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Cambodian officials invited to suggest changes to Angkor Wat ‘replica’

Following a protest by Cambodia, India invited officials from the Cambodian embassy to suggest changes to a proposed temple in Bihar so that it does not look like a replica of the famed Angkor Wat temple, a top official said on Monday.

Cambodia had protested against the planned ‘Viraat Ramayan Mandir’ that is to come up in Bihar for being designed on the Angkor Wat temple, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Anil Wadhwa, secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, said India arranged for a visit by a representative of the Cambodian embassy in New Delhi to the planned temple to suggest changes.

He said the process was ongoing and “any more changes that are required will be carried out”.

An official from the Cambodian embassy had seen for himself the changes and the measures taken, he said.

The ‘Viraat Ramayan Mandir’ is proposed to be built at Janki Nagar near Kesaria in East Champaran district, about 150 km from Patna.

The Patna-based Mahavir Mandir Trust has proposed to build the temple, which will be 2,500 feet long, 1,296 feet wide and 379 feet high and will cost over Rs.500 crore.

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

Angkor Wat was built during King Suryavarman II’s rule.

Last month, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh told parliament that the Cambodian embassy handed over a letter to the ministry in June over the matter and their foreign ministry had raised a similar concern to the Indian envoy in Phnom Penh.

“The government of India has taken up the matter of the construction of ‘Viraat Ramayan Mandir’ with the Bihar government and the promoters of the temple. India has reassured the Cambodian authorities that while the temple design is inspired by the Angkor Wat temple, it is not an exact replica,” V.K. Singh said.

He said that in view of the objections raised by Cambodia, the promoters of the temple have made “suitable and substantial” alterations in the design of the proposed temple complex.

The ‘Virat Ramayan Mandir’ is planned to be taller than Angkor Wat, which stands at 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 is to have a hall with a seating capacity of 20,000 people.

Wadhwa said India was involved in restoration work of ancient temples in both Cambodia and Laos, as per the demands of both countries.

He said India was “open to requests” for renovation of the temples and will continue the work in the future.

He said the Archaeological Survey of India was in the third phase of renovation of the Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia, which was begun in 2007. The third phase is to cost $4.13 million.

India will also restore the Preah Vihear temple in that country. The restoration of the Angkor Wat is an ongoing process, he said, and is set for another phase.

In Laos, India was involved in restoration work on the Vat Phou temple.

He said India was “very cooperative” when such requests were received.

The restoration work was done on grant basis.

He said that according to the latest agreement, the labour was to be procured locally for the last phase of restoration.