TTD digitalises old inscriptions to upload on the Web

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FOR KEEPS: An estampage of a wall inscription taken from the Tirumala Venkateswara temple.
FOR KEEPS: An estampage of a wall inscription taken from the Tirumala Venkateswara temple.

A.D. Rangarajan

ASI involved to preserve inscriptions before gold plating work at Venkateswara temple

1,150 of the inscriptions ’eye-copied’ in 1922

Plans to maintain temple replica with inscriptions

TIRUPATI: Ahead of taking up the ambitious project of gold-plating the outer walls of the sanctum sanctorum of the Tirumala Venkateswara temple, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) has completed the job of taking imprints of the inscriptions.

The outer wall running through the inner precincts will be covered with gold sheets, using 100 kg of gold, covering up the centuries-old inscriptions. Therefore, the custodian of the world’s richest temple has involved the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to copy, preserve their images for posterity.

Sadhu Subrahmanya Sastry, the TTD’s former epigraphist-cum-archaeologist, copied 1,150 of the inscriptions in 1922 employing the ‘eye copy’ technique. These included 640 inscriptions in the area that will be covered up. But the ASI’s Mysore-based epigraphy wing, equipped to deal with such work, recently completed taking estampages of the Tamil, Telugu and Kannada inscriptions. This was done by pasting litho paper on the wet wall and running rollers over it after spreading an adhesive paste made of lamp black and Indian ink.

“Given the heavy rush of pilgrims and various other reasons, the ASI could not copy even a single inscription in the sanctum sanctorum until now, and this is our first attempt,” K. Munirathnam, a senior epigraphist with the Mysore centre told The Hindu. Working with 10 attenders, he finished taking copies of the 100 inscriptions on the nine-foot high walls in less than 40 days.

The inscriptions narrate the socio-economic, political and religious situation that had existed and help recreate history. While most of the inscriptions copied from the ‘Jagati’, ‘Kumudam’ and ‘Patti’ (floor level) areas of the northern wall pertain to the Vijayanagara era (13th century) including from the Sangama, Saluva, Thuluva and Araveedu dynasties, a few relate to the Chola, Pandya and Pallava periods.

The estampages are being scanned at a digital library to be uploaded on the web. The material is expected to run to 800 web pages.

Plans are afoot to maintain also a replica of the temple with inscriptions at the Tirumala museum. The gold plates are likely to have ornate designs. Some historians feel that imprinting the inscriptions on gold sheets, a major job that could take a decade, would help keep the inscriptions immortal and grandeur to the walls.

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