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Shadow of past stampedes on Nabakalebara in Odisha

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Feb 14:

Every time there is a festival in the offing where a large gathering is expected, the Odisha government is reminded of the stampede that took place inside the Shree Jagannath temple in Puri and the death of devotees in the crowd during the Rath Yatra.

Photo Courtesy: in. reuters.com
Photo Courtesy: in. reuters.com

Since a huge gathering of devotees is expected in the forthcoming Nabakalebar Yatra of Lord Jagannath, the administration is holding  meetings and reviews on a regular basis  to ensure security and safety of devotees.

Every time there is a meeting on security and safety aspects of devotees during the grand festival, the Justice PK Mohanty Commission report and Revenue Board report is studied and analyzed.

It may be mentioned here that on November 4, 2006 during panchuka in the holy month of Kartik, six devotees were killed in a stampede inside the Shree Jagannath temple in front of the Pandadwara while the mangala alati of the Lords was on. The government had ordered an inquiry into the incident by Justice PK Mohanty.

Again during the Rath Yatra in 2008, three devotees were killed in a stampede at Kansari Patty in front of the Shree Jagannath temple near the cordon for chariots. The tragic incident occurred right in front of top officers of the state government. The state government ordered a probe by the then Board of Revenue member Santosh Kumar.

Both the reports are of utmost importance in view of the forthcoming Nabakalebara Yatra of the Lords.

The Justice PK Mohanty Commission of Inquiry has made several valuable recommendations for avoiding stampedes in the Shree Jagannath temple which include issues like discipline in conduct of rituals, darshan facilities for devotees, crowd control within the temple premises, improvements in the entry and exit routes for devotees, darshan  etc. The Commission in its report has suggested certain improvements in the existing practices, especially during mangal alati, sahanamela and parimanika darshan.

On the other hand, the inquiry report by the member Board of Revenue had recommended acquisition of the three mutts in front of the Lions Gate of the Shree Jagannath temple and widening of the place where the chariots are stationed in front of the Lions Gate during the Rath Yatra. The Board of Revenue member had suggested widening of free space around the temple on all sides for avoiding occurrence of stampedes.

With availability of free space in front of the temple during Rath Yatra stampedes can be avoided, the report had cited.