Modi rakes up mystery of the missing key of Jagannath temple Ratna Bhandar | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Modi rakes up mystery of the missing key of Jagannath temple Ratna Bhandar

ByDebabrata Mohanty
May 20, 2024 08:44 PM IST

In April 2018, officials of the Jagannath temple could not find the keys of the Ratna Bhandar as they proceeded to do an inspection of its structural condition as per an order of the Orissa high court

Apart from targeting Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s presumptive successor VK Pandian in the public meetings at Angul and Cuttack on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raked up the issue of the missing key of the Ratna Bhandar, the treasury of the 12th century Jagannath temple in Puri containing the gold and jewelleries offered by devotees across the world through years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in front of the Jagannath temple in Puri on Monday. (ANI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in front of the Jagannath temple in Puri on Monday. (ANI)

In April 2018, officials of the temple could not find the keys of the Ratna Bhandar, situated near the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, as they proceeded to do an inspection of its structural condition as per an order of the Orissa high court. Following a hue and cry, Patnaik ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter and the commission submitted a 324-page report in November 2018. The report is yet to be made public. Curiously, days after the judicial inquiry was ordered, the then Puri district Collector mysteriously found an envelope with “duplicate keys of inner Ratna Bhandar” written on it adding fuel to the lingering controversy over the treasure trove.

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Raking up the issue of Ratna Bhandar keys, Modi on Monday tried to stoke a controversy alleging the BJD had suppressed the judicial commission report. “When the keys of houses are lost, we pray to Lord Jagannath and find them within one or two hours with the Lord’s blessing. But the keys of Lord Jagannath Ratna Bhandar are missing, and it has been six years now. The report of the commission of inquiry into the missing keys of Ratna Bhandar report has been suppressed for six years as the keys have gone to Tamil Nadu,” alleged Modi, while promising to make the report of the judicial report public after coming to power in Odisha.

On May 11 too, addressing an election rally in Bolangir, Modi asked if the state administration claims to have discovered duplicate keys for the Ratna Bhandar, how were they created? “There’s uncertainty surrounding whether they were utilised or not,” Modi said.

On May 15, Union home minister Amit Shah told a public meeting in Cuttack that the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government would make public the report of the judicial commission set up to probe the missing keys of Ratna Bhandar. While launching the election manifesto for BJP in the state assembly polls early this month, party president JP Nadda said after BJP becomes victorious on June 4, BJP will initiate an investigation into the missing key of the Ratna Bhandar and procure the key while promising inventory of the jewlleries kept there. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has been making wild allegations against BJD accusing Tamil Nadu-born Pandian of hiding the keys.

BJP leaders like Shah and Nadda too have promised to open all the four gates of the temple easing the process of devotees who now can enter through the lion gate of the temple. The single gate entry has made it difficult for old devotees who wait for hours under a hot Sun.

Officially, BJD has not responded to the allegations. But a senior BJD leader said the party would rather ignore the accusations as the state government in March this year constituted a 12-member committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Arijit Pasayat to supervise the inventory of Ratna Bhandar following the verdict by the Orissa high court over the issue last year.

“We know the issue would not have any bearing on the outcome of elections. Let BJP leaders and PM Modi make allegations,” said a BJD leader, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to comment officially.

State BJP leaders, however, said as Modi has a very high appeal among people of the state, the allegations over Ratna Bhandar keys going missing would strike a chord. “The Lord is part and parcel of the social, religious and cultural ethos of the people of the state. Most politicians, including chief minister Naveen Patnaik, start their election campaigns seeking his blessings. Did not BJD try to gain political capital out of the Jagannath Parikrama project (by creating a corridor around the temple boundary wall for the devotees) early this year? Each and every Odia has a right to know about the treasure of Lord and whether they are safe or not,” said BJP leader Bhartruhari Mahtab.

The Ratna Bhandar has two chambers - ‘Bhitar Bhandar’ (Inner Treasury) and ‘Bahar Treasury’ (Outer Treasury). In accordance with the provisions of Sri Jagannath Temple Rules, 1960, the articles in Ratna Bhandar are classified under three categories - articles that are kept in Bhitar Bhandar and never used (category-I); those that are used only on ceremonial or festive occasion (category-II); and those that are for daily use of the deities (category-III).

According to the Jagannath Temple Act, 1955, the Ratna Bhandar needs to be opened for inventory every three years. The treasury was audited for the last time between May 13 and July 23, 1978. According to Madala Panji, the official chronicle of the temple, King Anangabhima Deva had donated nearly 1.5 quintals of gold for preparing the ornaments of the three deities. In an affidavit filed in high court last month, the temple administration said there was gold jewellery weighing about 149.47 kg and silver jewellery weighing 198.79 kg and utensils in the Ratna Bhandar.

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