is an extraordinary place to visit! A giant whale penetrates the path just before you expect the asphalt wave splashing against you. Artificial trees grow next to the natural ones. A copper cow enjoys the afternoon on the fresh grass. Fish flying through the air are frozen in the moment, while you hear a waterfall in the distance. For the creative observer, this is an enchanted forest where art and nature produce magic! At the end of the official visitors’ pathway, I decide to climb the hill a bit more. And then, behind the rusty fence and lush tropical vegetation, the moment becomes truly magical. I discover – Him. The great Vishnu. Surrounded by scaffolding and partly covered by fabric, he quietly poses in front of my camera. When the artist Nyoman Nuarta transports him to GWK Bali Cultural Park (Garuda Wisnu Kencana) and assembles all the pieces, it will become one of the largest statues in the world!

Polyester resin version of Garuda Wisnu Kencana sculpture, in scale 1:100 to the one that will be installed in GWK Bali, exhibited at NuArt Gallery in Bandung, Java, Indonesia, photo by Ivan Kralj
The polyester resin version of GWK Bali sculpture exhibited in NuArt Gallery in scale 1:100
The giant dream

The mind behind the idea of building the biggest statue of Lord Vishnu ever was Joop Ave, Indonesian minister of tourism in the 1990s. He was dreaming of a monument that would symbolize humankind’s journey into the new millennium, but also become the iconic landmark of Indonesia. The new millennium has arrived and Mr. Ave has passed away. But his vision, after two decades of construction, financial crisis, and political changes, finally hits the finish line. The gigantic Vishnu statue should be dominating Bali landscape in autumn 2018 or spring 2019, depending if you ask optimists or realists.

The famous Indonesian sculptor Nyoman Nuarta is working hard in his Bandung workshop to meet the deadline. Hundreds of associates are involved in constructing the statue in copper and brass, cutting it in pieces, transporting those to GWK Bali, and reassembling them again.

 

Designed as a visual spectacle, Garuda Wisnu will present Lord Vishnu, the source of wisdom and the preserver in the Hindu trinity, riding on the back of his faithful mount Garuda, the divine eagle-like creature. The statue will stand more than 121 meter high, with its wings span of 64 meters! It will weigh more than 3.000 tonnes!

Vietnam is the least religious place in the world, yet they have one of the largest Jesus statues! Indonesia is the most Muslim place in the world, yet they are sculpting the largest Vishnu ever for 1,7 percent of Hindus living in the country

Religious or non-religious, size matters!

When we think of massive religious monuments, many will first recall the iconic Rio de Janeiro statue – Christ the Redeemer. Brazil is almost 90 percent Christian, which makes it perfectly logical to celebrate the Christian god. But in Southeast Asia, the laws of logic don’t work the same. The Vietnamese, one of the world’s least religious nations, have built Christ the King in Vung Tau, even bigger than his Rio counterpart! In the country where Catholics make 6,2 percent!

In Indonesia, the majority of citizens are Muslim, but we know that depiction of Muhammad is a controversial issue. The tallest sculptures in Indonesia at the moment are those of Virgin Mary in Semarang, Central Java (with its 42 meters, it is the world’s tallest Virgin Mary statue), Jesus in Makale, South Sulawesi (40 meters), and another Jesus in Manado, North Sulawesi (30 meters).

The tallest statues in the world are those of Buddha. When Indonesians, with barely 1,7 % of Hindus living in the country, finish Garuda Wisnu, the world top three will be richer for the first Hinduistic deity!

If you want to read more about one of the tallest Christ monuments in the world, check out the article Jesus Statue You Can Climb: XXL Catholicism in Vung Tau.
The drawing of the final GWK Bali product - landscape dominated by the waterfall and the largest statue in the world - Geruda Wisnu Kencana
GWK project is not ambitious just in the drawing. One of the largest statues in the world will dominate Bali landscape!
Garuda Wishnu – tall, broad and spiritually disturbing?

Dominating the GWK Cultural Park, Garuda Wishnu will be nearly 40 stories high, visible not only from Ngurah Rai International Airport but also from places such as Tanah Lot, the ancient Hindu temple on the rock, 30 kilometers away!

In the original vision, the enormous sculpture was supposed to be 146 meters tall! Balinese religious authorities complained that the statue’s immense size would disturb the spiritual balance of the island of gods. So the compromise was made to reduce it for 20 meters.

