SAVE THE SECOND TAJ

Bhopal: Did you know there is a second Taj Mahal in India? While the imposing Taj in Agra has captivated the world for centuries, its less famous counterpart here is lying in ruins.

Nawab Shah Jahan Begum, Bhopal's 11th ruler, was a connoisseur of art. Reigning between 1868 and 1901, the Begum built several buildings in the city, the Taj Mahal included.

However, unlike Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal of Bhopal was built as the Begum's residence, not as a mausoleum for her spouse. The huge palace took 13 years to come up, from 1871 to 1884, at a cost of Rs.70 lakh.

Situated besides Taj-ul-Masajid, one of Asia's largest mosques, the Begum was so overwhelmed after its completion that she ordered a three-year-long celebration Jasha-e-Taj Mahal. The palace's architecture is a unique combination of British, French, Mughal, Arabic and Hindu influences. It has 120 rooms, including a Sheesh Mahal and a Sawan Bhado pavilion.

Most people are anguished over the fate of the exquisite palace. One of them is educationist Savita Raje, who has been running an awareness campaign for the last six years to resurrect the Bhopal Taj.

She has invited French architect Serge Santelli, the dean of the School of Architecture in Paris. "He is trying to save architectural marvels, mostly built by the Begums of Bhopal. He had described Bhopal's Taj Mahal as 'one of the best palaces in the world'," Raje told IANS.