30 devotees hurt in near stampede-like situation at Jagannath Temple in Puri during darshan

While devotees were entering through the Satapahacha (seven steps door) and Ghanti Dwar, two doors to the main shrine, there was a near stampede-like situation due to the heavy rush.
Shree Jagannath Temple (File photo | Express)
Shree Jagannath Temple (File photo | Express)

PURI: At least 30 devotees, mostly elderly women, were injured following a near stampede-like situation in the Shree Jagannath Temple during the ‘mangal aarati’ darshan of the Holy Trinity on Friday.

One woman suffered a severe injury on her leg and is being treated at the district headquarters hospital. She was staying at the government-hosted facility at Bagala Dharmasala.

According to sources, a large number of devotees including ‘habishyalis’ were waiting at the Lion’s Gate, the main entrance to the temple, in the morning. ‘Habishyalis’ are widows who observe fast during the holy month of Kartika. When they were allowed, there was a heavy rush as the general devotees too entered the shrine.

While devotees were entering through the Satapahacha (seven steps door) and Ghanti Dwar, two doors to the main shrine, there was a near stampede-like situation due to the heavy rush. Many ‘habishyalis’ tripped and scores of others experienced suffocation. Several fell unconscious too, vomiting profusely.

The temple security and police shifted them to an air-conditioned office room and provided ORS before escorting them to the district headquarters hospital in phases. All this happened despite tall claims by the administration that adequate arrangements were put in place to conduct ‘habishyalis’ in the temple for observing the month long ‘Kartik Brata’ at government expense.

The incident also reflected the ineffectiveness of Jagannath Temple Police (JTP) and government police for smooth darshan of deities. Many attributed the incident to poor management of the pilgrim crowd.

Though large number of devotees were already waiting behind the barricades at Simhadwar, the volunteers brought in hundreds of ‘habishyalis’ in buses and left them at the temple gate. When the barricades were lifted, all tried to enter. The security personnel were unable to provide the ‘habishyalis’ safe passage into the temple, sources said.

This apart, the ambulance service was inadequate as the injured had to wait in a helpless condition on the temple premises for their turn to be taken to the DHH. Puri SP K Vishal Singh, however, asserted that there was no stampede-like situation in the temple.

“Some devotees fainted due to the rush. Some had vomiting. Most of the devotees were discharged from hospital. We have deployed 15 platoons of police for smooth movement of devotees in the temple,” the SP said.

Singh said five more platoons will be added during Diwali and Kartik Purnima, the two important festival days coming up ahead.

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The New Indian Express
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