Even if GWK Bali stimulates the commercial development of the southern tip of Bali island as well, the team behind it claims that their intentions were always mainly cultural. Borobudur was built in the 9th century, and they thought that Indonesia needed a new masterpiece.

Nyoman Nuarta, the creative mind behind the GWK Bali, the project of one of the largest statue in the world, source: artist's Instagram account
The artist Nyoman Nuarta in his late sixties wishes to finish Gerada Wisnu Kencana before he turns 70
Nyoman Nuarta – the master for the job

Nyoman Nuarta is one of Indonesia’s finest modern sculptors. His works displayed in the homonymous gallery in the northern part of Bandung, in West Java, astonish with craftsmanship. NuArt Sculpture Park opened to the public in 2000, and while it primarily exhibits Nuarta’s work, it also welcomes guest artists, especially the young ones.

The gallery’s Craft Boutique offers a series of Nuarta’s miniature artworks. But, walking through the 1.000 square meters of indoor space, and roaming through the three hectares of the park itself, it becomes clear that this man thinks big!

He placed one of his largest sculptures on the building in Surabaya’s naval base. The 30-meters high Jalesveva Jayamahe represents the navy officer greeting the ships passing by. It shares the third place with Jesus on the top list of the tallest Indonesian statues.

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Bali icon born in patience

Two decades later and with a hundred million dollars spent, pieces of Garuda Wishnu are slowly being transported from Bandung to Badung, from Java to Bali. The trucks have to bring the parts 1.000 kilometers east so that they can install them at GWK Cultural Park.

Leaving the mark in Indonesia’s history is not an easy accomplishment. The process took longer, but the peaceful Vishnu’s face resting in Nuarta’s workshop, with his eyes half-closed, almost reassures. Gods can wait.

 

Garuda's head at the working site, several times bigger than the human worker, when assembled at GWK Cultural Park in Bali, Indonesia, this will be one of the largest sculptures in the world
A grown-up man could curl up in Garuda’s eye socket – that is how large GWK will be!
GWK Bali history
  • Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park opened in 1997.
  • Park’s final purpose is to house the colossal sculpture in the making. Until now, visitors were able to see the separate statues of Garuda, Vishnu’s bust or hands.
  • Park’s scenic plazas, gardens, amphitheater and cut-out limestone rock landscape have served for many private and public events. From weddings via Miss World contest to Iron Maiden concert, GWK is already building the identity of the icon of Bali.
GWK Bali location
  • Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park spreads over 60 hectares in Ungasan, Badung Regency of Southern Bali.
  • Park is easily reachable from Ngurah Rai International Airport. The car drive will take about 30 minutes.
GWK Bali opening hours
  • The park is open daily, from 8 am to 10 pm.
GWK Bali entrance fee
  • The ticket to GWK Cultural Park costs 100.000 Rupiahs (6 Euros), which make it one of the priciest attractions on the island, even if Westerners should not complain. It is not known if the ticket prices will go up after one of the largest world monuments finds its permanent home here.
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Secret photo of the head of the most massive Vishnu sculpture ever made - Garuda Wisnu Kencana will be placed in Bali and rank like one of the largest statues in the world!
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Ivan Kralj

Editor

Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

16 Comments
  1. Wow I’ve been considering moving to Bali or Jakarta to teach English next year and I love getting any information I can about the country’s religious makeup. Now I know to visit GWK when I head there!

    1. Oh, there is so many places to explore there, Madison! I can’t wait to go back myself! When you move, you’ll become an expert on the area, and I will want to hear all secret tips!

  2. I have not been fortunate enough to see this statue on any of my trips to Bali but I will have to see it next I am there. I have been able to see the Jesus statue in Vung Tau that you mentioned. Of the countries I’ve visited, I’ve enjoyed going to the various temples and seeing the giant statues of various gods. It’s always so fascinating!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Stephanie! You couldn’t see Garuda Wisnu, as it is still in pieces. It should be completely assembled by the end of this year, hopefully! So you will definitely be able to discover it on your next trips to Bali!
      I love grand sculptures – I have seen many big Buddhas in Southeast Asia, but I still haven’t visited the biggest ones! Buddhas are actually the largest statues in the world, so I definitely hope to bump into the highest in the class at certain point 😉

  3. Nice read! It’s my hometown. Wow it’s so surprising to know behind of making for this statue. The explanation is so detail. I got a lot of information by read it. Now I’m not wondering about how this statue is.

  4. I would love to visit Bali it looks incredible. Garuda Wishnu looks like it will be absolutely huge, but a really stunning view!

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