Hope floats for Bhopal’s very own Taj Mahal


Bhopal : There are plans to restore the lost glory of a monument here known as the Taj Mahal, which is a grand structure in its own right but has been facing neglect for decades unlike its namesake in Agra.

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The Taj Mahal here was built by Shah Jahan Begum over 130 years ago for residential purposes. Incidentally, Bhopal was a rare Muslim state to be ruled by four women monarchs in succession.

“The renovation work of the Taj Mahal would be undertaken soon to restore the lost grandeur of this great monument,” Madhya Pradesh Culture Minister Laxmikant Sharma said after a visit to the Nawabi era monument here.

“An action plan would be chalked out and discussed with various department heads in the district.”

The monument has been in danger of being erased from the heritage map of Madhya Pradesh. However, its maintenance and renovation could be on the cards soon.

“So far the culture department has been doing renovation work of several Nawabi-era buildings of archaeological value from its own funds but now the help of other departments will also be sought.

“A proposal will also be sent to the union government seeking total restoration of this sprawling building complex which has come to be known as the Taj Mahal,” he said.

The complex, once called the ‘Raj Mahal’, has elaborate stone-pillar arches, with the ceilings having iron rings where coloured glass lamps used to be hung once upon a time.

“When the British Resident called on Shah Jahan Begum, he was so impressed with its architecture that he looked around with admiration and remarked that this splendid palace should be known as the ‘Taj Mahal’. After all, it is the creation of Shah Jahan Begum. Thereafter, the Raj Mahal was renamed Taj Mahal,” recalls an old timer.

Today large parts of the heritage complex have collapsed. Its ceiling near the entrance has buckled and the huge garden with a complex of palaces and covered walkways have disintegrated. As a result, one can easily see narrow bricks peering out of wherever the plaster has peeled off or the walls have caved in.

After renovation, the culture department plans to hold programmes there so that people can be introduced to the grandeur of the building, whose construction began in 1871 and ended in 1884.

The monument constructed as her royal palace by Shah Jahan Begum had at that time cost Rs.3 million. The six-storeyed building had 120 rooms – all different from one another in colour scheme and decoration – and eight large halls.

Though much of Bhopal’s architecture is said to bear the Mughal, French, British, Rajasthani, Persian, Arabic and Islamic designs, the ruins of the Taj Mahal distinctly reflect Islamic architecture.

The begum married Baqi Muhammad Khan, a nobleman of Bhopal and became his third wife in 1855. Four years after Muhammad Khan’s death in 1867, she married Sadiq Hasan Khan of Bareilly in then United Provinces.

After India’s independence, a few members of the royal family lived at the Taj Mahal. But since they had no money for repairs, gradually they all moved away, leaving the palace at nature’s mercy.