India lays foundation for world's tallest building

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APPARENTLY BLIND to the example of Malaysia, where construction of the world's tallest building, the Petronas Towers, in Kuala Lumpur, was followed almost at once by economic collapse, India is to build something far bigger. At 2,222ft the Centre of India Tower will be more than 700ft taller than that piece of Malaysian hubris.

The foundation stone is to be laid tomorrow. The tower, although designed by the firm responsible for Manhattan's World Trade Center, will not be another glass-and-steel phallus, straining to outperform Chicago and New York and beetling with Asian yuppies. It will be located in a village called Karonda, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, central India.

It will comply in every particular with the prescriptions of Vastu, Hinduism's answer to China's Feng Shui. It will look like a jaw-droppingly huge modern version of the temples of nearby Khajraho - minus, one supposes, the gorgeous encrustation of erotic statuary that makes Khajraho a must- see. And instead of office drones, it will be peopled by 100,000 pundits, Hindu sages.

The man behind it is the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, he of the flowing hair and beard and sleepy eyes, the guru, 30 years ago, to all the beautiful people: Mia Farrow, Jane Asher, Donovan, Mike Love, and all the Beatles.

Back then the Maharishi taught Indian meditation, which he trademarked and marketed as Transcendental Meditation or TM, as a panacea for the world's ills.

Today the product is the same, but the scale has grown in step with his organisation's wealth. In 1988, his biography states, he "formulated the Master Plan to Create Heaven on Earth for the reconstruction of the whole world, inner and outer".

Five years on, in 1993, we are told, he actually put the "Master Plan" into effect - he "inaugurated Global Administration through Natural Law". The Centre of India Tower will be the final brick in the wall.

Popular fantasy from James Bond onwards is full of villains who scheme to take over the world. The Maharishi is said to be very much in this mould, with two important differences. One, he's a good guy . And two, some might say he seems to have taken over the world without anybody noticing.

Although it is unlikely that the inhabitants of the village of Karonda will remain oblivious for much longer.