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Feb 11, 2009 (DVB), While pagodas damaged by Cyclone Nargis in May last year remain in disrepair, the military regime has spent millions of dollars on building a replica of Rangoon's famous Shwedagon pagoda in Mumbai.
The ruling State Peace and Development Council collected millions in contributions from the Burmese people for the project, which was initiated by a meditation instructor.
Four hundred people, including senior officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Burmese embassy staff and a Burmese state television crew, attended the consecration ceremony on 8 February.
Although the replica pagoda is a foot lower than Shwedagon, it has many rooms inside, which could accommodate up to 10,000 meditators.
Construction started in 1997 and the military often commented on the large amount of money that was collected from the people for the project.
The pagoda cost US$ 20 million to build, the majority of which was reportedly contributed by the people of Burma.
An abbot from the International Burmese Monks Organisation criticised the project.
"They forget to repair pagodas and monasteries in Burma and instead build this pagoda to make themselves look good internationally with money stolen from the people," he said.
"It is a shameful and low-minded act."
In October 2004, when SPDC chair senior general Than Shwe and his family visited the Bodh Gaya pilgrimage site in India, he used public money to make a donation of several hundred thousand dollars.
Other Buddhist nations who have donated money restricted the use of treasury funds and kept contributions below US$ 100,000.
Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min