Clear Ratna Bhandar Mystery


Lord Jagannath, the Presiding Deity of Hindus, has undoubtedly blessed Naveen Patnaik, who became the Chief Minister of the state for five consecutive terms. The BJD Government has taken several steps for transformation of Shri Jagannath Temple. However, what has confused the people is the State Government’s reluctance to undertake an inventory of the Lord’s Ratna Bhandar, which was for the last time audited in 1978.

And  people across the state were surprised when the State Government made it clear that it has no such plan to open Shri Jagannath Ratna Bhandar, which continues to remain a mystery for the people across the country. However, like the Ratna Bhandar, its attitude also becomes mysterious and no one has specific reason to ascertain the reason behind not opening the Lord’s Treasury and making inventory of the gold, silver, diamond and other precious ornaments.
Minister, Law Pratap Jena in the Odisha Legislative Assembly claimed that the Lord’s ornaments were “safe” in the Ratna Bhandar. It is natural that questions now arise as to how the state authorities make such claims that the ornaments are safe in the Ratna Bhandar while the Divine Treasury has not been opened over four decades.
The Minister in the statement also informed that the inventory of the valuables was last compiled in 1978. The 17-member Expert Team on April 4, 2018 had entered the Ratna Bhandar, but could not inspect the inner chambers. Of the seven-room Ratna Bhandar, three are called outer chambers where the Lord’s daily-used ornaments are stored and four other rooms store a huge quantity of valuable items including diamonds, gold and other precious stones. Therefore, mystery continues to prolong about the status of valuables stored in the Ratna Bhandar, because no human being has seen these items since 1978.
The State Government’s unwillingness to open the Ratna Bhandar is creating doubts in the minds of people. This suspicion has been further intensified when it came to the fore that last year the expert team could not enter the inner chamber of the Ratna Bhandar because the key was missing. This has fuelled suspicion that the valuables in the Ratna Bhandar might not be safe or even intact. In the meantime, the State Government set up a Judicial Commission headed by Justice Raghubir Das to trace the missing keys of the Ratna Bhandar. Meanwhile, the Commission has submitted the Report, but the government is yet to make it public or place it before the Assembly. Nobody actually knows the reason behind keeping the Judicial Commission’s Report under the carpet. Delay in opening the Commission Report is another factor that adds to the suspicion.
Another factor was recovery of the missing key from the record room of the Puri District Collectorate. As per rule, the Ratna Bhandar inner chamber keys should be in the government treasury and not in the district record room. Nobody has so far explained how the keys went to the record room.  
Now, after assuming office for the fifth consecutive time, the Naveen Patnaik Government has taken certain praiseworthy steps to transform the 12th century shrine. It has demolished several dilapidated structures owned by mutts close to the temple and beautified the place. People have been really praised the state government’s action and Naveen himself has announced a special package for the development of the shrine, one of the major Dhams for Hindus across the Globe.
The temple’s security and other aspects are also in the focus of the state administration. What has surprised all is the attitude of the authorities not to clear the doubts in public mind over the Ratna Bhandar. Though Shri Jagannath Temple Act 1960, under which the State Government took over the management of the all-important 12th century shrine, clearly suggests that the inventory of the Ratna Bhandar should be made every three years.
The Supreme Court of India, which has of late shown interest in the development of Shri Mandir, during the last hearing of the ongoing case related to the affairs of the 12th century shrine, asked the state government to file an affidavit on the complete list of movable and immovable assets of the Lord at the next hearing of the case on 8 January, 2020.
People from different sections of the society including opposition BJP and Congress, servitors, pundits of the Mukti Mandap, the local people of Puri and all other stakeholders are strongly demanding for an inventory of the Ratna Bhandar. The only hurdle before the Lord’s treasury audit has been the state government’s reluctance. No one actually understands the factors behind the state’s attitude.
However, a section of the ruling party leaders fear that the Ratna Bhandar inventory has not become auspicious in the past. The state used to witness political instability when the Lord’s Treasury is opened in the past. Therefore, the people at the helm are reluctant to touch the most sensitive issue, said an insider.
However, keeping Naveen Patnaik’s popularity and the BJD’s acceptability, superstitions linked with the Ratna Bhandar do not make any sense. Naveen is the undisputed leader in the state with an absolute authority and backing of 4.5 crore people. He is also considered the strongest among the Chief Ministers of Odisha. If a soft Chief Minister like Nilamani Routray could dare to undertake an inventory of the Ratna Bhandar in 1978, it should not be difficult for a strong Chief Minister like Naveen Patnaik to do so.
This apart, the inventory of the Ratna Bhandar may reveal wrong doings of certain officials or others. Naveen is known as a hard task master and only he can handle the responsibility of punishing the culprits. If mistakes are detected after the BJD regime, then history will blame Naveen. It is the right time to go for an inventory of the Ratna Bhandar and clear the mystery over it. This will boost the image of the Chief Minister, who is known for taking tough decisions.  

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