Missing Ratna Bhandar keys: Srimandir admin assures treasure chest in safe hands

Puri: Hours after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered a judicial probe into the missing of Srimandir’s Ratna Bhandar keys, the temple administration on Monday accepted that the keys are missing and clarified that treasure trove of the 12th-century shrine is intact.

Issuing a clarification through a press release, Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) stated the Bhitara Ratna Bhandar (inner chamber) was last opened in 1985 and after detail listing of inventory; it was sealed with locks and lac – all of which are intact.

Without opening of Bahara Ratna Bhandar (outer chamber), it is impossible to open the inner chamber so the treasures of Lord Jagannath and his sibling deities are in good condition

— SJTA

The temple administration said that prior to the opening of Ratna Bhandar on April 4, the collector had stated that the chamber keys are not in the district treasury that led to a detailed search in various iron chest and banks.

On April 4, presuming keys found from the temple’s Najirkhana as the chamber’s keys, the temple administration handed it over to the ASI team which went inside to carry out the inspection of Ratna Bhandar. But since the opening of Bhitara Bhandar was a sensitive issue and neither the team nor SJTA was sure about the keys, the team did not try opening the inner chamber.  Later that day, at a meeting of the Ratna Bhandar sub-committee, it was decided that the state government be apprised  about the missing keys.

Meanwhile, the ritual administrator, after carrying out an internal probe into the matter has also submitted his findings to the temple’s chief administrator. Rabindra Narayan Mishra who was the assistant chief administrator when the Bhitara Bhandar was opened for the last time in 1985 was also consulted in the matter. District collector has also been urged to carry out more detail inspection to trace out the whereabouts of the keys, the release stated.

The temple administration has also welcomed the judicial probe order directed by the chief minister and assured to fully cooperate in the investigation.

On the other hand, senior servitor Rama Krushna Das Mohapatra blamed Puri King Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb for not taking any proactive measures on the issue.

“Gajapati is supreme and the first servitor in the temple. As per the rule he should be having one of the keys of Ratna Bhandar. Hence, he should clarify whether he has the keys or not. A meeting should be called by the Gajapati as quickly as possible. If he can throw light on the whereabouts of the key, the probe is unnecessary, said Das Mohapatra after meeting chief minister Naveen Patnaik at the state Secretariat.

Earlier on Monday, CM Naveen had ordered a judicial inquiry into the whole matter. A retired judge of the Orissa High court will conduct the inquiry and submit report within three months, a statement from the CMO said.

Meanwhile, reacting to the ongoing fiasco over the missing keys, Kendrapara MP Baijayant Jay Panda, in a tweet,  has questioned if a national level agency should be roped in to probe the whole matter.