The Odisha government on Wednesday granted permission to the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) of Puri to open the Ratna Bhandar after 34 years for inspection by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Precious jewelry and ornaments of the deities are kept in the Ratna Bhandar which was last inspected in 1984 and only three of its seven chambers had been opened then. No one knows exactly what was stored in the other chambers.
“The state government’s Law department granted conditional permission to open the Lord’s Ratna Bhandar for inspection by experts of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to assess its structural stability and safety,” SJTA chief administrator P K Jena said.
However, he said he is yet to go through the conditions given by the state government.
“We’ll certainly take precautionary measures before opening the Ratna Bhandar,” Jena said.
He had earlier clarified that no assessment of the ornaments or valuables kept inside the Ratna Bhandar will be undertaken and only visual inspection of its roof and walls will be done.
While a section of servitors are opposed to the opening of the Ratna Bhandar, the Orissa High Court has asked the SJTA to inspect the condition of the storehouse of valuable ornaments.
Jena said the modalities to be adopted for the opening of Ratna Bhandar will be discussed at a meeting of the Chhatisa Nijog (apex body of temple servitors) tomorrow.
The Orissa High Court on March 22 had ordered the ASI to inspect the structural condition of the Ratna Bhandar on March 26 and 27 and submit a status report on March 29.
The ASI has undertaken outer inspection of the Ratna Bhandar and said its outer surface is good. The condition of the inside of the Ratna Bhandar would be inspected after it is opened.
The Orissa High Court is monitoring the repair work undertaken by the ASI in the 12th-century shrine since 2016 while adjudicating over a PIL seeking judicial intervention for an effective repair and renovation of the temple.