Inspection of the first room of the Ratna Bhandar of Lord Jagannath Temple on Wednesday revealed cracks on its wall and ceiling. The walls were found to be damp.

A team comprising select priests and officials from the Archaeological Survey of India prayed at the Lokanath Temple on the premises of the Jagannath temple in the morning before proceeding to unlock the Ratna Bhandar (storehouse of ornaments).

The Ratna Bhandar, a sacred place with a lot of mystery surrounding it, was opened after a gap of 34 years.

The ASI, which is charge of protection and conservation of the 12th century temple, had sought to open the Ratna Bhandar to check the ceiling and walls. The team, including two ASI experts, was mandated to inspect the treasury’s structural stability and not the valuables stored therein.

A 16-member team comprising the ASI officers, priests, a representative of the Puri Maharaja, High Court appointed amicus curiae N K Mohanty — all of them wearing dhotis — entered the first of the three rooms, made a quick inspection and returned.

They had all taken a vow of secrecy and were asked not to speak on what they saw inside the Ratna Bhandar.

Minutes after they entered, one of the members, G C Mitra, came out as he had stumbled upon something and had hurt his feet.

“There are a number of cracks and the technical committee will submit a detailed report on the matter,” said Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal.

“The team members entered the Ratna Bhandar through the Jagamohan at around 2.25 pm and examined thoroughly the outer Ratna Bhandar. The Ratna Bhandar door was opened in presence of Puri Gajapati Maharaj’s representative, Ratna Bhandar Mekap and temple rituals administrator,” said Shree Jagannath Temple Administration chief P K Jena.

“The inspection team members found the wall and roof of the Ratna Bhandar wet. They did not enter further as the team could clearly see the wall and roof of inner portion of Ratna Bhandar through high power search light. The preliminary report about the inspection of Ratna Bhandar is being prepared by the ASI. We will go through the report and submit it to the High Court,” he added.

Asked why the team did not venture into the other inner rooms of the bhandar, Jena said they did not find it necessary and they had a fair view with the searchlights.

The story doing the rounds in Puri, however, was that there was a difference of opinion among the team members on going into the other two rooms.

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The aura of mystery surrounding the Ratna Bhandar, and legends and stories attached to it had created much anxiety among people across the state and the temple administration in particular.

Elaborate security and other arrangements had been made for the purpose.

Famous sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik made a sand art on the Puri beach and dedicated it to the exercise.

The Odisha High Court had ordered the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) on March 22 to assess the structural condition of the treasury and submit a status report.

It was opened twice in the past — in 1964 and 1984.

Precious jewellery and ornaments of the deities are kept in the temple treasury. In 1984, only three of its seven chambers were opened.

(With agency inputs)