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Taj Mahal : Made in Bangladesh
Taj Mahal : Made in Bangladesh Dhaka, Dec 11 (PTI) A giant replica of Taj Mahal near the Bangladeshi capital, which cost a whopping USD 58 million, is fast becoming a major tourist draw since its inauguration two days ago with thousands of visitors queueing up daily to have a feel of India's famed Monument of Love.

"I built it to pay honour to Emperor Shahjahan and enable the ordinary people including students to have an idea about the heritage as most of them don't have scopes to visit Agra spending huge money," the wealthy builder of te structure in the suburban Sonargaon district, Ahsanullah Moni, told PTI.

Moni, who bore the entire cost of building the life-size structure, said it took hundreds of workers and designers, many of whom were Indians, some seven years to build the 'Taj Mahal', which was opened for all in exchange of entry fees though "it is not built with a commercial purpose." The replica, located 30 kms northeast of Dhaka, has been built on over four acres of land while the complex is much bigger in size to accommodate a five-star motel, a huge film studio and amusement park.

"Everyone dreams to see the Taj Mahal but few people of our country can make the trip as it is too expensive to visit there," said Moni, also a film director and hotelier.

The construction of an exact copy of the Taj Mahal has sparked a diplomatic fracas between India and Bangladesh - raising the vexing issue of whether or not it is possible to claim copyright on a building. 

The row began after Ahsanullah Moni, a wealthy Bangladeshi film director, gave the first glimpse of his copy of the Taj Mahal this week. 

The project has cost about £40 million and is being built about 20 miles northeast of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. But the Indians are upset. “You can't just go and copy historical monuments,” an official at the Indian High Commission in Dhaka told a reporter this week. 

“Someone will go out there and have a look. This [the original Taj Mahal] is a protected site we are talking about, so we need to find out if it really is the exact size.” 

Deepak Mittal, a spokesman for the High Commission, confirmed to The Times that the matter was being investigated. “We have heard about this new Taj. We are checking the details,” he said. 

For their part, Bangladeshi officials are incensed by suggestions that the Taj Mahal - which was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and completed in 1653 - is protected by some sort of copyright. 

“I'm not sure what they are talking about,” one said. “Show me where it says that emulating a building like this can be illegal.” 

To make his Taj, Mr Moni imported marble and granite from Italy and diamonds from Belgium to add to 160kg (350lb) of bronze. He hopes that his version of the mausoleum will attract tourists to Bangladesh, a country that is well off the beaten track for Western holidaymakers. 

Construction work began five years ago, but Mr Moni says that he came up with the idea in 1980 when he first visited the real Taj in Agra, northern India. 

He said that his homage had been built because most people living in Bangladesh - where nearly half of the population exist below the poverty line - cannot afford to travel to India to see the real thing. 

“Everyone dreams about seeing the Taj Mahal but very few Bangladeshis can make the trip because it's too expensive for them,” he said. 

Mr Moni first visited the original in 1980 and has made six return trips. So enamoured was he of the site that he hired a group of architects and sent them to India to measure it. 

He said: “I used the same marble and stone as in the original Taj. We used machinery, which is why it took less time. Otherwise it would have taken 20 years and 22,000 workers to complete it.” 

Last night Mr Mittal, at the Indian High Commission, did concede that the replica was unlikely to detract from the magnificence of the original. 

He also admitted that visitors were unlikely to mix up one with the other. “A copy is a form of flattery, I suppose,” he said. 



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