Cambodia’s protest delays Ramayan temple work in Bihar

Patna, July 3 (IANS) Cambodia’s protest over the design of ‘Virat Ramayan Mandir’ in Bihar – touted as the world’s largest Hindu temple – put a spanner in the launch of its construction, leaving lakhs of devotees across the state and outside disappointed.

The Cambodian government protested in June that the temple – proposed to be built at Janki Nagar near Kesaria in East Champaran district, about 150 km from Patna – was a “replica” of world famous 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat was built during the rule of King Suryavarman II and is now a Unesco World Heritage site.

“The temple’s construction was to commence in June, but has since been delayed following the Cambodia government’s protest to the government of India,” said Acharya Kishore Kunal, secretary of Patna-based Mahavir Mandir Trust, which will take up the ambitious Rs.500-crore project.

The Cambodian government also urged India to stop construction till the issue is sorted out.

This followed Cambodia’s acting ambassador Hun Han’s report after a visit to the temple site on May 31, on a directive from his Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong.

The report dubbed the proposed temple as a “replica” of Angkor Wat.

After an official protest from the Cambodian government, the Indian ministries of external affairs and culture stepped in and asked the trust not to commence the construction till the issue is resolved.

Kunal maintained he would visit Delhi in the second week of July along with the temple architect to meet officials of the Cambodian government and the two Indian ministries.

“The proposed temple is not an exact replica of Angkor Wat. I have replied in writing to Cambodian objections. We will not start construction till the issue is resolved. We respect the sentiment of the Cambodian people. We want to convince the Cambodian government that the temple will not be a replica,” he said.

However, he said, he also pointed out that there was no rule or law that forbade the construction of a replica of any heritage building in the world.

He said the proposed temple was totally different from Angkor Wat in structural and architectural design, number of domes, size and height as well as deities.

“The temple will have modern architecture, amalgamating architectural features of Madurai Meenakshi, Bundelkhand, Rameswaram and other temples in India,” the Mahavir Mandir Trust secretary said.

Incidentally, the temple was to be named ‘Virat Angkor Wat Ram Mandir’, but it was changed following objections from Cambodia.

Mumbai-based Valecha Construction Company will construct the quake-proof temple since the site is near quake-prone Nepal border.

The ‘Virat Ramayan Mandir’ will be taller than Angkor Wat, which stands 215 feet. The complex will have 18 temples with high spires and dedicated to different Hindu deities. Its Shiva temple will house the world’s largest ‘shivling’.

The temple complex will have a hall with a seating capacity of 20,000 people, opposite the main temple housing the idols of Lord Ram, his consort Sita and sons Luv and Kush.

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