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Open Ratna Bhandar

Bhubaneswar: The Ratna Bhandar, the Treasury of Lord Jagannath’s 12th century shrine in Puri, continues to remain a mystery for the people. And the present opposition political parties have added to the confusion as the people doubt whether the Lord’s valuable ornaments are intact or missing over a period of time. The Ratna Bhandar, according to the State Government, was last opened in 1985, but the latest inventories of the valuables were made in 1978. Until 1985, nobody had seen the Inner Chamber of the Ratna Bhandar, which was divided into two parts.

While the outer chamber of the Ratna Bhandar preserves the daily use ornaments and valuables used by the sibling deities of Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath, the inner chamber preserves the most precious materials including gold, diamonds, gems, silver and other items. Barring a few, none has seen the Inner Chamber. Even there is doubt whether the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri Dibyasgingha Deb is sure about storing of the valuables. Therefore, the Gajapati was also in favour of opening the Inner Chamber of Ratna Bhandar for inventory.

As per Orissa High Court order, there was an attempt to open the inner chamber of the Ratna Bhandar in 2018. But it could not be opened as the Temple Administration could not found the keys. The people who went inside the Ratna Bhandar, had to return from the outer chamber. Here is the mystery, pointed out opposition leaders. Did the administration become aware about missing the Inner Chamber keys at the spot? Before going to open the chamber, the administration must have taken the key along with the team. But, the administration did not make it public that the key was missing until the matter was raised in the managing committee meeting two days after the attempts were made to open the Ratna Bhandar.

It is being questioned in public that was the key was missing before the Search Team entered into the Ratna Bhandar to open it? There arises a question that the then District Magistrate was aware about the missing of the keys? What could be the reason behind it in keeping it a secret?

To make matters further worse, in 2018 all of a sudden it was claimed that a duplicate key of the Ratna Bhandar was available. Where did the duplicate come from and where has the original key gone? It created a lot of confusion among the Lord Jagannath’s devotees across the country. If at all the government has duplicate keys, what is the problem in opening it?

There have been no attempts made to open the Ratna Bhandar after an unsuccessful bid in 2018. Therefore, the Ratna Bhandar’s Inner Chamber continued to remain closed for 38 years.

Later Justice Raghubir Das Inquiry Commission on Ratna Bhandar was set up and Justice Das had submitted the final report with the state government in November, 2018.. The Inquiry Report has not been placed in Assembly.  The public is in the dark on the findings of the Justice Das Commission report. It appears that the State Government was making another mistake by not placing the Inquiry Report in Odisha House.

The matter has since taken a political turn with BJP National President J P Nadda at a public meeting blamed the State Government for claiming to have a duplicate key of the Ratna Bhandar. Even the leaders of Congress also do not support the State Government for allowing the Ratna Bhandar Report gathering dust in files. Missing the keys of the Treasury of Shree Jagannath Shrine is not acceptable as a mere lapse.

According to eminent Jagannath cult researcher Pandit Surya Narayan Rath Sharma, the Ratna Bhandar consists of seven rooms. While the materials stored in the first three rooms were called the outer chamber, the remaining four rooms are part of the Inner Chamber.

The three rooms out of seven are being used for various rituals of deities. The jewellery and valuables, which are used during Suna Besha of Lord Jagannath, are stored in these three rooms. However, nothing is clear about the rest of the rooms where precious ornaments and valubales are suspected to have been stored.

In the meantime State Government has presented the fact about the valuables of the Shree Jagannath Temple in the Apex Court in which it has been told that the valuable and ornaments of the Temple have been kept in the Inner and Outer Ratna Bhandar inside the Jagamohan of Shree Jagannath Temple under lock and key. Security personnel also guard the same round the clock inside the temple. So the State Government assures that valuables are safe in Ratna Bhandar.

However as opposition is making it a political issue and confusion is generated among the people, it is high time that the State Government must take steps to open the Inner Chamber of the Ratna Bhandar which is required for the purpose of repair and maintenance. The ASI has already informed the State Government that the Ratna Bhandar inner chambers need to be inspected for the safety of the 12th century shrine. And now the opposition BJP has already made it an issue and it is likely to be raised during the 2024 elections. Now the State Government is needed to clear doubts in the minds of the people, it must take measures to open the inner chamber and also tell the public the facts hidden for about four decades.  

There is nothing political about the Ratna Bhandar issue. The State Government should make a good gesture and meet the peoples’ aspirations and inform them about the factual status of Treasury of Lord Jagannath.