Jagannath Puri Mandir: King Cobras are protecting the treasure of gems of Jagannath Puri temple!


Ratna Bhandar:  It is said that snakes protect the gold, silver, and treasure kept in ancient temples. In view of such beliefs, the Jagannath Temple Trust of Puri has started the work of finding skilled snake charmers in view of the Ratna Bhandar which is going to open on July 14. The Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) is making such arrangements that when the treasure of Ratna Bhandar is opened on July 14, a snake charmer should also be there so that the safety of the people present can also be taken care of. Along with this, a whole team of doctors will also be present with medical kits to review any such challenging situation. 


According to a report in The Times of India, a senior official of the temple administration said that we had submitted a precautionary list to the government at the time of opening the Ratna Bhandar. In this, a request has been made to arrange for a team of snake charmers and doctors. It is believed that the Ratna Bhandar is protected by poisonous animals like King Cobra. 

Another sevak said that we are all curious about the Ratna Bhandar found in the ancient temple but at the same time, we are scared of the possibility of snakes there. Regarding this, another sevak told TOI that snakes were found around the temple during the beautification of the Jagannath Heritage Corridor Project. Being an ancient temple, there are small holes and cracks in many places. The possibility of the presence of snakes in these holes cannot be ruled out, so all security arrangements should be made at the time of opening the Ratna Bhandar. 

What is in the treasure?

The last inventory of the Ratna Bhandar of the Sri Jagannath Temple was done in 1978. According to an affidavit filed by the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (STJA), the Ratna Bhandar has three chambers. The jewelry kept in the inner chamber is never used. The jewelry in the outer chamber is taken out on the occasion of festivals. The jewelry kept in the current chamber is used for the daily rituals of the deities. According to the affidavit, the inner chamber contains 50 kg 600 grams of gold and 134 kg 50 grams of silver. The outer chamber contains 95 kg 320 grams of gold and 19 kg 480 grams of silver. The current chamber contains 3 kg 480 grams of gold and 30 kg 350 grams of silver.

Why is the lock being opened?

After 1978, the inner chamber of Ratna Bhandar was opened in 1985 as well but only repairs were done, and no inventory was taken. Since then, the temple administration has tried to open the inner chamber twice but stepped back fearing that the sentiments of the devotees would be hurt. The last such attempt was made on April 4, 2018. Then the administration wanted to open the inner chamber for inspection but the key was not found.

Then the 16-member team that came for inspection on the orders of the Odisha High Court had to inspect the inner chamber from outside. In June 2018, the news of the missing key spread. Under pressure from citizens, devotees, and opposition parties, the Patnaik government ordered a judicial inquiry.

Within 10 days of the commission starting its investigation, the Puri district administration received a sealed envelope that allegedly contained duplicate keys to the inner chamber. However, the opposition and Puri Shankaracharya continued to criticize the BJD government. The inquiry commission headed by retired High Court judge Raghubir Das submitted its report in November of that year.

In August 2023, Puri resident Dilip Kumar filed a PIL in the High Court. He wanted to make public the judicial commission's inquiry report on the missing keys. What was in the report submitted in 2018 has not been disclosed till now. Just last year, the management committee of the Jagannath temple passed a resolution that the Ratna Bhandaar will be opened. However, the final decision has to be taken by the Odisha government.

On the instructions of the High Court, the then CM Naveen Patnaik formed a 12-member committee in February 2024. The committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge was to do an inventory of the jewelry and other precious gems kept in the Ratna Bhandar. 

After the elections in Odisha, the BJP government was formed. That committee was reorganized and a 16-member committee was formed under the leadership of Justice Vishwanath Rath. Apart from overseeing the reopening of Ratna Bhandar, the committee will also oversee the repair of Ratna Bhandar and the inventory of the valuables kept in it.