Cam­bo­dia protests against plans to build a near- replica in East Cham­paran

India Today - - SPORT - by Uday Mahurkar

Plans to build a tem­ple in Bi­har on the lines of Angkor Wat tem­ple in Cam­bo­dia have irked the South­east Asian coun­try. The tem­ple plan, on 110 acres of land in East Cham­paran dis­trict at a cost of Rs 500 crore, was an­nounced in March by the Ma­havir Mandir Tem­ple Trust headed by Kishore Ku­nal, a for­mer Gu­jarat­cadre IPS of­fi­cer who has set­tled in his na­tive Bi­har af­ter re­tire­ment. A sec­tion of Cam­bo­di­ans, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion lead­ers, see it as an at­tempt to hi­jack the Kh­mer peo­ple’s na­tional sym­bol of pride and big­gest tourist draw.

In March, the Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment sum­moned the In­dian am­bas­sador in Phnom Penh and lodged a strong protest against what it sees as an at­tempt to “copy the Cam­bo­dian na­tional icon which is also stamped on its na­tional flag”. Cam­bo­dian Cul­ture and Fine Arts Min­is­ter Him Ch­hem even went to the ex­tent of say­ing that con­struc­tion of a sec­ond Angkor Wat could af­fect In­dia- Cam­bo­dia ties. The is­sue has as­sumed height­ened im­por­tance with Cam­bo­dian na­tional elec­tions sched­uled for 2013 and the Op­po­si­tion Hu­man Rights Party also op­pos­ing the pro­posed project.

A con­cerned Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs wrote to the Bi­har gov­ern­ment on March 15, seek­ing de­tails of the pro­posed tem­ple. The Bi­har gov­ern­ment, in turn, asked Ku­nal to fur­nish the ex­act de­tails. Ku­nal has sought to play down the con­tro­versy, say­ing there were im­por­tant dis­tinc­tions be­tween the tem­ple built in Cam­bo­dia by 12th cen­tury Kh­mer king Suryavar­man II, a world her­itage site which draws two mil­lion tourists ev­ery year, and the one planned in East Cham­paran. For one, Angkor Wat is ded­i­cated to Lord Vishnu while its Bi­har name­sake will be ded­i­cated to

“It is not an ex­act replica. Cam­bo­dia should be happy that we are draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from a great mon­u­ment.” KISHORE KU­NAL, Head of the Ma­havir Mandir Tem­ple Trust, Bi­har

Lord Ram and will house an idol of sage Valmiki as well. “It is not an ex­act replica. Along with Ram and Valmiki, idols of Sita, Luv and Kush will also be in­stalled,” says Ku­nal. He says that his tem­ple is loosely mod­elled on the main Angkor Wat tem­ple and not its en­tire com­plex. “Cam­bo­dia should be happy that we are draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from a great mon­u­ment of that coun­try which is also em­bed­ded in the com­mon cul­ture of the two na­tions and not from the dreaded ( Kh­mer Rouge leader) Pol Pot,” he adds.

The Bi­har ver­sion of Angkor Wat will be built by Ahmed­abad- based tem­ple ar­chi­tect Piyush Som­pura. Ku­nal wants it to be grander than the orig­i­nal, with a height of 217 ft, as op­posed to Cam­bo­dian tem­ple’s 210 ft. His trust, which has built hos­pi­tals worth Rs 300 crore through public do­na­tions, will fund Rs 10 crore an­nu­ally and raise the rest through public cam­paigns. “We should be able to fin­ish the project in eight to 10 years,” says Som­pura. Cam­bo­dia will­ing, that is.


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