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Where the casualness of some, became the death for many - At the Mandher Devi temple in Maharashtra, 258+ people (eventually 291) are killed in a fire and crushed under a stampede on the annual Shakambhari Purnima pilgrimage.
Happened on 25th Jan 2005
The Mandher Devi temple lies in Satara district of Maharashtra. Every year, on the occasion of Shakambhari Purnima, lakhs of people join in the pilgrimage to their beloved deity, Kaleshwari Devi.
Here, animal sacrifices, coconut breaking, and dancing with the idols - all take place, setting a scene of ritualistic passion unlike any other. Around 3 lakh devotees participate in this festival every year.
The name of the place derives from a combination of Lord Mandeshwar, and Kaleshwari Devi - hence giving Mandhradevi.
Overlooking the Maratha Purandar fort, the temple is supposed to have been built by Chatrapati Shivaji in his time as the ruler of the Marathas. However, no concrete dates have been discovered yet.
Such was the scene in 2005 too; as a 10-day pilgrimage, Kalubai Jatra was organised for the devotees. Its highlight was a 24-hour festival when the Purnima (full moon) appeared, and animal sacrifices, Puran Poli and curd rice were offered to the goddess.
On the 25th of January, 2005, as the celebrations went on, some pilgrims slipped on the temple’s stone steps, which were wet with coconut water presented to the goddess. Soon after, a fire broke out in nearby shops, leading to some gas cylinder explosions. All of this combined created a frenzy in the broad daylight, and a stampede started down the narrow hill path, where many people were rushed over or charred by the fire.
When the situation resumed to a calm, it was noted that around 258+ people died, with recent estimates putting the total at 291. A full investigation was launched into the issue after the allegations of some drunk people causing the chaos that lead to the stampede, were put up. This investigation was headed by Justice Ranjan Kochar of the Bombay High Court. This became one of the worst disasters involving a pilgrimage in recent history.
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