The Taj Mahal in India is both one of the finest architectural structures of the nation's Muslim era and a representation of the epitome of love, with the millions who visit each year witnessing firsthand the physical representation of Shah Jahan's dedication to his dead wife.
For Anand Prakash Chouksey, the ivory-white mausoleum has been a huge inspiration in life and after researching for many years the 52-year-old education entrepreneur decided to build a replica in his hometown in the central state Madhya Pradesh.
"I visited Taj Mahal more than three times. I love that building because it's a symbol of love and nowadays this is one aspect which is missing in the world," said Chouksey.
Nestled in the small town of Burhanpur, the replica provides a dwelling for Chouksey, his wife and their two children.
"Last time he visited Taj Mahal was with a measuring tape," said Kabir, Anand Prakash's 24-year-old son.
"Everybody was laughing at him when he was doing this," as he noted down nearly every measurement he took of the monument with the tape, added his wife Manjusha, 48.
Construction began in 2017, and in 2019 the family moved in while the project continued around them. It cost around 30 million rupees ($394,000) and three years to complete the replica, which is one-third the size of the original structure.
The plush, two-story home includes four bedrooms, a big hall with marble columns where guests dine, a meditation room dedicated to Manjusha, a marble staircase and an intricately carved white-domed roof.
The house's complex design made the project challenging. But "because we wanted the exact replica, we tried matching combinations," said the architect, Praveen Chouksey, a family friend.
The most difficult part was building the 9-meter-wide domed roof, the architect said, adding that he hired a special team to research and perfect the section. Around 70 to 80 workers were involved regularly.
Besides hoping to convey messages of love and harmony, Anand Prakash also dedicated the building to his wife, who supported him during the early years when they struggled financially after their marriage in 1992.
Anand Prakash's family was toiling in poverty. His father owned three buffalos, so he made a living by delivering milk to homes in Burhanpur by bicycle. That was in 1994.
The couple had a love marriage, opposing Manjusha's parents, who did not support their union in its initial days.
Having a deep interest in academia, Anand Prakash started giving private tutoring to some children for university entrance examinations. After having some success with it, the couple started a private school for students wishing to pursue engineering and medical science careers.
Built on a large property in Burhanpur the couple bought in 2001, the school adopted advanced learning tools that use information technology.
With some of its students having gone on to the prestigious Indian institutes of technology and major U.S. universities, the school began attracting students from abroad.
"We started with 7 rooms and now we have 700 rooms just inside the school premises. It grew gradually, it took us almost 20 years to reach this level," Kabir, the couple's son, said.
The family's Taj Mahal replica home also stands on the school campus.
Burhanpur is a remote town without notable industry, about a five-hour drive from the airport in its nearest large city, Indore. However, it is known as the area where Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the 17th-century ruler of the Mughal Empire, Shah Jahan, died.
Since the house was built, the Choukseys have had hundreds of visitors come to admire the architecture and photograph it. But visitors are not accepted now because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A buffalo is carved into the floor at the entrance to remind them of the times they were poor. "That buffalo signifies our family's roots from where we started our journey," Anand Prakash said.
Sharing his motto of "made in Burhanpur and made for Burhanpur," Anand Prakash said his family will continue projects to distribute food to the underprivileged and work to help as many individuals as possible.