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Unlocking Mystery & History: Jagannath Temple 'Ratna Bhandar' To Reopen On 9th July

“On 9th July, a duplicate key will be presented, and an SOP will be made. If the duplicate key doesn’t work, the lock will be broken.” These words from Biswanath Rath, Chairman of the newly formed panel, indicate that the Ratna Bhandar, the treasury of Jagannath Temple in Puri containing jewelry and other valuables of […]

Jagannath Rath Yatra 2024: Devotees Gather In Large Numbers, Watch
Jagannath Rath Yatra 2024: Devotees Gather In Large Numbers, Watch

“On 9th July, a duplicate key will be presented, and an SOP will be made. If the duplicate key doesn’t work, the lock will be broken.” These words from Biswanath Rath, Chairman of the newly formed panel, indicate that the Ratna Bhandar, the treasury of Jagannath Temple in Puri containing jewelry and other valuables of the holy trinity, will be opened for inspection. The duplicate keys will be made because the real keys have been missing for the last six years.

The Jagannath Temple, located in Puri, Odisha, is one of the most revered temples in India. Dedicated to Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, this temple is not only a place of worship but also a significant historical monument. One of the temple’s most mysterious and sacred chambers is the ‘Ratna Bhandar,’ which translates to the ‘Treasury of Gems.’

The Ratna Bhandar has been locked for many years, and its contents are a subject of great intrigue. It is believed to house invaluable treasures, including precious gems, gold, and silver, which have been offered to the deities over centuries. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in reopening the Ratna Bhandar, leading to the formation of a new panel to oversee this significant task.

Story, rituals and preparations

This year’s grand Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath will take place in Puri on July 7 and 8, 2024. For the first time in 53 years, the Rath Yatra, Netra Utsav, and Nabajaubana Darshan will align on July 7th, coinciding with a holy event. The deities will then be transported to the Shree Gundicha Temple located about 3 kilometers away on July 8th.

Centuries of history and culture have been Spend in the Rath Yatra. Hindu legend states that every year during Rath Yatra, Lord Jagannath, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, pays a visit to his aunt’s shrine in the Gundicha shrine.

The Puri Rath Yatra, also known as “Ratha Prathistha,” begins with invoking the gods through unique prayers and rituals. Subhadra, Lord Jagannath, and Balabhadra, the three main deities, are then seated in their individual chariots. These elaborately adorned chariots, known as “Badadanda,” are then pulled through the streets of Puri. The most exciting part of this event is “Ratha Tana,” the pulling of the chariots. Devotees from all over the country come with a sincere desire to participate in pulling the Lord’s chariot, as it is considered a deeply sacred act.

Local artists decorate the three wooden chariots. Lord Jagannath’s chariot, the largest, boasts 16 enormous wheels and stands at a height of 44 feet. Lord Balabhadra’s chariot features 14 wheels and stands 43 feet tall, while Goddess Subhadra’s chariot is 42 feet tall and has 12 wheels.

Approximately two weeks before the Rath Yatra, a sequence of rituals takes place. Among these, the renowned Snana Yatra stands out, during which the deities undergo a ceremonial bathing involving 108 pots of water. Following this ritual, it is believed that due to the extensive bathing, the deities fall ill and are secluded in isolation. This period is known as Anasara, during which devotees are unable to have darshan (sight) of them.

What is stored in the ‘Ratna Bhandar’ of Jagannath Temple?

According to the Shri Jagannath Temple Rules, 1960, the ornaments housed within the Ratna Bhandar undergo audits every six months. These rules outline the responsibilities for the ornaments, the auditing procedures, and the custodianship of the keys.

In adherence to the traditions of the 12th-century shrine and the rule book, unused ornaments are stored in the inner chamber of the Ratna Bhandar, which is secured with two locks. These locks can only be opened with special permission from the state government, and the keys are deposited by the temple administration in the government treasury. The chamber containing ornaments used during festivals also has two locks: one key is held by the chief administrator of the SJTA (Shri Jagannath Temple Administration), and the other by Pattajoshi Mohapatra, the official overseeing temple affairs. The keys to the chamber with ornaments used in daily rituals are kept by the Bhandar Mekap, responsible for caring for the deities’ ornaments and attire.

Referring to a 1978 survey, the Odisha government previously stated that the Ratna Bhandar contained over 149 kg of gold ornaments and 258 kg of silver utensils. During May 15 to July 23, 1978, both chambers of the Ratna Bhandar were opened under the supervision of the then Odisha Law Minister, Pratap Jena. The temple administration compiled a detailed inventory of these items. Jena reported that the Ratna Bhandar held more than 12,831 bhari (one bhari equals 11.66 grams) of gold ornaments adorned with precious stones, along with 22,153 bhari of silver utensils and other items. However, the valuation of these items was not officially recorded. Additionally, 14 items made of gold and silver could not be weighed at the time and were thus not included in the 1978 inventory.

 

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