Let PM Modi find keys to Ratna Bhandar if he has ‘some knowledge’: V K Pandian

Modi recently said at an election rally that the keys could have gone to Tamil Nadu, a reference to Pandian’s Tamil origins.
Last Updated : 21 May 2024, 14:40 IST
Last Updated : 21 May 2024, 14:40 IST

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Puri, Odisha: Prime Minister Narendra Modi should find the missing keys to the Ratna Bhandar, the Jagannath Temple's treasure warehouse storing the jewellery of deities, if he has “some knowledge” on the matter, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s confidant V K Pandian has said.

The issue that was long an emotive one in the state has rapidly gained political centrestage with the prime minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah bringing it up in their rallies in the run-up to the simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections. Modi recently said at an election rally that the keys could have gone to Tamil Nadu, a reference to Pandian’s Tamil origins.

“The prime minister should find out where the keys have gone if he has so much knowledge... I would humbly request the honourable prime minister. He has so many authorities under him, he would be having some knowledge. He can enlighten the people of Odisha,” Pandian said in an interview to PTI Videos.

“He is making a political statement so we will take it like that,” the former bureaucrat, Patnaik’s confidant for years and now a star political campaigner, added about the matter.

Addressing election rallies in Agul and Cuttack on Monday, Modi took up the issue of the missing keys and asked why the Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) had “suppressed the judicial commission report' on the matter.

"The BJD's role in the case is suspicious. After the BJP forms the government in Odisha, it will make the report public," Modi said.

Naveen Patnaik should clarify on the missing keys of Puri Jagannath temple's Ratna Bhandar, Shah added in another rally in Nayagarh on Tuesday.

Hitting back, Pandian said the inner chamber of the Ratna Bhandar has not been opened in almost four decades. Of these, one decade was when BJP ministers handled the issue. “So perhaps they should find out where the keys are,” he said.

The Ratna Bhandar has an outer chamber storing the day to day ornaments of the deities - Jagannath, Subhadra and Balabhadra - and an inner chamber. Keys to the latter were found to be missing in 2018 when the Orissa High Court ordered an inspection.

Following the orders of the court, the Odisha government last year formed a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. Though the original set is missing, there is a duplicate key.

Asked if the Ratna Bhandar will be opened, Pandian said, “Absolutely, date is fixed.”

However, he did not elaborate.

“The honourable high court ordered the Jagannath temple administration to open the Ratna Bhandar at a time fixed by the administration... So they have decided at the Rath Yatra time, when pilgrims will not be there, the sanctity of the lord will not be affected...,” Pandian said.

“We would humbly request the prime minister to also come and witness the opening of Ratna Bhandar after 40 years,” he said without getting into details.

The inner chamber of the Ratna Bhandar, storing gold, silver and other precious items, can only open only during the Rath Yatra period in July when the deities are taken out of the temple for nine days.

During the Rath Yatra period, the Ratna Bhandar will be opened for an inventory of ornaments and repair of the inner chamber, the managing committee has said in an affidavit to the high court.

The managing committee looking into the affairs of the 12th century temple is headed by Gajapati Maharaj Vidyasingha Deva. The Shree Jagannathj Temple Administration (SJTA) looks after the day to affairs of the temple.

Published 21 May 2024, 14:40 IST

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