Tourists from around the world can now opt for which Taj Mahal to visit: the original in India, or its replica in Bangladesh.
After work started in 2003, a life-size replica structure of the original Taj Mahal, located 30km northeast of Dhaka, is now almost ready to open its doors to tourists.
“Everyone dreams about seeing the Taj Mahal, but very few Bangladeshis can make the trip because they are poor and it’s too expensive for them,” said wealthy benefactor/filmmaker Ahsanullah Moni, describing his reason for pouring US$58 million of his money into his “dream” project. “I hope it will be as big a draw to local and foreign tourists as the original.”
Moni made six trips to India after first being inspired by the beauty of the original Taj Mahal in 1980. Not disclosing whether he was also inspired by a woman in his life, like the inspiration behind the original Taj Mahal, he set about to follow his dream to replicate the original Taj Mahal.
After hiring specialist architects, he sent them to India to get the exact measurements of the original building. He again turned to India, bringing in six Indian construction technicians to oversee the building works.
Relating the specifications he wanted in his own building, Moni added, “I used the same marble and stone.” Marble and granite was imported from Italy, diamonds from Belgium.” He also used 160kg of bronze for the dome in his desire to replicate the original Taj.
But unlike Shah Jehan, who built the original Taj, Moni is living in the modern age and is not shy to admit it. “We used machinery, otherwise it would have taken 20 years and 22,000 workers to complete it. I took less time.”
Yet to be fully completed, work is currently going on to complete the surrounding grounds and ponds.
Moghul emperor Shah Jehan took over two decades to build the original Taj Mahal in the 17th century. Millions of visitors are drawn to India drawn by the fame of the Taj Mahal in Agra, built in memory of his beloved second wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died during giving birth.