BY BISWARAJ PATNAIK IN PURI, APRIL 6, 2018: The Jagannath Temple at Puri inspires maximum awe among the Hindu communities across the world. The reason is simple: the Deities are made of wood, and they live an ordinary human life unlike other deities in the world. The Deities symbolise formlessness as propounded by the founders of the ‘Sanatana Dharma’, the actual name of the Hindu faith.

The monarchs who established the shrines had set aside a big chunk of the state revenue for use by the Deities and most of the material gains they made from successful wars and invasions were submitted to the presiding Deities in the temples. Interestingly, the monarchs who built the magnificent structure in the early 12th century AD, had made sure that pilgrims from far and wide visited Lord Jagannath to get His divine blessings.

Thus, as the legends go, seven hundred and fifty two ‘mutts’ and ‘ashrams’ were put up and willing servitors from among the seventy five odd categories, were given enough property and facilities to welcome and treat pilgrims respectfully, particularly the poor. Hospitality included food, stay and even healthcare during the pilgrimage. Most of the wealthy servitors of today have only inherited property meant to yield dividends to fund hospitality to the poor pilgrims, there is not much evidence, though, to prove this hurting fact today.

The Buddhists, Jains and cults like Sikhs have remained staunch devotees of the Lord of the Universe even today. Not strangely, countless Christians and Muslims are known to revere the Lord even presently for inspiring the spirits of universal brotherhood and “live and let live’.

Size and culture wise, no temple on the planet can compete with the Jagannath Temple. But wealth-wise, it occupies the eighth position in India. The Temple wealth in order :

Padmanabhaswami in Thiruvananthapuram of Kerala has wealth worth a whopping Rs 1, 36,000 crore.
• Tirumala Tirupati gets Rs 650 crore as annual donation from 2.2 crore devotees. Laddu sale alone fetches nearly Rs 75 crore.
• Shirdi Sai Temple has jewellery worth Rs 32 crore. Additionally, an average annual donation of Rs 360 crore keeps fattening the temple troves.
• Vishno Devi temple in Jammu has an annual income of Rs 500 crore from eight crore pilgrims visiting the shrine every year.
• Sidhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai earns Rs 125 crore annually. Between 25000 and 2 lakh devotees visit the temple daily.
• Golden Temple of Amritsar is very comfortable with an annual income of Rs 3128 crore, 40000 pilgrims visiting the shrine daily. Most of the earning is spent on the welfare of the devotees, including free food and other humanitarian services.
• Meenakshi Temple of Madurai witnesses between 20 and 30 thousand pilgrims daily and earns Rs 6 core annually.
• Jagannath Temple, Puri with an average of 30000 devotees daily, earns annually Rs 5-6 crore from donation.
• Guruvayurappan temple in Kerala has Rs 400 cores in deposit and earns Rs 2.5 crore monthly from one and a half crore devotees.
• Amaranth temple in Jammu and Kashmir has a seasonal entry of 2.5 lakh devotees every year. If it remains open in all seasons, the shrine would make a cool Rs 24000 crore a year.
• Somnath Temple, once the richest temple in India, has been robbed 17 times over centuries. The residual riches lying in the treasure trove have not yet been assessed or evaluated.

Only lately, the Padmanabhaswami temple in Kerala overshadowed all other shrines. The administration opened up the heavily guarded vaults just to know if the riches lying there match the legends and rumours about the quality and quantity. To everyone’s delightful shock, an inventory list prepared in August 2014, shows that ‘two thousand pounds of gold coins dating from 200 BC, were found only in one of the vaults.

Stunned assessors have also found a pure Golden Throne adorned with hundreds of diamonds and invaluable precious stones, meant to accommodate the 18-foot long Deity. In addition, solid gold crowns- all studded with diamonds and rare precious stones were discovered without much effort. These valuable items are believed to have been accumulated over several thousands of years, having been donated to the Deity by various Dynasties and Kings from all over the Indian subcontinent.

The second chamber has long been considered by astrologers of India, as highly mysterious, sacred and too dangerous to unveil. The enormous steel door of Chamber B, as it’s called, has two massive cobras painted on it and has no bolts, latches or any other means to open and enter. That is some mystery straight out of an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie by Spielberg. The doors of such a secret vault is expected to be opened only by high level ‘Sadhus’ capable of chanting the ‘GARUDA MANTRA.’

