India unveils plan to build 'world's largest temple'

Image caption The temple is expected to be ready by 2015

Authorities in India's Bihar state have unveiled a model of what they say will be the world's largest Hindu temple.

At 405ft (123m), the proposed Viraat Ramayan Mandir would be nearly double the height of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, which currently holds the title.

The temple will be spread over 190 acres in Motihari district, about 120km (75 miles) from the city of Patna.

Inaugurated by Bihar's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday, it is expected to be ready by 2015.

Officials say work on the project will begin by 14 December.

"As chairman of Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts, I have been involved in the construction and restoration of hundreds of temples, but there was a deep desire in me to build a grand temple," retired police official Kishore Kunal, who heads the project, told BBC Hindi.

"In March last year, this idea struck me quite strongly and I decided to build the world's largest Hindu temple."

The temple is being built by a Patna-based religious organisation, the Hanuman Mandir Trust.

Work on the project will begin with initial funding of 120m rupees ($1.9m; £1.2m) and trust officials said they would later seek donations to raise more funds. The estimated cost of the total project is reported to be 5bn rupees.

The temple will have statues of the Hindu god Ram, his wife goddess Sita, and their twin sons Lav and Kush.

Although the project is being funded and built by a private religious trust, its inauguration by Bihar's chief minister has led to comparisons with the recent foundation stone-laying ceremony in the western state of Gujarat by Chief Minister Narendra Modi of what is billed as the "world's tallest statue".