Himansu Shekhar Rout

After holding its first meeting, the 12-member high-level committee formed by the Odisha government is planning to supervise the process of inventory of valuables in the Srimandir Ratna Bhandar (treasure trove) in Puri during Rath Yatra.

But the question arises on what basis the counting of the valuables will be carried out.  Will the panel give importance to the 1978 counting report or rummage through old data and documents on the treasure trove?

Amid this exercise, a senior servitor has demanded inclusion of Deula Karana and Tadau Karan in the supervisory panel.

Meanwhile, a startling claim was made by a servitor that two more Ratna Bhandars are lying under the sanctum sanctorum of the Srimandir. The claim was also supported by a Srimandir researcher. 

As per reports, Ramchandra Dasmohapatra, the Badagrahi of Devi Subhadra, claimed that two more Ratha Bhandars are underneath the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Jagannath and there are two entry points for Mahaprabhus’ Bhandar. One entry is used by servitors while the other entry is lying closed.

According to Dasmohapatra, Gajapati kings used a secret entry passage near the Ghantidwar which was noticed by the Ratna Bhandar supervisory committee in 2018.   

“When we visited the place in 2018 after the missing of the Ratna Bhandar key, one door was clearly visible and was blocked with stones," Dasmohapatra said.

He further stated that the deities have more ornaments and valuables than those enlisted by the Ratna Bhandar supervisory panel in 1978.  

He pointed out that there was no mention of ornaments used for Raghunath Besa of Lord Jagannath in the 1978 list. He also suggested that the panel formed by the state government to count ornaments and valuables should ferret out old data on the valuables.

Keeping this in view, Dasmohapatra suggested that Deula Karan and Tadau Karan have old documents with them and they should be included in the 12-member panel which should look into their old documents on the ornaments.  

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Besides, the nine days during the Rath Yatra is not enough to count the ornaments and valuables, he opined. 
Senior Daitapati (servitor) Binayak Dasmohapatra said, ”If the panel does not go deep into the past data before the 1978 list, how the panel will know the exact number of ornaments and valuable? Deula Karan and Tadau Karan have those documents. They should be included in the panel to ascertain the exact number of valuables.”  

What historian and Srimandir researcher says

According to historian and Srimandir researcher Surendra Kumar Mishra, the Srimandir administration had released the list of ornaments and valuables of the inner and outer Ratna Bhandars made by the 1978 panel. The counting which was conducted from May 13 to July 23 in 1978 pointed out that the deities have 454 types of gold ornaments which weighed 12,000 tonnes, 838 bharis; 293 types of silver ornaments that weighed 22,000 tones and 153 bharis.

The list had also mentioned about ornaments of 37 'era pakhi' (crowns) which were extracted by Gajapati kings from the crowns of the kings who vanquished in different times in the past, he added.

Mishra also said that as 37 crowns have not been mentioned in the 1978 list, those items might have been stored in one of the secret Ratna Bhandars. “According to history, Gajapati kings while going on territorial expeditions carried ornaments and valuables and stored them in two secret Ratna Bhandars,” he added.

The researcher also stated that ornaments used for Raghunath besa held in 1577, 1739, 1809, 1833, 1842, 1850, 1893, 1896 and the last time in 1905 should be taken into account. 

He said, ”From the times of Ganga dynasty till 1733, there was no effort to open the bhandars. But they created a Bhandar beneath the Bhitara Bhandar and ornaments were concealed there to ward off the greed of foreign marauders.”   

On the other hand, ASI’s DB Garnaik has said, ”Nine days would not be sufficient enough for supervision and counting of ornaments during the Rath Yatra. Still, we will try to do it.”

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