Didn’t Karl Marx say something about history repeating itself, once as tragedy and then as farce? It applies perfectly to Ahsanullah Moni’s Taj Mahal — a replica of Shah Jahan’s original — that has come up in Sonargaon, 30 kilometres from Dhaka.
Moni, a filmmaker and businessman, says he fell in love with the Taj Mahal the first time he saw it in 1980, and ever since wanted to replicate it back home so that poor Bangladeshis who couldn’t travel to Agra could experience it too.
Moni’s got structural engineers, Indians among them, to survey the original structure so that a proper “life-size replica” could be made. Granite was procured from Italy, along with 160 kilograms of bronze for the main tomb, and thousands of diamonds. The structure, which took five years to build and cost $58 million, was inaugurated with much fanfare on December 10. It’s imposing and impressive — but only if you haven't seen the original.
“It’s nothing but a nice looking mosque,” feels Lenin Zaman, a visitor from Canada. “No foreign tourist will come to Dhaka to go there; they will go to Agra directly.” Nuruddin Ahmed, who sells mementoes near the four-acre site, is unfazed: “We expect a lot of foreign tourists. Already enthusiastic crowds are coming in every day.”
The Indian high commission is not enthusiastic however. “You just can’t go and copy historical monuments,” was its official reaction. There were reports, initially, that the government was consulting intellectual property rights experts to see if legal action can be taken. One such, Sreenivasulu N.S., points to how the French government has copyrighted the Eiffel Tower, so that no one can create its exact replica. India should take immediate steps to do so, he suggests.