Devotees slipping on water from smashed coconuts offered to a deity may be one of the causes of Rajasthan’s worst-ever stampede, in which at least 150 people died on Tuesday morning.
As the devotees slipped, believed to have been pushed by a group of reckless young men, it had a cascading effect on the thousands behind, who had gathered at the 500-year-old Chamunda Devi Temple in the Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur since 2 am to offer Navratra prayers.
A senior government official, who did not want to be named, said the devotees on the men’s line fell on one another on the ramp that leads to the hilltop temple.
Chief Secretary D.C. Samant said: “Rumours about wall collapse or bomb scare are baseless.”
About 20,000 worshippers had gathered at the temple, about 330 km from Jaipur.
Administrator of Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Mahinder Singh Nagar, who manages the temple, blamed the stampede squarely on the group of about 50 young men. “They broke barricades and pushed the pilgrims, which led to the stampede.”
More than 150 were injured in the stampede, which took place around 6 am.
Nagar said adequate arrangements had been made to handle the flow of worshippers. But the temple authorities missed a basic rule of crowd control — that of sending the worshippers to the sanctum sanctorum in batches, like they do at the Vaishno Devi shrine.
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of the dead, and Rs 50,000 for injured. A judicial inquiry by a retired high court judge has been ordered by the government.