A proposal to build a Dubai replica of the Taj Mahal up to four times bigger than the original has been slammed by cultural officials in India.
The project, known as Taj Arabia and planned for the emirate’s 41m sqft Falconcity development, will boast a five-star hotel with 300 rooms when completed in 2014.
The plan to copy the UNESCO world heritage site in Aggra has however drawn vociferous criticism from some.
"It is patently wrong and absurd,” former Agra legislator Satish Chandra Gupta told India’s IANS news agency. “This kind of distortion and in principle duplication of history artificially makes no sense.”
“You cannot re-create history. Agra must get its share in terms of royalty from anyone using the brand Taj Mahal,” he added.
Others called on the developer behind Taj Arabia, Global Group, to scrap the project altogether.
"Ideally the Dubai builder should not go ahead with this project as it hurts our sentiments. Taj Mahal is basically a spiritual centre, with thousands of people offering prayers and paying obeisance round the year,” said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
"The Taj represents or climaxes the 5,000 years of Indian excellence. To belittle the original through a fake model is not a desirable thing,” he added.
The US$36.5bn Falconcity of Wonders development in Dubai, which Taj Arabia will form a part of, was originally announced in 2005. Initial plans proposed building life-size reconstructions of other famous historical landmarks such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as well as monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa.
In light of the emirate’s property slump in 2008-2009, many of Dubai's more audacious construction projects have been pared back or cancelled altogether.