The issue of the missing key of the Ratna Bhandar (treasure trove) of the Jagannath Temple in Puri is expected to create a stir in Odisha politics, the Sunday Guardian has reported. The issue came to light earlier this year.
The Ratna Bhandar is known for storing the deities’ prized possessions and ornaments, which are made in precious stones. The report said, "Following an order of the Orissa High Court, a 16-member team was sent for inspection of the Ratna Bhandar of the world famous shrine on 4 April this year to know if it needs any repair or renovation. As per official records, the Ratna Bhandar is located on Plot No. 5 within the temple premises."
As per the servitor, the royal family had handed over the key earlier to the Puri district treasury in 1963. This happened after the royal family "lost the case that challenged state ownership of the temple properties." The report adds, "But neither the temple administration nor the district treasury had any of the three keys to the inner chambers when the inspection team wanted it. So, the inspection of the inner chambers was done through the iron grills with the help of searchlights."
The Sunday Guardian report says that the treasure trove was last opened in 1985. The keys were to be deposited with the district treasury. Instead, they landed in the district collector's record room, which is a mystery. The matter is a under judicial probe. Odisha High Court is hearing two cases on the issue.
The report adds that three keys existed to the inner chamber. "one was granted to the Puri Gajapati (king), another was supposed to remain with Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA); while the third key was to be rested with Bhandar Mekapa (treasure servitor)."
It is expected that the controversy surrounding the missing key will rock the monsoon session of the Odisha Legislative Assembly, which begins on 4 September. Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) stands cornered by the opposition on the matter.