The New York Times explains what went wrong in the latest religious calamity in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh:
[S]everal pilgrims offered parikrama, in this case a form of prayer that involves progressing along the path in a supine position.
They don’t walk. They lie prone keeping a piece of coconut in their hand, they stretch fully, and then they get up,” [a police official] said. “This is how they make progress.”
As one pilgrim offered parikrama, another inadvertently brushed against her, and in order to apologize, touched her feet, a mark of respect in India. Though the path was relatively wide, it was so crowded that this sudden halt caused a human traffic jam, ending in the victims being trampled, including the woman offering parikrama.
The Hindu gods have not been smiling upon their faithful followers lately:
In October, also in Madhya Pradesh, at least 89 people were killed in a stampede when thousands of pilgrims panicked for fear that the narrow bridge that they were crossing was on the verge of collapse. In February 2013, another stampede killed as many as 36 people at the Kumbh Mela festival in northern India, an event stretching over 55 days where crowds were estimated at 80 million.
My condolences to all who lost loved ones.
With, let’s say, 20% less religious observance and 20% of that time and expense poured instead into seeing that overall infrastructure and security improvements are carried out, could future stampedes be made less deadly?
Also, going forward, maybe the pilgrims could try not ritually stretching out on a footpath filled with throngs of people?
(Image via Shutterstock)