Puri, Apr 4 (PTI) A 16-member team today entered the ‘Ratna Bhandar’, the treasury of the 12th-century Lord Jagannath Temple here, after 34 years and had a quick scrutiny of its physical conditions amid strong security, a temple official said.

The inspection followed the Orissa High Court’s order to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to examine the structural stability and safety of the Ratna Bhandar.

“The team members undertook inspection of the walls, ceiling and floor of the Ratna Bhandar. The walls and ceiling were found damp,” said Chief Administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) P K Jena who was among the 16 persons who entered the Ratna Bhandar.

Of the seven chambers of the Ratna Bhandar, the first two are outer chambers which were used from time to time, and the others are called inner chambers.

“The condition of inner chambers were seen with search lights from outside. The members did not need to enter the inner chamber as they were visible from a distance,” said Jena.

Though the duration of the inspection was fixed between 2 pm and 5 pm, the team members undertook a very quick inspection and returned within minutes after entering the Ratna Bhandar.

“The ASI is preparing the preliminary report about the inspection. We will go through it and the detailed report will be submitted to the High Court on April 5,” he said.

Altogether 17 persons were supposed to be in the inspection team, Puri Superintendent of Police Sarthak Sarangi could not go inside the Ratna Bhandar as he did not wear the “Gamuchha”, the traditional cotton towel, mandatory for all to enter into the treasury, he said.

Jena said the door of the Ratna Bhandar was opened in presence of the representative of Puri Gajapati Maharaj’s representative, Amiya Mohanty.

Besides Mohanty, there were various officials of the temple, experts of the ASI, Puri district collector, and a high court representative in the team that entered the treasury which was last inspected in 1984. At that time, only three of its seven chambers had been opened.

All the members went through frisking and body scanning before entering the Ratna Bhandar.

While the team was inspecting the condition of the Ratna Bhandar, personnel of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force, police and fire brigade were deployed in the temple premises with search light and oxygen cylinders.

Snake experts had also been put on alert.

On March 22, the Orissa High Court had ordered the ASI to inspect the structures of the Ratna Bhandar on March 26 and 27. After the inspection, the ASI said its outer surface was good. The condition of inside structures would be inspected after it is opened.

The high court is monitoring the repair works undertaken by the ASI in the 12th-century shrine since 2016, while adjudicating a plea for judicial intervention for effective repair and renovation of the temple.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.