A list excludes more than it can ever hope to include. Every list, for this very reason, attracts loads of questions and criticism. One fine evening ,while taking a stroll in Kolkata’s Eco Park , I sleep-walked into a surreal treasure of modern urban architecture in which seven wonders of the world lie juxtaposed with each other –
The Pyramids & the Sphinx (Egypt), the Lost City of Petra (Jordan), the statue of Christ the Redeemer (Rio, Brazil), the Moai statues of Easter Island (Chile), the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and the Colosseum of Rome.
The obvious question – “why only seven of them ?”
The next obvious one – “ why these particular seven ?”
“How were they chosen ? What happened to sundry other lists ? Are these the ancient, medieval, modern, assorted, natural or man-made wonders ? Or just fancy,whimsical ejaculations of some local Bangla architect ?
Where are the Mexican Pyramids ? I don’t find Machu Picchu anywhere….”
As I said, lists divide and befuddle.People want participation, but not everything is up for vote.
The Greeks were fixated with the idea of 7 because a human body has seven holes – Asshole, urethral orifice,two ears,two nostrils and a mouth. Five planets plus Sun and Moon are visible by the naked eye. There are seven deadly sins and seven virtues. Every religion and culture has flirted with the number seven. Hence Wonders are seven in number, as were legendary Seas, but they could well have been 6, 8 or 12, and with equally convincing arguments.
One enters the enclosure to find a Sphinx and dwarf pyramids standing by the river Nile . I entered a pyramid and found an empty sarcophagus (stone-coffin), the Mummy having already escaped to Nabanna, the State Government HQ . Kolkata has named the Mummy Flyover (Maa) after her. The Pyramids could not have been as grand as the Egyptian ones, but the Sphinx does not disappoint.
I crossed the nala (Nile) by a small wooden bridge and beheld the ersatz Taj. This one is made of fibre glass, not with white sangmarmar (marble), and is off-white in colour . Despite being one-eighth in size and not nearly as grand as the original one, the imitation is a beautiful, symmetric structure in itself. Nile became Yamuna as I admired the reflection of the mausoleum in the nala. I did not look for Pietra Dura inlays, considering that this was built in three years, as against the efforts of thousands of workers for 22 years it took to construct the one at Agra.
I hopped onto the Taj’s platform and circumambulated it. It being in centra, one can traverse thousands of years of history and millions of square miles , if one looks around in all directions . While the Petra dates back to 9000 BC , Christ the Redeemer was erected in 1931. The platform provides a vantage point ,from every spot of which , two or three wonders are visible. This mish-mash effect gives a heady feeling but also keeps you aware that you are in a make-believe world, albeit a cosy and beautiful one.
The Petra of Jordan stands next to the Sphinx and carries the essence of the Lost City. This one is shaped like the Monastery, and contains some wall paintings.
On the far corner, visible from the highway itself stands a 50 foot-tall Christ statue, on a slightly elevated platform .The original one was erected on a 2300 feet high mountain , and looks towards the City of Rio. This one looks toward the Eco park, and tries to capture the same effect.
Further to its right lie the Maoi Statues of Easter Islands (Rapa Nui) . These 15-20 ft tall replicas of the original 30-33 ft ones are carved out of stones . The original ones (60-86 T) were carved in stone quarries , and carried to the island’s perimeter and made to look inwards, as if venerated ancestors were watching upon the living Rapa Nuis. How would have they managed to transport them between 1250-1500 AD ?
On the other side are visible the Great Wall of China and the Grand Colosseum of Rome.
The Wall in China is thousands of kilometres long, but the one is Eco Park stretches to barely 100 metres. There are watch-towers along the wall ,which stands atop raised earth.
The Colossuem is much smaller than the original one in Rome and cuts down on the seating capacity (65000), as well as the fighting arena and hypogeum (which housed lions and gladiators).
I overheard a bespectacled Bengali intellectual bemoaning the absence of Hanging Gardens of Babylon. My own mother was not happy that Leaning Tower of Pisa ( erected at Kota in thier own version of Seven Wonders) has been given short shrift. I was rather relieved that the monstrosities of Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower do not find a place in Eco Park. Although I suppose Petra or Great Wall could easily have made way for the Lighthouse of Alexandria. But this is an endless discussion.
The place could have been a little more bullish on the historical aspects of the sites. Even the information boards have now gone missing, and I saw some anal visitors desperately looking out for them.
I have not actually seen any of these Wonders , considering that I visited even the Taj when I was five years of age . I fell down in one of the small ponds and do not remember anything about the Mausoleum itself. Bengalis love to wander around the world, and their stories are full of anecdotes narrated by such ‘Agantuks’. Fitting in seven great sites in few acres, without hurting the aesthetic sense of anyone is a wonderful achievement in itself, and provides an opportunity to the locals to satisfy their travel pangs at the cost of Rs 30 per person.