Cambodia anger atplan to copy Angkor Wat

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The Independent Online

It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Not so, perhaps, when it comes to ancient Hindu temples.

Officials in eastern India plan to build a replica of Cambodia's spellbinding 12th-century temple, Angkor Wat, on the banks of the Ganges in the state of Bihar. A religious group, the Mahavir Mandir Trust, said that when completed, the £13m project, called the the Virat Angkor Wat Ram Mandir, would be the tallest Hindu temple in the world.

"The site is blessed. Ram, Lakshman and Vishwamitra were welcomed here on their arrival by King Sumati of the Vaishali kingdom," said the trust's secretary, Kishore Kunal, referring to a series of Hindu deities.

However, Cambodian officials said the move was "a shameful act" that would undermine the value of their best-known tourist attraction – a world heritage site since 1992. Each year, three million tourists visit Angkor Wat, pictured, which was off-limits for years because of the presence of Khmer Rouge rebels.

Such is the importance of the site to the largely Buddhist nation that it features on the national flag. "Angkor Wat is Angkor Wat. It is unique," a government spokesman told the Deutsche Presse Agentur. "They are raising this to be confrontational and it is provocative. We won't let anyone confuse the world that there are two Angkor Wats."