New Delhi - A stampede at a Hindu temple in central India killed at least 10 people and injured scores, the latest in a string of deadly accidents at religious events, an official and reports said.
Hundreds of pilgrims were gathering early at a holy hill in Chitrakoot area of Madhya Pradesh state when some tripped and fell, sparking panic, a police official told AFP.
“A stampede broke out very early this morning, around 5.30 or so, where five women and five men have died,” police control room official Vinay Kumar Singh told AFP by phone from Chitrakoot in the state's east.
“The place is still very chaotic and crowded, but police and ambulances have reached the spot,” Singh said.
The stampede appeared to have occurred when some of the Hindu devotees were rolling on the ground as part of rituals performed on the hill for the full moon day of Somvati Amavasya to honour Lord Shiva, reports said.
The pilgrims had gathered at Kamtanath Pahad temple on Kamadgiri hill in Chitrakoot, about 520km from state capital Bhopal.
Devotees roll in a clockwise circle on a “path of worship” around the hill, home to a chain of temples along its base.
“In this pose, the devotees circumambulate... The relatives and friends of the devotees help them to roll around,” police inspector general Pawan Srivastava told the Times of India website.
“Some of the pilgrims who were walking fell on the ground during the circumambulation and this triggered panic,” Srivastava said.
Ropes set up to control the crowds gave way, with about 60 people also injured in the stampede, the official said.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan offered 200 000 rupees ($3 300) to the families of those killed.
India has a long history of deadly stampedes at religious festivals, as large numbers of people pack into congested areas, often with few safety regulations in place.
Monday's accident comes after some 115 devotees were crushed to death or drowned on a bridge near another Hindu temple in Madhya Pradesh last October.
Hordes of pilgrims panicked after rumours that the bridge was going to collapse at the temple in the Datia district, 700km west of Monday's accident site.
In 2006, another stampede outside that same temple in Datia killed 50 people as they crossed a river, prompting authorities to build the bridge.
About 102 Hindu devotees were killed in a stampede in January 2011 in the southern state of Kerala, while 224 pilgrims died in September 2008 as thousands of worshippers rushed to reach a 15th-century hill-top temple in Jodhpur in Rajasthan state.