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Cambodia outraged at plans for Angkor Wat replica in India

A diplomatic confrontation is looming over the building in India of a replica of Cambodia's massive Angkor Wat, the country's most popular tourist attraction and its national symbol. 

Buddhist monks look across at Angkor Wat [Credit: The Age]
The Cambodian government has described the building of a replica to create the world's largest Hindu shrine on the banks of the Ganges as a ''shameful act'' that could affect its future relationship with India. 

An Indian religious organisation, Mahavir Mandir, has already held a ceremony to purify the land on which the temple, to be called Virat Angkor Wat Ram Mandir, will be built in the state of Bihar. Work is scheduled to begin next month and be completed in 10 years. 

The director of Sydney University's archaeology project at Angkor Wat, Damian Evans, said Cambodians are predictably outraged about the project, ''as I am sure Indians would be if a nearby country decided to build a clone of the Taj Mahal''. 

Dr Evans said building a replica showed a ''remarkable lack of cultural sensitivity by this group in India, considering how central Angkor Wat is to Khmer [Cambodian] national identity''. 

Angkor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II as his state temple and capital city in the 12th century. Originally the 82-hectare temple complex was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu before being used for Buddhist worship after the monarchy converted to Buddhism. 

The main sandstone temple is depicted on Cambodia's flag and is a source of great national pride. 

India has many experts to call upon to build the replica, which will be higher than the original and will stand 68 metres above the Ganges near the Bihar capital, Patna. Archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India carried out restoration work on Angkor Wat between 1986 and 1992. 

The secretary of the Mahavir Mandir Trust, Kishore Kunal, said Angkor Wat was the ''most marvellous monument ever made by mankind and I just want to make the largest Hindu temple in the world''. 

A Cambodian government spokesman, Phay Siphan, said building a full-scale replica of Angkor Wat was a ''shameful act'' and a deliberate attempt to undermine its ''universal value''. 

Author: Lindsay Murdoch | Source: The Age [March 20, 2012]
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