Thus the doors cannot be opened by any means by anyone, and at present, there is nobody in the world who possesses the highly powerful divine qualities to know or chant the sacred ‘GARUDA MANTRA’ without faltering. It is believed that if any human attempts are made with man-made technology to open the mysterious inner chamber beyond Chamber B without chanting the highly sacred ‘GARUDA MANTRA’, disasters are likely to occur in and outside the Temple- all over the human world.

Before the observers descended, a team of firemen arrived and used special equipment to pump oxygen into the enclosure. At the bottom of the stairs was the vault. When they removed the granite stone, it was almost perfectly dark, except for a small streak of light coming through the doorway behind us. As the men peeped into the darkened vault, what they saw looked like stars glittering in a moonless night sky. Diamonds and gems were sparkling, reflecting grandly the little light available.

Much of the wealth had originally been stored in wooden boxes, but, with time, the boxes had cracked and turned to dust. And so the gems and gold were just sitting in piles on the dusty floor. To haul everything from Vault A upstairs, for inspection, it took fifteen men one full day. And beholding the treasure was a magnificently ‘divine experience’. Countless gold rings, bangles, and lockets, many encrusted with gems lay before them. Gold chains studded with jewels and each eighteen feet long—the length of the main idol, lay before the observers. Coin experts estimated that the vault held approximately one lakh gold coins, spanning centuries of trade: Roman, Napoleonic, Mughal, Dutch. He also described seeing a set of solid-gold body armour, known as an Angi, built to adorn the main idol.

The vault also contained loose diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones. According to ‘Balagovindan’, the most impressive gems were the large diamonds, some of which were a hundred and ten carats—the size of a large thumb. The archaeologists and gemologists estimated that a small solid-gold idol of Vishnu, encrusted with hundreds of gems, was worth at least two hundred and ten crore rupees.

In response to a PIL, the Supreme Court of India ordered to have the vaults open and the contents made public by a seven-member committee. Six of the secret vaults have been opened to discover at a depth of 20 feet underground. Approximately $22 billion in treasure including, golden idols, golden elephants and idols wearing 18 foot diamond necklaces, as well as countless bags of gold coins from around the world and ceremonial costumes included 66 pound solid gold coconut shells studded with rubies and emeralds.

Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is now protected by metal detectors, security cameras, and more than 200 guards, some equipped with machine guns.

Sand Art By Sudarshan Patnaik

The treasure troves of Lord Jagannath have remained under lock and key for reasons not clear to any including the present Gajapati monarch considered the principal servitor. The secret treasure vaults believably containing invaluable jewellery items and gemstones are placed in a completely closed structure that requires immediate repair. The High Court has directed all authorities and experts to open, assess damage, and have the structures repaired.

It is indisputably true that the Jagannath Temple is the abode of a public Deity, and hence the ordinary people have a right to know how much wealth and riches the temple has in its hidden coffers. Monarchs had constructed door less troves only to ward off plundering invaders in ancient times. But today whole of India is one sovereign entity. No invaders like Nadir Shah, Taimur Lung or Mahammad of Ghur are in sight anymore. Yet, there are some foolish servitors and self-proclaiming activists who imagine the treasure troves, once opened, will attract thieves and burglars to make attempts of robbery, and further usher in bad omen to society.

The High Court judges too seem to have been rattled by such foolish warnings. Their order is only to look up the treasure houses, and never to open any vault to even look at the invaluable items. Nevertheless, 17 men including – snake helpline experts, had entered the vault room on Wednesday in a great deal of superstitious fanfare. Rationalists are obviously upset that the contents of the vaults will remain shrouded in mystery forever.

Rationalists believe that headless servitors, selfstyled temple activists have succeeded in frightening the judges of the superior courts. Earlier on the Supreme Court judges have made clear that the wealth and riches of the public Deities are to be made public for better public watchfulness.

The Odisha government needs to go a step forward to have every bit of wealth and riches seen, evaluated and inventorised to ensure robbery of any kind does not take place. The Padmanabhaswami Temple in Thiruvananthapuram of Kerala has gained so much. Odisha has to tame the headless servitors and law-ignorant activists right away. Rationalism has to be respected in the age of incredible mobile phones equipped with amazing information technology facilities!!!

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