In what appears to be a man-made tragedy, four devotees, including three women and a 65-year-old man, were trampled to death and 15 others seriously injured in an early morning stampede within the Jagannath Temple premises in Puri on Saturday.
The tragedy occurred when the devotees rushed inside the sanctum sanctorum to witness the mangal aarti on the fourth and last auspicious day before Kartik Purnima. The five days preceding Kartik Purnima, which falls on Sunday, are considered auspicious for the darshan of the Lord.
Prior to opening, the temple — from the main entrance, Singha Dwar, to the doors of the sanctum sanctorum — was packed with devotees. The stampede occurred when a door was opened around 5.30 a.m. No security personnel were present to control the crowd. Many elderly people, especially women, standing near the door could not withstand the mad scramble, and were crushed.
According to temple rituals, the three deities — Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra — take rest at night and the doors of the sanctum sanctorum are thus closed after midnight normally. But in these five days, the doors remain open for twenty-four hours. Many angry devotees blamed the “avoidable tragedy” on a two-hour closure of the doors prior to the aarti. “The government has ordered a judicial probe,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told HT.