Missing keys of Jagannath temple treasury: Valuables intact in Ratna Bhandar, says admin

Amid a statewide hue and cry over the missing keys of the Jagannath temple treasury, the administration at the 12-century shrine has claimed that the valuables are in safe custody. The Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) issued a statement yesterday in view of the growing concern over the matter, hours after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered a judicial probe into the disappearance of the treasury keys. Noting that the Ratna Bhandar (treasury) has two chambers, the SJTA reasoned that the inner hall, which was last opened in 1985 for preparing an inventory, was sealed with locks and lacquer, all of which are still perfectly intact. Without opening the outer chamber of the Ratna Bhandar, it is impossible to open the inner chamber. Therefore, we can say that all the ornaments of the Lord are in safe custody, the statement said. The temple administration also welcomed the judicial probe order into the case and assured the government of full cooperation into the investigation. A 16-member team had entered the Ratna Bhandar on April 4 for a scrutiny of its physical conditions, in line with the high court order. The officials had to inspect its inner chambers from outside an iron grill with search lights. Admitting that the inspection team was told to scrutinise the inner hall from outside as no one could trace the keys, the temple administration said the collector had apprised the authorities of the matter in advance. Even after a detailed search in various iron chests and bank lockers, the keys were not found, it said, adding that the state government was informed about the matter on that day. The SJTA also held consultations with Rabindra Narayan Mishra, who was the assistant chief administrator of the temple when the Ratna Bhandar was opened in 1985, to find out leads in the case, the statement clarified. Meanwhile, senior servitor of the temple, Rama Krushna Das Mohapatra, today sought to know if Puri King Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb has a spare key to the treasury. Gajapati is supreme and the first servitor in the temple. As per the rule he should be having another set of keys of the Ratna Bhandar. He should clarify whether he has it or not, Das Mohapatra said.