Archaeologists Armed With Metal Detectors Hunt for Lost Treasure at Puri’s Jagannath Mandir

A treasure hunt has started at the Emar Mutt (monastery), located in the southeastern corner of the 12th Jagannath Mandir, with teams of archaeologists armed with metal detectors searching for a lost hoard. The search started on Thursday is being carried out following a request by the Narayan Ramanuj Das, the Mahant (head) of Uttarparshwa Mutt, who is in charge of Emar Mutt.

The Mutt authorities as well as historians suspect that a hoard of valuables is buried inside the premises. The belief that a stash is buried underground comes from discoveries of two earlier troves. In 2011, the police had stumbled on a treasure trove of 522 silver ingots weighing 18 tonnes inside the Mutt worth about Rs 90 crore. Earlier in April, 45 more silver ingots weighing about 35 kg each were found inside the Mutt. Apart from silver ingots, a silver tree and silver flowers, about 16 antique swords, and a bronze cow sculpture were also recovered from the Mutt, stablished by Ramanujacharya in 1050 when he came to Puri.

A special team of the state archaeology department in presence of officials of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), Puri district collector Samarth Verma, Puri SP KV Singh and trust member of the Emar Mutt, began the search inside the premises of the Emar Mutt in the pilgrim town on Thursday to trace hidden valuables. Puri sub-collector Bhabataran Sahu said: “As of now, no material was detected during Thursday’s inspection. We will take appropriate action on the report of the technical team which scanned the premises.”

The treasures recovered earlier from the mutt are now kept in the state treasury in Puri and guarded by armed police. As many as 18 mutts belonging to Ramanuja sect was established in Puri by Ramanujacharya. All these mutts are closely linked to the Shree Jagannath Temple and are involved in rituals associated with the Temple. Govindacharya or Govinda Jeeyar was the first pontiff of this Mutt. Govindacharya was given the name Emperumannar, which means My Lord in Tamil. However, a section of disciples opposed the name and finally changed this to Emar. Govindacharya was Ramanujacharya’s cousin brother. The Mutt worships Lord Rama, Lady Sita and Lord Laxman.

The mutt’s hidden treasury, came to the limelight ten years back when two masons involved in its renovation work were caught by Dhenkanal Police while they were trying to dispose off two silver ingots weighing over 30 kg each. During the interrogation of the duo confessed having stolen the valuables from Emar Mutt.This confession led to the discovery of a room stashed with silver ingots.

Former Emar Mutt Mahant Rajgopal Das had claimed ownership over the property and filed a case in the High Court seeking direction to the police to hand it over. The ingots were then shifted from Emar Mutt to the district armory inside the Police Reserve. The Commissioner of Endowments, Odisha had constituted a trust to manage the affairs of the mutt. Since Das did not cooperate with the trust body, the administration forcefully entered the mutt and he was stripped of all his powers.

A four-member trust body headed by Narayan Ramanuj Das, who is the current mahant of Utter Parsva Mutt, had taken over Emar Mutt on Friday, and the inventory of all the valuables was made in the presence of a magistrate. Speaking to PTI, Narayan Ramanuja Das said The Thursday’s metal detector search has indicated some thing. But, we cannot say whether they are valuable metals or iron or some other metal. As metal detectors could detect materials upto just 1.5 feet to 2 feet under the earth, we now need a better survey” which could detect metals at a greater depth.

However, Das expressed ignorance regarding a rumoured store of gold and diamonds in the Mutt. How can I make such claims? We have seen silver ingots so far. Who knows whether there is gold or diamond hidden in the Mutt, he said. About the existence of such huge volume of silver ingots in Emar Mutt, historian Anil Dhir, archeologist specialising in the state’s history said my research on the Great Orissa Famine of 1866 (Na’Anka Durbhikshya), I had got conclusive evidence that the silver ingot was part of the payment made by the British authorities to various Mutts for rice purchased from them during famine years. The Emar Mutt was among the biggest landowners of the period and had overflowing granaries, he said adding that when the British administration wanted to buy the stocks for relief kitchens, the Mutt heads had demanded payment in bullion. I have found various documents which confirm that the Mutts were selling a major part of their stocks for the relief kitchens that had been set up by the authorities. This treasure is the legitimate property of the Mutt, Dhir claimed while speaking to PTI.

He, also claimed that the Emar Mutt was the fountainhead of many smaller Mutts. Among branches in different places, the Emar Mutts at Sakhigopal and the Old Town of Bhubaneswar stand apart due to their historical importance. There should be proper surveys in both these places for buried treasures. There is every chance that silver ingots may also be buried in Sakhigopal and Bhubaneswar mutt, Dhir said. Meanwhile, the Emar Mutt in Puri including the famed Raghunandan Library, spread over five acre of land, has been demolished as part of the beautification drive of the pilgrim town. We have been left with structures like sanctum sanctum of the Mutt and 10 rooms after demolition. There were 200 rooms in the mutt premises earlier. Many shops constructed on the Mutt property are encroached and there is no such source of income to run the daily affairs. We urge the government to restore mutt property, Das, the Mutt chief said.

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