The treasury of the 12th-century Lord Jagannath Temple here will be opened for inspection tomorrow after 34 years amid strong security, a temple official said.
A 17-member team will inspect the physical condition of the floor, roof and wall of the ‘Ratna Bhandar’ (treasury) between 2 pm to 5 pm, Chief Administrator P K Jena of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) told reporters.
The team, including three experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), will only examine the structural stability and safety of the ‘Ratna Bhandar’, Jena said, adding that no one will be allowed to touch the jewellery kept there.
Jewelleries and ornaments of the deities are kept in the ‘Ratna Bhandar’ which was last inspected in 1984. At that time, only three of its seven chambers had been opened. No one knows exactly what was stored in the other chambers.
The team will comprise Puri ‘King’ Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb or his representative, various officials of the temple, experts of the ASI, Puri district collector, and a high court representative, a temple spokesperson said.
To make the inspection process smooth, elaborate arrangements have been made. No devotees would be allowed in the temple premises and armed security personnel would be deployed at the four gates and in the premises, he said.
All the people, irrespective of positions held, would wear only a traditional cotton towel known as ‘Gamchha’, to be provided by the temple authorities before entering the Ratna Bhandar.
The administration has decided to use battery-powered lights, along with traditional “diya” during inspection.
Only diyas had been used during the inspection in 1984, which had to be stopped after the inspectors heard hissing sound inside the vaults. Because of this, this time, assistance of snake experts has been sought and they would be there for any emergency.
All members of the team will go through a three-tier check before entering the treasure trove, Jena said.
He said the team members would be frisked by police officials to bar them from carrying any metal item or electronic gadget.
They would be provided with ‘Gamchha’ in the second stage and in the final stage, the inspectors would be scanned by the servitors authorised to check the ‘Ratna Bhandar’ as per the temple tradition.
Though the frisking and scanning of members will be videographed, no camera would enter the Ratna Bhandar, Jena said, adding that the key of the Ratna Bhandar would be procured by the temple authorities tomorrow from the government treasury in Puri.
Prior to 1984, the Ratna Bhandar was opened in 1978, 1926 and 1905, temple administration sources said.
On March 22, the Orissa High Court had ordered the ASI to inspect the structures of the Ratna Bhandar on March 26 and 27. After the inspection, the ASI said its outer surface was good. The condition of inside structures would be inspected after it is opened.
The high court is monitoring the repair works undertaken by the ASI in the 12th-century shrine since 2016, while adjudicating over a PIL seeking judicial intervention for effective repair and renovation of the temple