Bhubaneswar/Puri, Jun 4: The keys of the 12-century Jagannath Temple’s treasury have reportedly gone missing, triggering protests by the Shankaracharya of Puri and the opposition BJP. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered a judicial inquiry into circumstances leading to unavailability of the keys. Inquiry will be conducted by a retired High Court Judge and completed within three months.
At a meeting of the Sri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee on April 4, it was recorded that the keys of the inner chambers of the Ratna Bhandar had gone missing, a member of the committee, Ramchandra Das Mahapatra, said on Sunday. It was on April 4 that a 16-member team entered the ‘Ratna Bhandar’ after 34 years and had a quick scrutiny of its physical conditions amid tight security following an order of the Orissa High Court.
The members of the inspection team did not need to enter the inner chamber as the chambers were visible from outside through an iron grill, an official of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration had said after the inspection. It now appears that the team members did not enter the inner chambers and saw its condition from outside with the help of search lights as the keys were not available. 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.
Neither the temple administration nor the Puri district treasury has the key of the inner treasury, Das Mahapatra told PTI. The matter came to light two months later. The Shankaracharya of Puri, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, today slammed the Odisha government for the incident, and the BJP sought a clarification from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the issue. The episode showed that the state government, as well as the temple administration, have failed to discharge their responsibilities, the Shankaracharya said.
Asking the government to take the matter seriously and ensure safety and security of the Ratna Bhandar and the temple, the seer sought a probe into the whole episode by a committee comprising representatives of the Orissa High Court, temple administration and servitors. “The chief minister should give a clarification on how the key of the temple’s inner treasury went missing and who is responsible for it,” state BJP spokesman Pitambar Acharya told reporters.
Accusing the BJD government of neglecting Lord Jagannath, he alleged that the state government was yet to take any step on the sensitive issue. Activists of outfits such as the Jagannath Sena and the Sachetana Nagarik Manch demonstrated near the Shree Jagannath temple in Puri. The April 4 inspection followed the Orissa High Court’s order to the Archaeological Survey of India to examine the structural stability and safety of the Ratna Bhandar.
The high court is monitoring the repair works undertaken by the ASI in the 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.