Rajpura (Punjab)/Shimla, August 4 : A mass funeral for 11 victims of the 'Naina Devi' temple stampede was organised in Rajpura in Patiala District of Punjab today.
Thirty children and 38 women were among those killed in the stampede that was apparently sparked off by rumours of a landslide at the hill shrine in Bilaspur District of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday.
Officials said most of the people died of suffocation as tens of thousands of pilgrims had converged at the shrine, located about 165 kilometres from Shimla, to celebrate the nine-day Shravan Navratra festival.
Police said rumours of a landslide spread through the crowd in the morning, causing panic. Pilgrims at the shrine began to flee down a narrow path and collided with crowds walking towards the temple. With a concrete wall on one side and a vertical drop on the other, many were crushed to death.
There were also reports that a railing at the shrine collapsed under the weight of the crowd, sending many people falling down a narrow, steep staircase.
Among those killed, 104 were from Punjab and 32 from Haryana
The Himachal Pradesh Government has ordered a commissioner-level inquiry into the incident.
The families of the victims bore the pain of the bereavement and consoled each other.
Children were brutally victimised as those who fell down were trampled by pilgrims running in panic.
"My wife wasn't there my kids were there. My daughter was 12 years old and my son was 8 years old. Both of them lost their lives. My relative's wife, two boys and two daughters even passed away," said Narenderpal, deceased's father.
In the emotionally charged aftermath of the stampede the Tibetan Buddhist monks-in-exile in Shimla offered special prayers for the pilgrims killed in stampede.
Nearly 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks organised special prayers in a monastery at Panthaghati in Shimla.
"Today we are doing these special prayers for those who died in Naina Devi temple stampede. Being a Buddhist and staying-in-exile we have sympathy with them. So today we are praying for the peace of their spirits and enlightenment for them," said Yonten, a monk.
Stampedes at temples are not uncommon in India where thousands of people gather to pray during festivals.
In 2005, about 265 pilgrims were killed in a stampede near a temple in Maharashtra.