PURI: The “miraculous” appearance of a set of keys, believed to be of Ratna Bhandar of Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri, has given the raging controversy a new turn. Within days of Odisha Government ordering a judicial probe into disappearance of “Ratna Bhandar” keys and shifting of Chief Administrator P K Jena, tracing of the duplicate keys has only deepened the mystery.
On Wednesday, Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal announced that a set of keys was found from the district record room. The keys, kept in a sealed envelope carrying tag of “Bhitar Bhandar duplicate keys,” bore the seal and signature of temple ADM dated back to 1985.The Puri Collector on Thursday described the recovery as a miracle. “We had given up hope. It was the Lord’s miracle. The seal was not opened but there were a number of keys in the envelope which would be kept in the District Treasury strong room,” he said.
It is the “duplicate key” which has triggered the new storm. People who have researched on Jagannath Temple and its rituals say there was no provision of keeping duplicate key of Ratna Bhandar with any individual or institution.“The Jagannath Temple Act states that the key should be kept in the District Treasury strong room. It does not mention about the existence of another set of duplicate keys. Why should there be a duplicate key set of such an important and religiously sensitive place?” wondered a scholar.
It is a mystery why another set of keys - if at all it is a duplicate one - was kept at the district record room where only government and land records are stored. There is no strong room in the record room which is a public office and accessible to staff and even public.The “miraculous” appearance has also given fresh ammunition to the Opposition political parties and locals who are now gunning after Collector Agarwal. Since a judicial commission inquiry is underway, Agarwal’s decision to go public without even ascertaining originality of the keys is being questioned.
The Puri Collector though said he has nothing to hide. “I would depose before the Commission, if required, to clarify things,” he said. Meanwhile, recovery of the “duplicate keys” has raised questions not only about loss of original keys of “Bhitar Ratna Bhandar” but also safety of the Lord’s wealth. This comes at a time when BJP has launched a “Janjagaran Yatra” from June 11 to highlight the government’s failure in protecting Ratna Bhandar. Rumours abound that the Lord’s wealth has been plundered.
Since the duplicate keys have been found, there is growing pressure on government to take immediate steps to open “Bhitar Ratna Bhandar” and tally the ornaments with the inventory made in 1978. If any loss of ornaments is found, the matter should be probed by an investigating agency.
What did the 1978 inventory find?
A detailed inventory of the ornament in Bahar as well as Bhitar Bhandar and Chalanti Bhandara (daily use) was made by a six-member team. The inventory of the ornaments began on a daily basis from May 13 to July 23 in 1978. Each ornament was weighed and items were recorded in about 124 pages which is available in the temple office. The inventory was signed by Bhimsen Gochhikar and Narasingh Dasmahapatra, the two servitor representatives, Sachikant Tripathy, the then Additional Superintendent of Police, R Biswal, representative of the District Collector and Prahallad Rath, the then temple administrator. The valuation chart is, however, missing. The ornaments were big in size, the record stated.The inventory reflects that there were 376 gold items weighing about 4,364 bharies, 231 silver ornaments weighing 14,878 bharies in Bhitar Ratna Bhandar. In Bahar Ratna Bhandar, there were 79 gold ornaments weighing 8,175 bharies and 39 silver ornaments weighing 4,671 bharies. In Chalanti Bhandar, only 8 gold items weighing 299 bharies and 23 silver ornaments weighing 2.603 bharies were found.