It was around 3.30 am on April 10.
Around 15,000 pilgrims were enjoying a massive, yet unregulated fireworks display, organized to conclude the Meena-Bharani festival at Puttingal Devi Temple at Paravur in Kerala’s Kollam district.
A cracker that was to burst in air hit the ground leaving sparks flying in all directions.
Some sparks fell on an auto packed with crackers and a storehouse stocked up with more crackers, leading to a huge explosion. What followed was devastation and destruction.
More than a hundred people were killed and five times more injured.
Many were charred to death, many died due to stampede and many others died after getting hit by flying splinters from the storehouse that was transformed to a deadly “concrete explosive”.
What followed next was routine – fingers pointing in all directions, filing of cases, detentions, compensations, political leaders “mourning” the mishap and of course, the media getting fodder for the next couple of days.
But what we choose to overlook or forget is our past … and hence the lesson is never learnt.
Let us scan the last eight years and unearth temple tragedies lost in news archives:
1. On August 34, 2008, at least 150 people were killed in a stampede that broke out at Naina Devi Temple in Himachal Pradesh followed by a rumour of a landslide.
2. On September 30, 2008, around 224 pilgrims were killed in a stampede while rushing to reach Chamunda Devi Temple situated on a hilltop in Jodhupur city of Rajasthan.
3. On March 4, 2010, people rushed to get free clothes and lunch that were being distributed at Ram Janki Temple at Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh, resulting in a stampede that left 63 people, mostly women and children, dead.
4. On January 14, 2011, as many as 106 pilgrims were killed and over 100 others injured at a stampede that broke out at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Kerala’s Sabarimala as thousands of devotees were returning home post Makarajyoti darshan.
5. On November 8, 2011, at least 22 people were killed in a stampede at a religious ceremony at at Har-ki-Pauri ghat on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar.
6. On November 19, 2012, as women had gathered to perform the Chhath festival on a ghat at Patna in Bihar, a rope bridge collapsed and the panic triggered a stampede killing as many as 18 women and children.
7. On February 10, 2013, while Kumbh Mela was underway, a stampede broke out at Allahabad railway station in Uttar Pradesh. At least 36 people were killed and around 40 others injured.
8. On October 13, 2013, during Navratri, 115 people were killed and over 100 injured in a stampede that broke out on a bridge near Ratangarh Mata Temple in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh.
9. On January 18, 2014, hundreds of followers had come to pay their last respects to Dawoodi Bohra spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, when a stampede broke out outside his house at Malabar Hill in Mumbai. The toll was 18.
10. On October 3, 2014, a total of 32 people were crushed to death in a stampede that broke out after there were rumours of an electrical short-circuit and fire post the Ravan-burning at Dushhera festival at Gandhi Maidan in Bihar’s Patna city.
11. On July 14, 2015, at least 22 pilgrims, most of them women, died and 20 others were injured in a stampede during Godavari Pushkaralu at Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh.