Jagannath temple’s treasure room
- As Assembly and General elections draw closer in Odisha, the demand to open the Ratna Bhandar (treasure room) of the Puri Jagannath Temple is growing louder again.
- The treasure room at the temple has not been unlocked for three decades.
What is Puri temple Ratna Bhandar?
- The precious ornaments of sibling deities — Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra — given by devotees and erstwhile kings over centuries, are stored in the Ratna Bhandar of the 12th century shrine.
- It is located within the temple and has two chambers—Bhitar Bhandar (inner chamber) and Bahara Bhandar (outer chamber).
- The outer chamber is opened regularly to fetch ornaments for the deities during the Suna Besha (golden attire), a key ritual during the annual Rath Yatra, and also during major festivals throughout the year.
- The inner chamber has not opened in the past 38 years.
Who wants the Ratna Bhandar opened, and why?
- Demands to open the Ratna Bhandar gained strength after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the custodian of the 12th-century shrine, gave a requisition for repair/conservation of the chamber.
- There are apprehensions that cracks have emerged in its walls that could endanger the precious ornaments stored there.
- Servitors, devotees, and temple managing committee members have asked for the reopening to ascertain the safety of the structure and its contents, and to make an inventory.
- The Puri royal scion is also in favour of opening the Ratna Bhandar.
When was the Ratna Bhandar last opened?
- According to official sources, the last inventory of the Ratna Bhandar was made between May 13 and July 23, 1978.
- Though it was opened again on July 14, 1985, the inventory was not updated.
What is the process to open the treasure house?
- Permission of the Odisha government is required.
- Following a direction from the Orissa High Court based on ASI reports, the state government had attempted to open the chamber for physical inspection on April 4, 2018.
- This attempt was unsuccessful because the keys of the chamber could not be found.
- The ASI team, thus, carried out the inspection from outside.
What has the Orissa HC said?
- In its verdict pronounced last month, the HC directed the government to form a high-level committee within two months, if the SJTMC approaches it, to supervise the inventory-making of the valuables.
- The court, however, declined to interfere with the plan of work regarding inventory and repairs of the inner walls of the treasure house.