India has the Taj Mahal at Agra, the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the soaring forts of Rajasthan, and the expansive ruins of Hampi, but it does not have Angkor Wat - not yet at least.
Cambodia's 12th century temple -- the largest religious structure in the world -- is all set to rise again along the banks of the Ganges River near Ismailpur village on Hajipur-Bidupur road, 16 miles from Bihar's capital Patna.
A foundation-laying ceremony for the $20 million Angkor Wat replica project was held Monday to coincide with the ongoing centenary year celebrations of the foundation of Bihar.
The Angkor Wat replica will be called Virat Angkor Wat Ram Mandir, and the sprawling 40-acre site near Ismailpur village has been christened Angkor Nagar.
The selected site for construction of the temple has mythological significance as it is believed that the deities Ram, Lakshman and Vishvamitra had visited the village and were welcomed by King Sumati of the Vaishali kingdom, Acharya Kishore Kunalm, chairman of the Bihar Mahavir Mandir Trust, told the Hindustan Times.
The replica would be 222 feet high and have five stories and five shikhars making it just like its Cambodian counterpart, though slightly taller to brand it the largest Hindu temple in the world.
Besides Lord Ram and Sita, the temple will house other Hindu deities such as Radha-Krishna, Shiva-Parvati, Ganesha and Surya. Lord Vishnu and his 10 incarnations will also be housed here, Kunal said.
The construction of the main temple might take around five years. But the entire project will be ready only in 10 years, he added.
The trust has constructed a number of temples and hospitals in Bihar and is mainly funded by donations.
The UNESCO-protected Angkor Wat temple was built in the 12th century during the reign of king Suryavarman II (1141-1152 AD) and dedicated to the god Vishnu. Originally a Hindu structure, Angkor Wat has been used for Buddhist worship for many centuries.
The true Angkor Wat boasts thousands of elaborate stone carvings and contains the remains of various capitals of the Khmer empire. It is one of Asia's biggest tourist draws, creating hundreds of jobs and providing a much needed revenue source for the impoverished Cambodian people.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...