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Everything about the Tirumala Tirupati Temple is larger than life. Be it the daily queue of over 60,000 people, or the lakhs of laddoos that are hand-kneaded and machine-cast as prasad, or the idol of Lord Venkateswara at the sanctum sanctorum. This magnificence has been captured, for the first time on camera, by the National Geographic Channel in a 43-minute documentary – ‘Inside Tirumala Tirupati’ – that premiered on Monday night at 9 pm.
A Year’s Labour
It took more than year for the film to see fruition. It was shot in two schedules, the second coinciding with the ‘Brahmotsavam’, a nine-day religious festival. This was then followed by over six months of post production work – editing, scripting, visual effects and sound design.
What is more astounding, though, is the fact that the crew was given access to the temple. This in itself is truly a first.
Right to The Sanctum… Kind Of
A ‘namoona aalayam’ (loosely translated as exhibition temple), an exact replica of the temple, was constructed specifically for TV. It is through this that one may glimpse the Lord, as He stands within the sanctum. On the upside, those who’ve never been to the temple can see what it looks like inside – like seeing a fake Mona Lisa at the Louvre.
The ‘replica sanctum’ also helped avoid disruption to the daily religious routine/pujas at the actual temple, which go on incessantly, from 2:30 am to 1:30 am. The temple closes for only one hour a day.
Faith, Tradition and Scale
Imagine a crowd of over one lakh devotees, slowly nudging their way towards the sanctum, chanting ‘Govinda Govinda’ for hours on end, to catch a 10-second glimpse of the Lord. Imagine looking at a sea of heads, many of which will be tonsured, occasionally covered in sandal paste, moving towards a prasad hall that can accommodate 5,000 people at a time.
Tirupati is the visual repository of all that is considered ‘Hindu’. The documentary brings all the familiar religious tropes to life, in HD. Hyperlapses and time-lapses abound, as do intimate visuals of personal
expressions of faith.
(This story has been updated.)