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Taj in black, all of 12 ft
- Sand sculptor nurses Shah Jahan dream

Lucknow, Sept. 21: Shah Jahan dreamt of making one. But he did not live long enough and his desire died with him.

It lay dead for three centuries, buried in the sands of the Yamuna. Till a young man decided he would fulfil the Mughal emperor’s wishes ' though in miniature.

Three hundred and fifty years after the world’s most famous monument to love came up on the shores of the Yamuna, 28-year-old sand artist Sudersan Patnaik and his 15-member team will build a 12-foot-high replica of the Taj Mahal with black sand from the river.

“Six truckloads of black sand and water from the river will be used for making the replica,” said Patnaik, who shot to fame after he created a white replica of the 17th-century monument at an international festival in Houston, US, in April this year. The replica got rave reviews.

The black Taj, which would be of the same height as the white replica, will be an added attraction at the grand finale of the marble monument’s 350th-year anniversary celebrations in Agra from September 25 to 27.

“It will be a 12-foot-high replica. Once complete, it will be thrown open to viewers near the eastern gate of the monument,” said Uttar Pradesh tourism minister Kwakab Hameed, who hired the internationally known artist and his team from the Puri-based Golden Sand Institute.

Patnaik said he was inspired after reading in history books that Shah Jahan had expressed a desire to build a replica of the Taj in black. “It is an honour for me to make an attempt to fulfil Shah Jahan’s dream after 350 long years,” he added.

If the anniversary celebrations, which started last year around this time, began on a dull note, the concluding ceremony is expected to be star-studded.

Cultural icons Bhimsen Joshi and Pandit Ravi Shankar will perform during the three-day event, to be held on the Madhavgarh lawns near Agra Fort from where Shah Jahan used to view the Taj. Another attraction will be Amrapali, a dance drama that actor Jaya Prada’s troupe will stage.

“This will be the first time Jaya Prada will perform here in Uttar Pradesh after becoming an MP,” said Aradhana Shukla, the director-general of the state tourism department.

Jaya Prada told the organisers she would try to live up to the expectations of the audience, which would include a large number of guests from abroad. Officials said the Rampur MP will perform on September 26.

Singer Adnan Sami will take the stage on the last day, September 27 ' which is also the World Tourism Day.

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