The Jagannath Temple Ratna Bhandar Issue - Odisha BJP Must Clean Up The Mess

Amar Govindarajan

Jun 17, 2024, 08:06 PM | Updated 08:06 PM IST

A ghastly Monday

Good evening, dear reader.

The death toll due to the train accident at West Bengal’s New Jalpaiguri now stands at 9. It's a terrible start - one that will put more pressure on railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

  • Analysis on his record (and investment) on safety can wait until tomorrow.

  • For now let's hope the local rescue team is able to quickly rescue everyone involved.

Neglect At Odisha Jagannath Temple

Shri Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha. (Wikimedia Commons)
Shri Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha. (Wikimedia Commons)

One of the first things the newly sworn in BJP government did in Odisha was to open all the four gates of the famous Puri Jagannath temple for public.

  • Some of the gates had been closed citing over crowding and other reasons earlier.

But there is more controversy and mismanagement left for the BJP to deal with in the coming months.

The Ratna Bhandar Issue: Since 1978 there has been no complete audit of historic Jagannath temple's treasures held in the Ratna Bhandar.

  • The inner chamber is supposed to contain 367 gold objects (include those with precious stones), and 231 silver articles.

  • The outer chamber had 87 gold articles (including ornaments) and 62 silver items. 

  • Cumulatively, there's supposed to 149 kg of gold articles and 258 kg of silver materials.

  • Despite the historic and financial value of these artefacts there have been no regular audits.

The missing key of the inner chamber: The Courts had ordered a fresh audit in 2018 but it could not be carried out as the keys for the inner chamber were missing!

  • Revelation of missing keys fuelled rumours of state govt stealing treasures from Ratna Bhandar after taking over temple admin in 1952.

  • Then Odisha CM ordered a judicial enquiry - which was completed by November 2018.

  • However, the Odisha government has not made public the report of the enquiry.

Full control with no accountability: The temple trust requested another fresh audit of the temple treasures once again in 2023.

  • The then Naveen Patnaik government initially stalled the request.

  • Patnaik's government sanctioned the audit only after the high court intervened.

  • However, nothing is known about what the appointed 16 member audit committee has done so far. 

Not just in Odisha: Temples treasures lie in unaudited store houses across South India.

  • These treasures were collected over centuries.

  • Modern audits and museums are a must.

  • But here we are - losing keys, doing audits once in many decades. Could it be more tragic?

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