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Naina Devi, temple stampede, pilgrims trampled
Jaspal Ghai/AP
Relatives outside hospital where dead,
injured from temple stampede were taken.

Stampede in Northern India Temple Kills Pilgrims

August 03, 2008 03:48 PM
by Shannon Firth
Rumors of a landslide triggered a panic that resulted in dozens of deaths, including at least 40 children.

30-Second Summary

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According to The Times of India, at least 146 people were trampled over or forced off the path to the hilltop temple of Naina Devi in the Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh state in the north.

The victims were pilgrims who had gathered during heavy rains to celebrate a nine-day Hindu festival of the Mother Goddess called Shravan Navratras, or Navratri. The panic was apparently incited by rumors of a landslide. The BBC reported that a railing broke on the narrow path running to the temple, causing many pilgrims to fall from the hill. The hilltop is about 7,000 feet high. Approximately 40 of the victims were children.

The rumor may have seemed credible to the pilgrims because the Naina Devi temple is located in an area that’s susceptible to landslides.

According to the BBC, panic-driven deaths during religious festivals are unfortunately quite common in India. Three other temple stampedes have been reported this year, including one that occurred less than a month earlier. In January 2005, 340 people were killed at the Mandhra Devi temple in Maharashtra, Mumbai.

Temple stampede in India

Dev Swarup, one of the pilgrims who witnessed the tragedy, told Reuters India, “Many children and women were shouting for help and I saw people tumbling down the hillside. There were rumours of boulders coming down on us and we all ran like the others.”

The Times of India reported, “Children and women clutching the hands of their near and dear ones got separated in the rush to escape the landslide, realizing little that they were hurtling to another form of death.” The article includes an illustration of the mountain and estimates the timing of events. (There is also an accompanying video link that is quite graphic).

According to Rediff India Abroad, a “magisterial inquiry” will investigate the incident. The relations of victims of the stampede as well as those injured have been given monetary compensation, on a graded scale respective to the degree of harm.

Historical Context: The history of Naina Devi; other temple tragedies

Reference Link: The Navratri Festival

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