Proposed temple in Bihar may strain India-Cambodia ties

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Proposed temple in Bihar may strain India-Cambodia ties

A “Virat Ramayan Temple”, planned by private religious trust's in Bihar, has become an irritant in India-Cambodian ties, with Phnom Penh complaining about its resemblance to the famous Angkor Wat shrine in the Southeast Asian country.

The Mahavir Mandir Trust in Patna is keen to start the temple's construction in Bihar's East Champaran district soon, and claims it has done enough to allay of Phnom Penh's concerns, like changing the design and explaining to Cambodian diplomats based in India that the shrine would not be Angkor Wat's replica.

“We tried to settle the row amicably. We tried our best to address the issues Cambodia raised. We can have more discussions,” Kishore Kunal, Trust head, told Deccan Herald from Patna. “But if they are still not convinced, we cannot help it.”
The project has been at the centre of a controversy since 2012, when Phnom Penh reacted to media reports suggesting that it would be a replica of Angkor Wat — the world’s largest religious monument and Cambodia's national symbol.

Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Cambodia, on August 11 requested New Delhi to “completely stop” the temple's construction. He conveyed the request during a meeting with India’s outgoing envoy to Cambodia, Dinesh K Patnaik, in Phnom Penh. Angkor Wat was constructed in the 12th century as the state temple of King Suryavarman II of the Khmer Empire.

The Unesco World Heritage Site now appears on Cambodia's national flag. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia had earlier, on May 29, conveyed to Embassy of India in Phnom Penh its concerns over the proposed temple.

A senior diplomat of Embassy of Cambodia in New Delhi on May 31 travelled to Patna, met Bihar government and Mahavir Mandir Trust officials, and also visited the site of the proposed temple.

“We told him our temple's design is based on the architecture of as many as 15 shrines across six countries — India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia,” said Kunal.

“The entrance is based on the gate of a temple in Indonesia. The Shiva Linga will be inspired by the one in Nepal's Pashupatinath Temple.”

Cambodia, however, still believes the dome of the proposed temple is more than 60 per cent similar to that of Angkor Wat.

Kunal said the design of the dome of the proposed temple had also been substantially altered to address these concerns.
 

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