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Not entrusted with the custody of Bhitar Ratna Bhandar keys, says Puri King

Bhubaneswar, June 7, 2018: Puri king Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb expressed anguish for being unnecessarily dragged into the controversy involving the missing keys of the keys of the Jagannath Temple's inner treasury (Bhitar Bhandar).

The treasury of the world-famous shrine has two chambers - inner and outer. On April 5, Puri Collector Aravind Agarwal revealed that the district administration did not possess the keys to the inner treasury. The revelation came a day after a 16-member team of experts desisted from opening the 12th century shrine's locked inner treasury to conduct a structural assessment at the direction of Orissa High Court (HC). The inner treasury was last opened in 1985.

The Gajapati, who happens to be the permanent Chairman of the Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee, Puri said that he was surprised about the questions raised on the role and responsibility of the Gajapati on the missing keys of bhitar Ratna Bhandar.

“I am surprised about the questions raised on the role and responsibility of Gajapati on the keys of inner Ratna Bhandar. After the implementation of Shree Jagannath Temple Act in 1960, the Odisha Government became the supreme authority for ensuring safety of Ratna Bhandar and safe custody of its keys. Key of the Bahar Ratna Bhandar (Outer treasury),” said the Gajapati.

 “As chairman of Shree Mandir Managing Committee, the Gajapati presides over its meetings and signs the proceedings. He has nothing to do in temple administration. His role and responsibilities are the same as other ordinary members,” said the Puri King.

As per the written minutes of a recent meeting of the temple managing committee held in Puri, the King also expressed shock over the missing keys, which was later revealed to public domain.

Notably, senior BJD leader and former Minister Damodar Rout and a senior servitor of Jagannath Temple questioned the silence of Gajapati saying that he is one among the three persons who possesses the keys of the Ratna Bhandar, which consists of ornaments worth crores of rupees.

The King said he failed to understand how and why comments were being made holding him responsible for his silence in the administration of the 12th century shrine.

The State Government on Wednesday appointed Raghubir Das, a retired justice of Orissa High Court, as the Chairman of the judicial commission, constituted on Monday to probe the circumstances leading to mysterious loss of the keys of Jagannath temple’s inner Ratna Bhandar (treasury).

The State Government has set three-month deadline for the commission to complete the inquiry.

The disappearance of the keys, revealed in April, continues to trigger outrage among opposition political parties and several outfits across the State.

Earlier, the Puri Shankaracharya, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, also expressed shock over the unfortunate incindet and sought a thorough probe into the circumstances that led to the disappearance of the keys of the Jagannath Temple’s inner treasury.

As per provisions in the Shree Jagannath Temple Act, the keys of the Bhitar Ratna Bhandar always remain with Puri district treasury. The keys to the outer treasury are with three persons, including the Puri King. However, the keys of the inner treasury are kept with the Puri district treasury.

Out of the seven chambers, the temple management uses only two — the Bahar Bhandar (outer treasury) and the Bhitar Bhandar (inner treasury). The remaining five are yet to be opened and no one knows the exact amount of gold and other ornaments stashed away there.

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