There are monuments in India which have been copied in other destinations but did you know that there are also copycat monuments actually in the same destinations as the originals?
In my explorations over the last 12 months, I have found two examples of monuments which have been copied and one entire city! They are on a smaller, but non-the-less grand, scale and I have been either rather charmed by the sentiments, or impressed by the blatant gall of the instigator behind them.
Mini Me 1:
Now does that remind you of anything?
It is the tomb of John William Hessing in the Roman Catholic Cemetery, Agra. John William Hessing was a Dutch Mercenary who, initially served in Ceylon, as it was called then, though ultimately fought many battles for the Maratha armies, notably against the British. He ultimately died in Agra in 1803 whilst in command of the Maratha Forces. Who actually built the tomb seems to be a topic for dispute. Some claim his sons, others say his wife, who was both so inspired by the Taj Mahal and so heartbroken by the death of her husband that she built it in his honour. A male/female role reversal of the original. I prefer the last story, and I am not even romantic, but it serves my purpose and so will be the one I will be sticking to.
The Roman Catholic Cemetery, previously the Armenian Cemetery is free to all. The caretaker can be hard to find and so you may have to crawl through the small doorway. Once there take time to wonder around, it gives a great historical insight into Agra.
Mini Me 2:
Now what does this remind you of?
Dedicated to the goddess Durga, this temple is the principle Hindu temple of the Punjab and is a replica of the better known Golden Temple in Amritsar. The original temple was said to have been built in the 16th Century but the temple as it stands today was begun in 1924 (according to their own website). It is often called the Silver Temple because of its exquisitely engraved silver doors. Good times to visit are just after it opens and again, just before it closes when soothing bhajans (devotional songs) are sung. Like the Golden Temple it too is surrounded by a holy water tank and free meals are also given away, but only at certain times of the day, not all day, like at the Golden one.
Smaller than the Golden Temple, fewer people visit and it is therefore a much more relaxing place to visit than the original. Having said that, the Golden Temple is one of my favourite sites in India. It is a veritable hive of all that is good in the world. Run purely by volunteers, anywhere between 65,000 – 100,000 people are fed for free every day (A feat worthy of the tiffin walas of Mubai ) and it is kept immaculately clean – just goes to show what can be done when people stop to think of others and operate with a sense of civic duty which is something that sadly, is lacking throughout most of India. The level of devotion shown from all aspects is awe inspiring, particularly to those of us from the west. But for me, my favourite part is wondering around in the kitchens and seeing the huge vats of chai being made. However, these days it is always very busy and if you fancy a bit of peace and quiet, then the Durgiana Temple is the place to visit, or at least it was when I was there!
Mini Me 3:
Now what does that remind you of? It is a City Palace entrance but not Jaipur, it’s in Naila.
Eight years ago I visited Naila briefly, and at the time it was mentioned to me that it was built as a mini Jaipur but sadly I didn’t have the time to explore or the right person to show me around. It has however remained on my list of places to revisit. I was delighted, then to meet Dushyant from Let’s Trip Cycle Tours who has started doing morning tours from Jaipur to Naila. Exploring combined with cycling, what a result!
Naila was built by Thakur Fateh Singh the then Prime Minister of Jaipur State on land given to him by the Maharajah and he decided to turn it into a mini version of the state he was Prime Minister of, Jaipur. It is a relatively easy 18 km cycle ride through the Rajasthan countryside, starting from Sisodia Rani ka Bagh on the outskirts of Jaipur and ending at Bura Bagh which is the Rambagh Palace equivalent, though much less grand, but where the charming Nirbhay Singh (current Thakur) and his wife greet you. As well as providing a wonderful breakfast, they will also tell you all about the history of the place and take you on a guided tour where you can visit:
- Naila Fort (Now owned by the Oberoi’s) – the Nahagarh Fort equivalent.
- Bara Bagh – the Rambagh Palace equivalent
- The City Palace built in 1875
- Gopalji Temple – the Govind Dev Ji Temple equivalent
- Choupar – the equivalent of the bara and chota in Jaipur
- Suraj Pol and Chand Pol named the same in both destinations
Post cycle ride, we sat on the roof terrace of Bara Bagh and chatted over breakfast with a beautiful view of the fort. Nirbhay’s wife uses the main space of the building to produce beautiful Gota Pati embroidery work which she uses for her clothing store in Jaipur, called, yup, you guessed it, Naila. We talked about how at one time, there was so much water in Naila that they used to have a vineyard and grow various other crops too.
Then, replete after breakfast and legs recovered from the cycling, Nirbhay took me for a walk around the town, pointing out the equivalent landmarks. As with all things Indian, so few people have a sense of history or the preservation thereof and so it is a little dilapidated but interesting non-the-less. Sadly Nirbhay’s grandfather donated the city palace to the Government Medical Department of Rajasthan in 1975, a noble cause, but as with all historical monuments, it has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. We gained access, family connections still count, and looked at the architecture and paintings which manage to remain. My heart bleeds for the apathy this country bathes in when it comes to the preservation of its phenomenal heritage. But, I can bleat on about that all I want, there are a few of us who continue to appreciate what remains. We strolled around the town, saw Suraj and Chand Pol, the main square, various shops selling all sorts of local produce and utensils, the ubiquitous barbers and of course, had a chai at the local chai stall. All in all it was a very pleasant and interesting way to spend a morning. Oh, and for those who don’t want to go by bike, you can arrange for a car to take you, still enjoy a breakfast and have Nirbhay show you around.
I love finding off beat in a mainstream destination, that for me is what travel and discovery is all about, and if any of you out there know about any other such copied monuments, do let me know – I would love to explore those too.