[By Narendra Kaushik]
Dibai: Ask anybody in Kaser Kalan, a dusty, sleepy village of mix Hindu-Muslim population in Dibai sub-division of Bulandshahr District about 113 km from Delhi, about the man who is building Taj Mahal and there is certainty that he or she will refer you to Faizul Hasan Qadri, a retired Sub postmaster.
“Turn left on a kutcha road before the transformer near Primary Health Centre, drive a few metres and you will see Taj on your left,”
says a teenager employed in a grocery shop guiding us to Qadri’s place.
Qadri (81) of puckered up face and toothy grin has become the new celebrity in Dibai sub division since 2001 when he started building replica of Taj Mahal after his wife Tajammuli Begum passed away due to throat cancer.
Promise to keep
“I had promised Tajammuli Begum that I will construct a memorial for her which people will remember for centuries,”
Qadri recollects sitting in his modest house located next to the replica of Taj he is building.
He has already completed the basic structure – 50×50 square feet domed structure surrounded by four minarets which houses in its basement tomb of Tajammuli and an empty tomb (Qadri expects to be buried there after death) – of the replica. Now he is saving money to give it a marble coating.
Land, jewelry sold to raise funds
Qadri has spent Rs. 11 lakh on the construction till now. He raised the money from his lifetime savings (Rs. 3.5 lakh), sale of some agricultural land (Rs.6 lakh) and sale of his wife’s jewelry (Rs. 1.5 lakh). He would need at least a few more lakhs for the marble finish.
There is an interesting story behind why he decided to build replica of the Taj Mahal. He says initially he wanted to construct an ordinary mausoleum and had even asked an engineer in Aligarh, which is about 40 km from his village, to draw a map for him. He did not like the engineer’s design.
This was the time when he thought of copying the Taj Mahal design. He had visited the monument on numerous occasions in 1973 when he did a three-month long official training in Agra. He bought a booklet on Taj Mahal and started dictating its architectural design to a local mason. They built the central dome structure with concrete, cement and iron rods.
When Qadri’s fellow villagers heard about his plans of building a replica of Taj Mahal they made fun of him. But once the minarets in four directions sprang up they were forced to change their opinion.
“They started calling it Taj Mahal after the minarets got completed,”
Similarities with Taj
To ensure robustness of the structure, Qadri buried 10 feet of walls and minarets into the ground.
In the process, he ended up using 700 sacks of cement in the construction, loads of iron bars and concrete.
Like the Taj Mahal, Qadri’s replica has four smaller domes surrounding the central one. It will have marble screen doors in all four directions.
Also like the 17th century Agra monument, the replica will have steps leading into the basement where tombs of Tajammuli and Qadri will be placed.
Like Taj, which figures among the Seven Wonders of the World and which could be seen from window of Shahjahan’s bedroom (the emperor spent his twilight years gazing at the monument), the replica is also visible from a window of Qadri’s resting room.
But unlike the Taj which boasts of four arched niches on either side of the screen doors, the replica will have only two. Qadri is not sure whether he will have the resources to recreate symmetrical gardens, water infrastructure and variety of precious and semi-precious stones inlaid into the white marble at the Taj.
Unlike Taj which is spread into over 55 acres, Qadri’s replica occupies only a quarter bigha of land. Moreover since Qadri only had a single wife despite having remained childless for life, the replica has no space and scope for housing subsidiary tombs.
It is to be noted that besides housing tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, the walled Taj complex also houses tombs of two other queens of the Mughal emperor.
While Taj Mahal is witness to arrival of over four lakh visitors from within the country and outside on an average every year, Qadri’s replica gets footfalls of only about a few hundred local tourists in a year.
“Baraats (marriage parties) from Kaser Kalan, neighbouring villages and Dibai turn up to see my Taj,”
Tajammuli had a tumour in her uterus and could never conceive. Qadri faced intense pressure from his family members particularly his mother to marry again. But he was not sure whether he could fulfill the condition laid down in holy Quran.
“Quran allows a man to have four wives provided he can treat all of them equally,”
Qadri hopes that the construction of the mausoleum will help his wife gain peace in her afterlife.
“At least a few of the visitors will do Isaal-e-Sawab (prayer for the dead). Somebody will also read Fattah for her,”
he says perched on a parapet above the basement vertical which houses the tombs.
Qadri retired as sub postmaster in 1992 and has since drawn a monthly pension of Rs. 10,000. He also has six bigha of land and a tube well to irrigate it. He lives alone, cooks his own meals and has no expensive habits. His only younger brother has no objection to construction of the Taj replica.
The latter has a son who is differently abled. Qadris claim to be a descendants of a Nawab (an honorifics title bestowed by Mughal emperor to semi-autonomous Muslim rules of princely states in India) family.
Where it beats Taj
There are a couple of aspects where Qadri’s replica scores over Taj. Firstly unlike Mumtaz Mahal who was initially buried in Burhanpur (Deccan plateau) and shifted to Taj Mahal six month later, Tajammuli got buried into the replica at the first instance.
Moreover, while it took Shahjahan 17 years to complete the Taj Mahal, Qadri hopes to wrap up construction of his Taj in much lesser time.