Pradeep Pattanayak

The announcement of Puri Srimandir Ratna Bhandar’s opening on July 8 by the ASI superintendent and hours later, Odisha Law Minister Prithiviraj Harichandan’s clarification that no decision has been taken, has stoked the ongoing confusion further.
As the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has been expressing concerns over the condition of the inner Ratna Bhandar, questions are being raised that if the treasure trove is opened, will it be only for repair or the inventory of the ornaments will be done as well. 

Before the opening of the Ratna Bhandar, consultation with the Chhatisa Nijog is a must. But, Hajuri Krushna Chandra Khuntia, president of Chhatisa Nijog, said nobody has discussed the matter with them. So, it suggests that no process has been initiated for the reopening of the Ratna Bhandar. 

Also Read: Puri Srimandir Ratna Bhandar to be opened on July 8

“The decision for reopening the Ratna Bhandar will be taken in the Chhatisa Nijog meeting. Then a proposal will be given to the government. The government will then take the final call,” said Hajuri Krushna Chandra Khuntia, president of Chhatisa Nijog. 
On the other hand, temple management committee member Durga Das Mohapatra said the trunks filled with ornaments should be transferred to a safer location before carrying out the repair work. 

“Management committee can’t take a decision on reopening of the Ratna Bhandar. The committee formed under the chairmanship of Justice Arijit Pasayat can only take the decision,” said Das Mohapatra. 

“The shifting of dates of the reopening of the Ratna Bhandar has increased our doubts regarding the presence of ornaments,” said Manoranjan Mohapatra, a Lord Jagannath devotee. 

Meanwhile, the Law Minister terming the ASI superintendent's announcement of Ratna Bhandar's opening on July 8 as misleading has increased the political temperature by a few notches with the BJD and the Congress targeting the newly-formed BJP government.

“Only the government can take the decision of reopening the Ratna Bhandar. The ASI can’t take the decision in this regard. Nor can the management committee take the decision. When the Law Minister himself said no decision has been taken, it should be assumed that no such decision has been taken. It suggests they had a lack of coordination,” said BJD MLA Ganeswar Behera. 

Congress MLA Tara Prasad Bahinipati said, “While the central government has finalized the date, the Minister of the state government is telling a different thing. It implies that there is no coordination between the double-engine governments. The Ratna Bhandar should be reopened on July 8.”

“The government will take a decision on the reopening of the Ratna Bhandar. Once the decision is taken, there will be clarity about the reopening of the Ratna Bhandar,” Law Minister Harichandan said on Wednesday.

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