Odishatv Bureau

Puri: Amid speculations, OTV has come across some evidence which indicates that the keys of the inner chamber of Puri Srimandir's Ratna Bhandar have gone missing.

A copy (in possession of OTV) of the minutes of the temple management committee meeting held soon after the inspection of Ratna Bhandar (the treasure trove of Lord Jagannath) on April 4, revealed that the keys that were handed over to the inspection team by temple administration for opening the inner chamber didn't belong to the locks.

The matter was highlighted in the meeting by the inspection committee and Puri King Gajapati Dibyasingh Dev who was also present had also expressed his surprise over the same, the minutes revealed.

The report states that the expert team saw three locks on the inner chamber gate out of which one was wax-sealed. However, the key that was provided for the lock was not the actual one; and unable to open the door, the team did not try to break it open without consulting the management committee. Subsequently, the team inspected the Ratna Bhandar from outside.

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During discussions on whereabouts of the keys during the meeting, Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal said that he had a detailed inspection of the registers present in treasury but found no records of transactions pertaining to Ratna Bhandar keys since 1970.

During the meeting it was decided that the decision to break the locks of the inner chamber would be taken in the next meeting.

However, the pertinent question here is - while there is a rule to take inventory of the valuables kept inside the Ratna Bhandar every three years, why it has not been followed for so long.

Speculations are doing rounds that the disappearance of the keys of the inner chamber is one of the reasons why the rule has not been followed.

Meanwhile, the development has evoked sharp criticisms in various quarters including servitors and former temple administrators.

This is an example of serious lackadaisical attitude of the temple administration. There are rules specifically about safekeeping of keys and rituals associated with it and if it happens to be missing then it might be a big threat to the security of the temple’s treasure chest

-- Rabindra Narayan Mishra, former chief administrator of Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA)

Similarly, senior servitor Binayak Das Mohapatra said that it is the responsibility of the temple administration to trace the whereabouts of the keys as everyone including the Chhatisa Nijog, general public and servitors should know that the keys are in safe hands.

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On April 4 this year, a 16-member team had carried out an inspection of Ratna Bhandar to assess its structural condition. In its 40-minute scrutiny process, the expert team traced 3 wooden boxes inside the inner chamber 2 wooden boxes, 2 steel and 1 wooden wardrobe in the outer chamber.

The team with the help of torch lights also noticed cracks and dampness on the walls, deterioration of the plaster inside the chambers.