Odisha Law Minister Under Attack For Comment On Puri Jagannath Temple’s Ratna Bhandar

Bhubaneswar: As the demand for opening Lord Jagannath’s Ratna Bhandar gained momentum, Odisha Law Minister Jagannath Saraka’s remark about the safety of the treasury of the 12th century shrine at Puri has evoked criticism.

The state government came under attack over the issue on Friday after Saraka told reporters in a lighter vein that no one is aware of the exact status of the Ratna Bhandar, particularly the inner chamber of the treasury at the Jagannath Temple.

Asked whether the Ratna Bhandar of Lord Jagannath is safe, the Law Minister jokingly said, “Who has seen Ratna Bhandar… neither you nor I.”

The Minister’s remarks came at a time when the demand for opening the Ratna Bhandar is growing. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has also written to the Chief Administrator of Srimandir seeking steps for opening the treasury.

Sources said ASI Superintendent, in a letter, had asked the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) to take necessary steps to open the ‘Bhitara Ratna Bhandar’ (inner chamber of the treasury) as it is not in a good condition.  A letter regarding the same has been sent to the state Law department.

Regarding government’s plan on the matter, Saraka said they would examine ASI’s letter before taking a final decision. The government would also hold discussion with all stakeholders and examine all aspects before deciding its future course of action on the issue.

Reacting sharply to Saraka’s remarks, senior Congress leader Nishikant Mishra said the Minister’s statement shows that the government is not at all concerned about the safety of Lord Jagannath’s Ratna Bhandar and Srimandir.

“The very fact that the Law Minister has no knowledge about the status of the Ratna Bhandar shows the casual approach of the government which is not bothered about the safety of the structure,” he claimed.

Claiming that the government is apprehending defeat in next elections, Mishra said it should open the Ratna Bhandara to pave the way for necessary repair work.

Notably, in 2021 then law minister Pratap Jena informed the state Assembly that according to 1978 inventory, the ‘Ratna Bhandar’ had 12,831 ‘bhari’ of gold and 22,153 ‘bhari’ of silver (one bhari is equal to 11.66 gram). The treasury also had 12,831 gram of gold ornaments with precious stones and other valuables in store, he had said.

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