PURI: At least 30 devotees, mostly elderly women, were injured following a near stampede situation in Shri Jagannath temple during the ‘mangal aarati’ darshan of the Holy Trinity on Friday.One woman suffered 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, main entrance to the temple, in the morning. ‘Habishyalis’ are women, mostly widows, who observe fast during the holy month of Kartika. When they were allowed in, there was a heavy rush as the general devotees too entered the shrine.
While devotees were entering through ‘Satapahacha’ (seven steps door) and Ghanti Dwar, two doors to the main shrine, there was a near stampede situation due to the rush. Many ‘habishyalis’ tripped and scores 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 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 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 at the same time. The security personnel were unable to provide ‘habishyalis’ safe passage into temple, sources said.This apart, the ambulance service was inadequate as injured had to wait in helpless condition on 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 released 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.