A 70-year-old woman was killed and four others injured in a stampede at the annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in Puri on Tuesday.
About a million and a half devotees from around the world have gathered in this temple town in Orissa for the nine-day event, during which three chariots with statues of Hindu deities travel from one temple to another, 2 km stretch. The stampede occurred when one of the chariots veered off its course, police said.
Bijaylaxmi Mohanty and the four injured were rushed to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared Mohanty brought dead. Others are reportedly out of danger.
“Mohanty fell down as the Taladhwaja, the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, was being pulled by the devotees,” said Narahari Maharana, chief district medical officer, Puri.
Every year, the festival takes place in June or July. It marks the journey of Hindus deities “Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra.
The ceremonial processions, known as Pahandi, started at 8.20 am on Tuesday.
“During the Rath Yatra, the deities are taken through the Badadanda so that devotees, including non-Hindus and foreigners, who are not allowed inside the temple, can have a glimpse of the gods,” said a temple priest.
The stampede happened near the palace of Puri’s king belonging to the Gajapati dynasty, about a kilometre from the Jagannath temple.
“Considering the huge inflow of people, more than 7,000 armed policemen have been deployed to maintain law and order and prevent any untoward incident,” said Sanjay Kumar, SP, Puri.