According to police, thousands of people arrived to take part in Saint Thakur Anukul Chand's 125th birth anniversary celebrations at an ashram in Deoghar district.

"During morning prayers at 5 a.m. hundreds of devotees gathered in a congested hall. More than 15 people fainted," a police official told IANS over telephone.

The official said, "Those who fainted were taken to hospital, where nine, including eight women, died. All the dead were above 50 years old. The other six people who fainted are under treatment."

Police said there were volunteers to usher crowds in the hall, but they failed to manage the vast numbers of people who had gathered for morning prayers.