The sanctum-sanctorum of the worlds richest God,Lord Venkateshwara of Tirumala,is set to be gold-plated at a cost of Rs 50 crore. On completion,the temple would be covered with more gold than the Golden Temple at Amritsar.
As per the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) estimates,altogether 195 kg of pure gold will be required to cover the sanctum-sanctorum,which stretches 10,000 feet a project it estimates to complete by next June. The gold alone would cost Rs 30 crore.
Not that the money or gold will be a problem. The temple is already witnessing a rush of gold and cash donations for the project; on the first day of the announcement itself,20 kg of gold poured in. By now,the TTD has received 46 kg in gold and Rs 70 lakh in cash exclusively for the gold-plating. Among the prominent gold donors is Gali Janardhan Reddy,Karnatakas Minister for Tourism.
The TTD is quite confident of not having to disturb its gold reserves or coffers to procure the gold needed. Even otherwise,the temple has never lacked in benevolent patrons. On May 30,the temples hundi received a single-day record Rs 2 crore worth of donations in cash and jewellery,while in the past five days,the temple has received over 5 lakhs pilgrims who donated close to Rs 6.50 crore.
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While some rare lithographs and centuries-old inscriptions which adorn the sanctum-sanctorum,known as Ananda Nilayam,will be concealed due to the gold-plating,the TTD says these are being digitised and recorded by the epigraphy wing of the Archaeological Survey of India. The inscriptions are in Telugu,Tamil and Kannada and describe the conditions that prevailed when the temple was being built centuries ago.
TTD Executive Director K V Ramanachari also insists that the gold-plating would not affect the inscriptions as it would be done leaving gap of half-an-inch between the wall and the plating. The plating would be in the form of removable panels and the inscriptions can be scrutinised when required,he says.
The TTD Board has constituted a three-member expert committee to coordinate with the two firms which have been chosen to execute the project Srinivasam Contractors and Gyanam Contractors.
A team of expert craftsmen from Tamil Nadu will carve the gold for the interior,which would be completed first. The delicate carvings on the gold panels floral designs and deities would be in accordance with those suggested by experts in architecture of ancient temples,and will gel with the aesthetics of the temple. And since the craftsmen would be handling enormous quantities of gold,the TTD has set up a high-security workshop near the temples museum.
TTD Coordinator Rampulla Reddy said the Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation (MMTC) has even agreed to set up a gold-monitoring unit in the temple complex. Devotees donate gold in all forms and all the gold may not be pure whereas we want 99.6 per cent pure gold. The MMTC will verify the purity of gold and while retaining impure gold the company will reimburse pure gold equivalent in value. This way we will ensure that all the gold used is 99.6 per cent pure, Reddy said.
Gold-plating of the temple in fact began in 1267 when Pandyan dynasty king Sundara commissioned the plating of the sacred pot atop the temple. Vijayanagars legendary emperor Krishna Devaraya got the temple tower gold-plated between 1350 and 1360. In 1958,the TTD used 17 kg of gold donated by devotees to cover the outer wall of the sanctum.
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