Secrets of the temple


By: Satyakam Bharti

Heavens might have cried seeing filial love in the hour of the death – a tragedy it seemed very much similar to the stratified residents of Pompeii as the town was stupefied for eternity 2,000 years ago with men and women and children still in embrace. The path that led to Naina Devi shrine had several of them – mothers clutching on to their toddlers, brothers clinging on to their sisters’ arms, fathers holding on to kids with both hands – all motionless.

The 150-odd people who died on the footsteps of Goddess Naina Devi on Sunday had no death wish, just like the unsuspecting residents of Pompeii, but unlike the latter’s helplessness in front of nature’s fury, these devouts proved their own nemesis or rather victims of our collective indifference.

So they ran over each other, rolled over each other and then lay piled up over each other – motionless. Of course, no human could have wished them this fate, or for that matter for several other victims of similar stampedes in various temples across the country. It’s just that we Indians take everything for granted, even death at God’s doorstep – a near human sacrifice.

Our Brahaminical Indian has always kept the Gods safe – not within everyone’s reach – sometimes high up on mountain peaks, sometimes in deep caves, sometimes in heavy locks, and if all this is not possible then under heavenly edicts keeping women, low castes and even foreigners away from them. Those who manage to reach these shrines are therefore lucky ones, eligible for salvation which sometimes comes in the form of death.

It’s devotion that takes bare-footed pilgrims to the heights of Amarnath cave, Vaishnoo Devi, Mani Mahesh and so on, but it is certainly not God’s wish to see his worshippers die of hypothermia, landslide or even asphyxiation. People have been taking pilgrimages for ages, but never has the surge been so strong. The phenomenon can at best be described as part commerce, part resource mobilisation and part emancipation, and somewhere even politics as appears evident from the violence triggered by the Amarnath Yatra controversy.

It would be shameful to state that such things are bound to happen when millions soaked in devotions move together. It’s simply that we hardly learn from past mistakes. Does anyone remember that such a stampede had occured at the same temple, some three decades back too? Now if we term it divine injustice to have been made to bear with a similar tragedy again, then it’s the worst form of fatalism that grips our minds.

Millions visit important temples in the state every year and hundreds of them get killed in road accidents and now we may see stampedes getting common because we still have no answers to mob behaviour and still no clue about how to deal with it, except ordering inquiries and offering paltry compensations.

The fact that almost all major temples (at least the shakti peeths) in the state are treasure houses, with wealth worth millions being donated to the Gods, has little to do with what pilgrims get in return. Shabby infrastructure around these temple complexes narrates a pity tale of an underdeveloped society – not capable of handling the wealth it has. Interference by the government in managing the affairs of these religious places only adds to the problem. The politics that goes around in appointment of members of the boards that govern these temples leaves little scope for professionalism in handling the affairs of the temples.

It is high time the institution of temples is democratised in true sense, so that the next time a survivor of the Naina Devi stampede visits the shrine; he or she may feel blessed from within and not just by virtue of having made it to the temple.

Previous articleStampede at Naina Devi Mandir, 125 feared killed
Next article2 pilgrims die as truck rolls down a gorge; thousands at risk

No posts to display


  1. very well written article. Certainly professional management of these treasure troves is required. The question is who are the rightful stakeholders of these temples. Who will see real interest in developing the temple property if not the Government ?

  2. how well the government manages religious maters is evident from the ongoing struggle for a chunk of land for the Amarnath Shrine Board. And of course Babri masjid and terrorism in Punjab are things of the past.

Comments are closed.