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Bangladesh Gets a Preview of Faux Taj Mahal

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The famed Taj Mahal has long inspired copies made from such materials as matchsticks, plastic blocks, or sand.  Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, built a three-quarter-sized replica for a shopping festival several years ago. And there is a luxury hotel-casino in the U.S. state of New Jersey named the Taj Mahal.

While armchair architects may decry such attempts to replicate the Mughal masterpiece that has not dissuaded a Bangladeshi man from spending millions of dollars to build what he claims is a life-sized copy of the original.

The Taj Mahal - the 17th century Indian icon built by an emperor to memorialize his second wife.  

Now, there is a Taj Mahal, 2009 version, constructed by a filmmaker known for his Bangla language remakes of Bollywood movies.  

The original, adorned with Rajasthan marble, Chinese crystal, Tibetan turquoise and silver from Ceylon, was made with backbreaking manual labor over 12 years.

The waterproof replica is taking less than six years to complete with the help of machinery. Its builder claims inclusion of Italian marble and granite, diamonds from Belgium and 160 kilograms of bronze for the dome.

His detractors say the fake Taj appears rather amateurishly adorned with a generous helping of local brick and bathroom tiles.

What is now Bangladesh was once under the rule of Shah Jahan, who built the original Taj. But India is not amused by Ahsanullah Moni's tribute to the heartbroken Mughal Emperor.

Indian diplomats have muttered their dissatisfaction, warning of possible copyright infringement against their country's best known historical monument.

Moni, who participated in the 1971 independence revolution against Pakistan, says he is ready to do battle with India and will not be bullied into demolishing his Taj Mahal.  

"No matter what… our land, our brain, our money are put here for all people," Moni said. "I'm a fighter. You can't fight with me. Anybody."

The film director and producer says he came up with the idea of erecting the Bengal Taj in his home village because few of the 150 million Bangladeshis can afford to visit the real thing in neighboring India.

Asked if he was trying to impress his wife with a creation that he says cost him nearly $60 million, the flamboyant filmmaker contends his love is more encompassing.   

"I love my people. I love country, I love my people. I made this all for [the Bangladeshi] people, not [my] wife," he stated.

Sneak previews prior to the official unveiling in March have already attracted 100,000 paying visitors, at $1 per head.

Some Bangladeshis, such as Abdul Hakim back for a visit to see his family from his job in Italy, believe the replica Taj could give a boost to his country's anemic tourism industry.

"It's very important. After Agra I like this [copy]. This will be famous in the world, in America and Europe," Hakim said. 

That is exactly the reaction Moni wants to hear from visitors as he makes plans to expand the property to include a hotel, amusement park and multimedia production studio.

He believes Shah Jahan, if not the contemporary rulers of India, would be impressed with his tribute. 

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