Travelling on the national highway 47 at Thumpoly near Alappuzha in Kerala, many can’t stop turning their heads looking at a phenomenal structure. It is a fine replica of the Taj Mahal, built by AKB Kumar, an army veteran. The 50-feet high replica of the Taj Mahal is called the ‘Global Peace Palace’. It encompasses an area of 7,000 sq ft.
He has dedicated it to the countless soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for the country in numerous wars. “I wanted people to know about the futility of war,” he says.
Kumar, a former petty officer in the Indian Navy, took part in the 1971 India-Pakistan war. “I saw the perils and pain of war and understood its futility,” he says. “Why should we spend millions of rupees in the name of war? The poor continue to remain poor and underprivileged. The rich countries have started an arms race, creating a sense of insecurity all around. Forcing the third world countries to also jump into the arms race that cause a major dent to their exchequer. Acts like this has caused countries like India to slide into poverty. This thinking led me to construct the ‘Global Peace Palace’ to spread the message against war.”
Kumar has spent more than `1.2 crore for the construction. After his retirement he joined the Fire and Safety Wing of the Cochin Refinery Ltd. “I sold 15 cents of my property as well as the one-acre coconut plantation which my wife had inherited,” he says. “That enabled me to get more than `50 lakh. All my earnings, be it the salary and pension from the Navy, as well as the Cochin Refinery, were used to make the mansion.”
To make an exact replica, he and his architect friend, N Radhakrishan, visited the Taj Mahal at Agra more than six times. The Peace Palace has four minarets. “They represent the army, navy, air force and the para-military forces like Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force,” he says.
On the dome and the minarets, names of war heroes, who have laid down their lives have been inscribed like Mahendra Nath Mulla — the captain of INS Khukri, a war ship of the Indian Navy, which sank during the 1971 war.
To make the palace was not easy going. In the initial stages, his wife Lekha, daughter Veena, a law officer in the Indian Bank, Chennai, and Navya, a computer engineer in the Techno Park Thiruvanathapuram, were against the project. “But now they are happy with what I have made,” he says.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated the palace on December 27, 2011. Kumar is now busy putting the flags of all the nations of the world at the palace.
Meanwhile, the state labour department has sent a letter to him to pay a cess of one per cent of the expenditure. “Now I have to remit more than `1 lakh as tax,” he says.
Jacob Plamoottil, the treasurer of the Anti Liquor Movement in Kerala, said, “The mansion is not only a wonder, but it reveals the pain of a soldier. Nobody will spend all his earnings to construct a monument like this. Kumar wants to spread a message of peace to the masses.”
S Muraladharan, an editor of a vernacular magazine has visited the building thrice. “When you see the monument, you will understand the worthlessness of wars.”