A planned replica of Angkor Wat in India, which set off a firestorm of controversy when announced in March, will no longer be a carbon copy of Cambodia’s greatest national treasure, but reports that the project has been cancelled are false, officials said yesterday.
“Mahavir Mandir Trust of Patna, Bihar has not abandoned the construction of the largest Hindu temple in the world,” said Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Hindu NGO. “The news circulated by many agencies and published in many newspapers is misleading and contrary to the correct situation.”
Under pressure from the Indian government, however, the group has altered its building plans. Now, “it is not an exact replica of Angkor Wat temple, but has taken salient features of Angkor Wat and other temples also”, Kunal said via email.
“To respect the sentiments of Cambodian people, we change the name from Virat Angkor Wat Ram Temple to Virat Ramayan Mandir,” he added.
“Since it is going to be the largest temple in the world, and hence larger than even the Angkor Wat temple, it can’t be exact replica of the Angkor Wat temple, which has got only 9 shikhars (spires) against 13 in our main temple and 18 in all.”
Following the project’s announcement, the Indian government listened with concern to Cambodia’s objections to a replica larger than the original Angkor Wat, first secretary at the Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh Saurav Ray said yesterday.
When the Indian government asked Mahavir Mandir not to build the replica, “reason prevailed,” he said, and the project’s promoters “understood the concern and sentiment” of the Cambodian government.
Thai Korak Satya, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said he could not blame the group for wanting to build the temple, but said that “India should build something new that is completely different from Angkor Wat, something that can be famous in its own right in a future era”.
The new temple, to be built in India’s eastern state of Bihar, will be completed in seven or eight years, according to Kunal.