Pradeep Pattanayak

Putting all speculation surrounding the opening of the ‘Bhitara Ratna Bhandra’, or the inner treasure chamber, of Sree Jagannath Temple in Puri to rest, State Law Minister Pratap Jena on Tuesday informed the Odisha Assembly that nothing has yet been decided on opening the chamber. 

As per the sub-section 1 of section 6 of Shree Jagannath Temple Act 1960, the inner treasure chamber can be opened only after the State government issued a special order in this regard while following certain laid out conditions, Jena informed. 

He further clarified that an experts’ team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had inspected the inner treasure chamber in 2018 to find out whether the chamber was in need of preservation and repair.  

The team had then suggested that they would inspect the inner treasure chamber once again at a time when the sanctum sanctorum is devoid of deities. 

The Law Minister’s reply assumes significance in the backdrop of last month’s controversy  after RTI activist Dillip Baral claimed that the keys of the inner treasure chamber has not been deposited at the district treasury since1970. He had then said he was making such claims on the basis of an RTI reply received from the district treasury office. 

Notably, Baral had sought information regarding the status of Ratna Bhandara’s original and duplicate keys. As per the letter of the district treasury officer which was received by Baral, the keys of inner treasure chamber have been missing since 1970. 

The revelation had sparked widespread resentment among servitors and general public. It had also provided the Opposition Parties a ground to mount attack on the BJD-led State government.