Devotees back in Himachal shrine hours after tragedy

August 4th, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by IANS  

Naina Devi (Himachal Pradesh), Aug 4 (IANS) A day after a stampede claimed 145 lives at this shrine in ‘land of gods’ Himachal Pradesh, religious fervour was back in full zing Monday with hundreds of devotees lining up to pay obeisance to Hindu goddess Naina Devi. Devotees started pouring in past midnight Sunday to begin the steep 1.5 km climb from the bus stand here to the main temple located on top of a hill.

“We have been walking from Sirhind town in Punjab for the last six days. We have reached here just now. We heard of the tragedy yesterday but that has not made any difference to our resolve to pay obeisance,” said Manjit Kumar as he trekked up the hill with three friends.

Although the stampede, caused by a rumour of a landslide and falling boulders, snuffed out 145 lives and left scores of people injured, activities at the temple were back to normal early Monday to cater to more devotees.

“The tragedy is unfortunate. But that has not affected the flow of devotees,” said temple priest Rajesh Kumar.

Even as the shoes, slippers and other belongings of victims of Sunday’s tragedy lay strewn early Monday, devotees continued to pour in.

“It’s a question of faith. The tragedy does raise a question in your mind but faith is supreme. Life has to go on,” said Ram Prakash, a devotee from Himachal’s Mandi district.

Naina Devi temple is located in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh, 160 km from state capital Shimla. The shrine is one of the 51 ‘Shakti Peeths’ of Hindus in the country.

One of the eyes of goddess Sati, the consort of Lord Shiva, is believed to have fallen here during his ‘Tandav’ dance. The present temple has been here since 1880 and is visited by millions of Hindus and Sikhs from all over the country, especially Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

The shrine is these days experiencing a special rush for ’sawan navratras’ - nine holy days of the monsoon season when the goddess is believed to come and bless her devotees. The shrine gets over 50,000 devotees during weekends and half that number during weekdays during the festival.

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