Agra adds a new attraction to its heritage

Brij Khandelwal

Agra May 17 (IANS) A new white marble structure in Agra that took 104 years to build is daily drawing hordes of spiritually inclined tourists.

The visitors often draw comparisons between the iconic Taj Mahal and the newly built mausoleum of the founder of the Radhasoami sect in Soami Bagh, located about 12 km away from the Taj Mahal.

The immaculate white marble structure has become a popular attraction for tourists exploring Agra. Many are in awe of the grandeur of the mausoleum and consider it a worthy rival to the Taj Mahal, adding to the architectural splendour of the city known for its Mughal monuments.

Unlike the Taj Mahal, which was completed in 22 years with the labour of thousands of skilled artisans and craftsmen in the 17th century under a medieval authoritarian regime, the construction of the Soami Bagh mausoleum spanned over a century. in an open society.

A devoted follower of the faith, Pramod Kumar mentioned that the construction of the mausoleum was a testament to the unwavering faith, fervour, and dedication of its creators, who were driven by their religious beliefs.

Resting on a foundation of 52 wells, the 193-foot tall structure, all in white marble from Makrana in Rajasthan, is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious projects in India.

The mausoleum is dedicated to the founder of the Radha Soami faith Param Purush Pooran Dhani Swamiji Maharaj. The grand mausoleum is situated in the Soami Bagh colony in Agra’s Dayalbagh area. Each day bus loads of tourists visit the mausoleum and express their admiration and awe at the exquisite craftsmanship on display. The entrance is free while the photography is not permitted.

Some minor additions are yet to be made. One can see scores of craftsmen at the workshop equipped with huge machines using state-of-the-art technology. “Now of course we have huge grinders, cutters, finishers, lorries, lifters, and all kinds of machines and computer technology, all of which were employed to advantage here, and the results show,” an official connected with the project said.

Already visitors have begun comparing the Soami Bagh mausoleum with the world heritage monument, the Taj Mahal which draws thousands of tourists from all over the world daily. The Taj Mahal houses the mausoleum of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Officials who supervised the construction said, “It is a form of worship that has been going on and will go on relentlessly.”

The Soami Bagh mausoleum stands amidst a colony of the followers of the Radha Soami faith. The faith has millions of followers in states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Karnataka as well as foreign countries.

The original samadh was a simple white sandstone structure. In 1904, work began on a new design by an architect from Allahabad. Work was held up for a few years, but since 1922 to this day men have been toiling away, mostly by hand, at the enormous, highly decorated construction.

The artisans work with intense devotion. Some old men have spent all their lives on the site, as their fathers and grandfathers did before them, and as their sons and grandsons are now doing. These days the artisans have some machinery to help them, but their work is as painstaking as ever.

The architectural design of the building conforms to no particular style, modern or traditional, though in conception it is essentially oriental. An effort has been made to blend a variety of styles harmoniously.

However, the sponsors of Soami Bagh, literally the ‘garden of the Lord’, firmly deny any plans of rivalling the Taj.

The 31.4-foot gold-plated pinnacle is taller than that of the Taj Mahal and was mounted by a crane especially called from Delhi for this highly specialised job. It took years because marble stones of the desired size could not be found. Most of the marble for the mausoleum has come from Makrana and Jodhpur quarries in Rajasthan. The variegated mosaic stone is from Nowshera in Pakistan. Semi-precious stones for inlay work have been procured from riverbeds in central and southern India.

The construction process faced many problems, including difficulties in procuring the right quality of marble although quarries were taken on lease in Mount Abu and Udaipur areas. To add to the woes, construction work was affected time and again due to labour shortage, as a large number of skilled masons migrated to greener pastures in Gulf countries.

While the Taj Mahal continues to remain the first choice of visitors who are fascinated by the romance and the structural grandeur of the imposing edifice, the spiritually inclined are turning to Soami Bagh which is both an architectural marvel and a centre for soul healing and solace.

The promoters of the project consider it wrong to compare it with any other building, but those who visit the mausoleum continue to wonder whether the Taj Mahal has a rival in Agra.

- Advertisement -