Nearly 142 pilgrims from West Bengal had a providential escape from the stampede at Pullumedu near the famous Sabarimala hill shrine in Kerala in which 102 devotees were killed and 50 others injured.
The pilgrims, mostly senior citizens, were divided into two groups-- one comprising 120 and the other about 22. The trip was organised by Aklhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sangham.
"It was a lucky decision by the pilgrims not to climb to the hilltop shrine to witness the Makara Jyoti on Friday," Ramakrishnan Kumar, senior manager of Dhanlaxmi Bank here, who co-ordinated with the pilgrims, said.
They remained at the foot of the hill near Pampa river to look at the auspicious star (Makaravillakku) that appears in the sky on the evening of January 14-- a decision which saved their lives, he said.
The two groups had left here in the first week of January reaching Palakkad on January 8 and Pampa on January 13, Kumar said.
They would leave the place on Sunday for Palakkad en route to their home state.
In the worst tragedy that struck Sabarimala pilgrims in a decade, 102 people were killed while returning after darshan at the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa on the 'makara samkarma pooja' on Friday evening, when a jeep went out of control and ploughed into devotees in a narrow forest stretch at Pullumedu, triggering a stampede.