In what is being described as one of the worst such tragedies witnessed by Kerala, hundreds have died and over 300 injured, some grievously, in a devastating fire that destroyed the 100-year-old the Puttingal Devi temple near Kollam on Sunday during an unauthorised display of fireworks. This is yet another tragedy that could have been avoided and has been caused only due to the rampant disregard for safety at places of worship in India. We look at some of the deadliest tragedies to have taken place at Indian temples and religious festivals, where huge crowds gather, in recent history.
The Chamunda Devi Stampede
A stampede in September 30, 2008, at the Chamunda Devi Temple in Jodhpur claimed over 224 people and injured more than 425 lives. The 15th-century temple located within the premises of Mehrangarh Fort at the top of a hill attracts thousands of devotees celebrating the Navaratri festival. A rumour about a bomb being planted in the temple caused panic among pilgrims triggering the deadly stampede. Many people were injured when they lost their footing on the slope approaching the temple.
The Sabarimala stampede
Devotees pray at the Sabarimala temple during the Maravilakku festival marking the final of a two-month pilgrimage to the Lord Ayyappa temple in Kerala. Pic/AFP
The Sabarimala stampede occurred on January 14, 2011, on Makara Jyothi Day at Pullumedu near Sabarimala in Kerala. It broke out during an annual pilgrimage, killing 106 people and injuring about 100 more. The pilgrims were returning from the shrine on the last day of a yearly festival, which attracts millions of devotees. It is the worst recorded accident to have occurred in Sabarimala.
2013 Ratangarh Mata temple stampede
On October 13, 2013, during the festival of Navratri, a stampede broke out on a bridge near the Ratangarh Mata Temple in Datia district, Madhya Pradesh, killing at least 115 people and injuring more than 110.
2010 Pratapgarh stampede
A woman cries at a hospital after a stampede in Kunda near Pratapgarh village in Uttar Pradesh, some 65 km from Allahabad, on March 4, 2010. Pic/AFP
The Pratapgarh stampede occurred on March 4, 2010, at Ram Janki temple of the Kripalu Maharaj ashram in Kunda, Uttar Pradesh, India, that killed 63 people and seriously injured 74 more. The incident occurred as 10,000 people attended the temple to receive free items, such as clothes and food, on the first anniversary of the death of the wife of Kripalu Maharaj. An unfinished temple gate fell, which may have led to a panic among the crowd and to the stampede.
Naina Devi temple stampede
The stampede on August 3, 2008, killed 160 devotees and left more than 400 injured in the famous Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh due to a shelter collapse. Witness accounts suggest that events were initiated after a rain shelter collapsed, which worshipers mistakenly took to be a landslide.
Mandher Devi temple tragedy
During a religious fair at Mandher Devi temple near Wai in Satara district of western Maharashtra on January 25, 2005, the stampede broke out and at least 350 people were killed and over 200 injured.The stampede broke out as 300,000 people converged on the Mandher Devi temple to undertake the annual pilgrimage on the full moon day in January and for participation in a 24-hour-long festival that includes ritual animal sacrifices to the goddess. Witnesses said the rush started around midday after some pilgrims slipped on the temple's steep stone steps, which were wet with coconut water spilled from fruit presented as offerings to the goddess Kalubai. A fire then broke out in shops nearby and gas cylinders exploded.
Kerala temple tragedy
Damaged building at the Puttingal Devi Temple, Kerela. Pic/ AFP
In the worst-ever temple tragedies to befall Kerala, over 110 people were killed and close to 400 injured, many grievously, early on Sunday morning -- around 3.30 a.m -- after an unauthorized fireworks display at the Puttingal Devi Temple at Paravur, south of Kollam went awry. The incident occurred at around 3.30 am on Sunday morning when sparks from the fire crackers, that were being burst to celebrate the conclusion of the Meena-Bharani festivallanded on some stored fireworks leading to an explosion and fire that destroyed a portion of the temple.