6 killed in stampede at Puri chariot festival; Ahmedabad procession peaceful (Roundup)

July 4th, 2008 - 9:38 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

Puri/Ahmedabad, July 4 (IANS) One million devotees from across the globe thronged the temple town of Puri in Orissa for a glimpse of three Hindu deities whose idols were taken out in the annual Rath Yatra (chariot festival) but tragedy struck the event when six people were killed in a stampede. A similar procession was taken out in the Gujarat capital Ahmedabad, with over 1,000 devotees pulling the beautifully decorated chariots of Hindu god Jagannath, his brother Balaram and their sister Subhadra, with wrestlers from local “akhadas” (gyms) giving displays of their skills on the sidelines.

In Puri, the district’s chief medical officer Tirlochan Baral told IANS that three men and three women had died while 10 injured people had been admitted in the government hospital in the town.

A district police official said the stampede occurred when devotees tried to get close to Subhadra’s chariot.

The state government has ordered a probe and announced compensation of Rs.100,000 to the families of those killed. The government has also announced that it will bear the medical expenses of the injured.

The idols were being carried from the 12th century Jagannath temple to another shrine called Gundicha in the same town.

As in previous years, thousands of devotees pulled the chariots with the help of four ropes tied to each chariot. Jagannath’s chariot is called Nandighosh, that of Balabhadra is Taladhwaja and Subhadra’s is Padmadhwaja.

Laxmidhar Pujapanda of the Jagannath temple administration said over one million devotees had travelled to Puri to participate in the festival.

“All rituals are on time although some morning rituals were delayed by 10 to 15 minutes. The sky is cloudy and it rained for 10 minutes in the morning. The weather is conducive for the festival,” Pujapanda said.

The annual procession is a celebration of Jagannath’s journey from Dwarka to Kurukshetra along with Subhadra and Balabhadra some 5,000 years ago.

In Ahmedabad, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the procession after prayers.

The yatra passed through various parts of the city, including a Muslim majority area where policemen were deployed in strength.

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