Another black Jan 14 for Sabarimla pilgrims

Sabarimala, Jan 15 (PTI) It was another black January14 for Sabarimala pilgrims with last night''s stampede tragedybeing the third in the history of the hill shrine.

The first tragedy shook the shrine on January 14,1952, when it was gutted in a fire caused by explosion offireworks leaving 66 Ayyappa pilgrims dead. The present shrinewas rebuilt in place of the older one.

In 1998, 52 pilgrims died following a stampede atPampa, which also occurred on January 14 after Makara Jyothi''darshan. As had happened yesterday, there was huge rush onthat day also and most of the victims were from AndhraPradesh.

Last night''s stampede that claimed 104 lives atVandiperiyar is the third major mishap connected withSabarimala temple.

Lakhs of pilgrims converge at the holy shrine to watchthe ''Makara Jyothi'', a bright flame that flickers three timeson a remote hillside of Ponnambalamedu, every year and thenumber of devotees keeps growing each pilgrimage season.

After the 1998 tragedy, the government had been takinggreat care and scientific planning for crowd management. As aresult of this, the pilgrimage season had been largelyincident-free since then.

The current pilgrim season had gone on smoothly tillits final phase but for the shocking tragedy that happenedlast night.

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