27 killed in Godavari Pushkaram stampede
At least 27 people were killed with many others injured as a stampede occured on the first day of the Godavari Maha Pushkaram in Andhra Pradesh. The stampede took place when a group of women slipped, thirty minutes after Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu took a dip in the water. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government is working to restore normalcy.
Godavari Maha Pushkaram is a Hindu traditional festival which comes after a long gap of 144 years. However, a smaller version is celebrated every 12 years. The festival starts on the Chaturdashi day of Ashadha month (June/July) and continues for 12 days. During these 12 days, people take a holy dip in the Godavari river to cleanse themselves of their sins.
According to Hindu mythology, the 12 days of the Pushkaram festival are inauspicious for getting married as all the Gods are taking a bath in the river and cannot attend your marriage to give you blessings!
Around 2 crore people took a holy dip in the Godavari river during the first six days of the 2003 Godavari Pushkaram. A stampede also took place wherein a dozen people suffered from minor injuries at Rajahmundry and Kaleswaram. The overwhelming response from pilgrims made the state government ecstatic. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said, "This is going to be on par with Kumbh Mela."
There were a lot of speculations after some swamis and religious pandits said that the 2015 Pushkaram should be called a Kumbh Mela as it is coming after 144 years (it is the 12th instance). However, Rajahmundry Municipal Corporation commissioner S. Ravindra Babu said, "Some unofficial sources are saying it's 144 years. But we don't have any authenticated record to say its 144 years."
Andhra Pradesh is all set to host Godavari Pushkaram again after a gap of 12 years. The state government is expecting at least 4 crore pilgrims from around the country. To manage such a large number of devotees, government started 172 special trains. All the arrangements for the Pushkaram- construction of ghats, provision of water and food etc. has costed the government Rs.1500 crore.
Following the stampede, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Rajahmundry. My condolences to the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured,"