Thursday, March 8, 2012

Angkor redux scepticism

Plans for a full-scale replica of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple were greeted with raised eyebrows by government officials yesterday.

Council of Minister’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha said such plans to build a “fake Angkor Wat” were trite.

“There’s only one Angkor Wat in the world, there’s not two,” he said, stressing that the Indian government – which is not involved in the privately funded project – had helped Cambodia restore temples damaged by natural causes.

Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts Secretary of State Thai Norak Satya said this was the first time he had heard of someone wanting to build a bigger Angkor Wat.

“In some cases, some other countries such as Thailand have built smaller models of Angkor Wat – but it is small, so it is okay,” Thai Norak Satya said.

“If [someone] wants to build a smaller model of Angkor Wat to showcase Cambodia, that is okay, but if they want to build it bigger – they cannot,” he said.

Government tourism officials and UNESCO specialists did not respond to requests for comment yesterday as they were attending a meeting in Siem Reap, the home of Cambodia’s national symbol.

On Monday, Indian NGO Bihar Mahavir Mandir Trust, which plans to construct the replica, held a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site in Bihar state.

Trust secretary Kishore Kunal told the Post yesterday that operations are “under way” to surpass Angkor Wat and build the biggest religious structure in the world.

“We are so impressed with Angkor Wat that we want to make a replica in India,” Kunal said of the temple that adorns Cambodia’s national flag.

“It will be the same as Angkor Wat, but bigger.”

Kunal said the Trust’s objective was to recreate the originally Hindi temple in India as both a tourist attraction and a place of worship.

“Of course, the Indians will still come to visit Angkor Wat, I myself am coming for a visit for the first time next month,” Kunsal said by telephone yesterday.

The replica will be a full-scale replica down to the world-renowned stone carvings.

“Since we are following the exact design of the world famous Angkor Wat temple, there is not much variation in our design from the original temple,” Kunsal said.

“We will complete construction within 10 years,” Kunsal said, adding that the Trust, which operates as an NGO, was funded by Lord Rama devotees.