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Cambodia rakes up Angkor Wat replica issue with India

Press Trust of India  |  Phnom Penh 

Cambodia today asked to "completely stop" a private trust's plans to build a 'replica' of the world's largest Hindu temple Angkor Wat in Bihar, saying it would affect the country's prestige.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong raised the issue during a meeting with India's outgoing Ambassador to Cambodia K Patnaik.

"The deputy prime minister said Angkor Wat temple is the national symbol of Cambodia and requested Indian government to completely stop the company's plan to build the replica of Angkor Wat temple," which would affect Cambodia's prestige, state-run AKP agency reported, quoting foreign ministry spokesman Chum Sounry.

"The issue was indeed raised, but I would repeat what (then Culture Minister) said in 2012 in that the promoters of the temple will not make a replica of the Angkor Wat," Patnaik told PTI over phone from Phnom Penh.

Patnaik, who promised Namhong to convey Cambodia's request to the government of India, said Patna-based Mahavir Mandir Trust is yet to acquire land for its dream project.

"The trust people have assured us that the project is inspired from a number of temples worldwide, including the Angkor Wat, and that they will try not to replicate it," he added.

In June, Cambodia said the proposed temple "seriously violates" the Angkor Wat, the 12th century world heritage property, which holds exceptional and universal value and is also the country's most popular tourist destination.

Meanwhile, construction of the 'Viraat Ramayan Mandir' has still not begun due to the diplomatic hurdles.

Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Trust said there are "inspirations from Indian temples, including Konark and Shore temples, besides Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal and Pantarama Temple in Java" besides Angkor Wat.

He said inspirations from some 12-14 temples were taken to add to the "grandeur of the Mandir".

The site, some 120 kms from Patna, has been named 'Janaki Nagar' and if work begins soon, the largest Hindu temple for Lord Rama should be ready in the next three years, he said.

"We are trying our best to keep in mind the concern of Cambodians and bring changes, but our Constitution gives us the full right to construct the kind of structure we want," Kunal added.

The Mandir will be 2,800 feet in length and 1,400 feet in width and its sanctum sanctoram shall be 405 feet in height. The site is spread over a sprawling area of 175 acres and the hall will have a seating capacity for 20,000 devotees at a time, Kunal said.

In its protest note to the Indian External Affairs Ministry, Cambodia had said it "considers that this copy of Angkor Wat Temple for commercial benefit seriously violates the World heritage" which is also the emblem that has been used in its national flag for many centuries.

First Published: Tue, August 11 2015. 17:32 IST