Following a diplomatic protest by Cambodia lodged last year, India announced earlier this month that it has ordered the construction work of a replica Angkor Wat temple in Bihar to be suspended, and the plans re-drawn with suggestions from Cambodia.
The Narendra Modi government has convinced a private trust in Nitish Kumar-ruled Bihar to drop plans to build a giant temple similar to the iconic Angkor Wat in Cambodia, defusing simmering diplomatic tension just ahead of a visit by Vice-President Hamid Ansari to the Southeast Asian nation.
Cambodia had asked India to stop the construction of the temple a little over 100km from Patna that Phnom Penh alleges is a “copy” of the Angkor Wat temple complex.
“We are facilitating a visit by a team of Cambodian experts to the site in Bihar, so they can examine the proposed temple and suggest the changes needed to avoid any similarity with Angkor Wat,” Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the foreign office, said today. “The private trust building the temple has agreed to make any changes the Cambodian team suggests.”
Ansari departs tomorrow on a two-nation tour of Cambodia and Laos. In Cambodia, he will visit the Angkor Wat and the Ta Prohm temples – which India is helping restore.
The Cambodian government protested in June that the temple, proposed to be built at Janki Nagar near Kesaria in East Champaran district that is 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.
Cambodia raises an official complaint to India over the construction of a temple in Bihar, which is modeled after Angkor Wat and designed to be larger than in. The basis for the Cambodian protest is that Angkor Wat is a symbol of the country itself (it is on the flag after all), and the replica temple will diminish that status – and also draw away tourist dollars.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken its concerns over a large-scale “copy” of Angkor Wat to be built in Bihar, India – first mooted to a firestorm of controversy in 2012 – directly to the Indian government, asking it to intervene and put a halt to the project.
In a letter sent Saturday to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, the government appealed to India to act in order to maintain “historical” diplomatic ties between the two countries.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia considers that this copy of Angkor Wat temple [built] for commercial benefit seriously violates [its] world heritage, which is a universal and exceptional value of humanity,” the letter states.
It continued: “[The Cambodian government] strongly requests that India’s Ministry of External Affairs … reconsiders the planned construction of the Angkor Wat replica in order to preserve the traditional historic relations between the two countries and our people.”
Piyush Sompura of Panna Craft is the architect who has dreams of recreating the Angkor Wat in India. From a reading of the Indian media, there doesn’t seem to be any discussion about how the Cambodians feel about their project?
As expected, the official reaction to the Bihar Mahavir Mandir Trust’s plan to build a replica Angkor Wat in Bihar that was same-same, but bigger was not positive. The Cambodian government has called it “a shameful act”.
Cambodia expresses irritation at Angkor Wat copy in India
Bikyamasr.com, 07 March 2012
Judging from the number of mentions in the media, this has been the biggest trending story for Southeast Asian Arrchaeology this week. India announced that they would be building a replica of Angkor Wat at Bihar, which would be the taller than the original in Cambodia and the tallest Hindu temple in the world after it is completed in 10 years time. The new temple will be called Virat Angkor Wat Ram temple. I’m not sure what the Cambodian reaction is to this, but reading some Cambodian forums I get the sense some of discomfort from replicating Angkor Wat because it is a national icon. What do you think? Is building a replica of Angkor Wat a good idea? Would it be a good tourist draw? Would it draw tourists away from the original Angkor Wat? (which may not be such a bad thing…)
The Archaeological Survey of India is embarking on a project to survey the Nalanda University complex via satellite. Why is this getting some air time on SEAArch? Because there’s an exhibition going on about Buddhism in Asia at Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum, with Nalanda as the focal point.