Sabarimala stampede deaths tear apart brothers

Kumily (Ker), Jan 16 (PTI) Death tore apart Raman andLekshamana, the 25-year-old twin brothers from Tamil Nadu whenthe former lost his life in the stampede at Pullmedu nearSabarimala, which has claimed 102 lives.

The brothers had been regular visitors to the hillshrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala for the past few years.

A shocked Lekshamana, who has not yet come to termswith the tragedy, said he had seen his brother being trampledin the stampede but was unable to help him.

Thousands of pilgrims were returning to their hometowns on January 14 night after witnessing ''Makarajyothi''(celestial light on the eastern horizon that marks culminationof the two month long Sabarimala pilgrimage) when the stampedeoccurred.

Similar was the tragedy that befell one among threebrothers -- Krishna Prashant (34), a regular to the famoushill shrine for the last 10 years with his brothers KrishnaPrateesh (33) and Krishna Pramod (27).

The brothers had been taking the Pullmedu route forthe past few years as the Pamba route is usually very crowded.

This year turned tragic for Krishna Prashant as he was killedin the stampede. He is survived by his wife and afour-year-old son.

Hailing from Palakkad, the brothers have settled atKulithura in Tamil Nadu.

For a 13 member pilgrim team from Belgaum inKarnataka, the magnitude of the calamity was all the more asthey lost seven of their members in the stampede.

At Kumily government hospital, where most of thestampede victims were brought in, a weeping Govinda, who ledthe team, clutched onto a photograph of all of them taken atGokarana temple,a well known pilgrim centre in Karnataka.

The six killed were Balappa (40), Pramod ShivaPuthrappa (22), Chandrakant (30), Prakash (35), Eashwaraj (30)and Siddhramalappa (28).

Ashok from Tripunithura, who went with a seven-memberteam to Sabarimala, lost his friend Unnikrishnan in thetragedy.

He said there were no restrictions for autorickshawsthis year and many autorickshaws and other small vehicles wereseen in large numbers at Pullmedu. "Autorickshaws charged Rs300 to Rs 600 to transport pilgrims to Pullmedu," Aneesh said.

As there was a huge increase in the number of pilgrimsusing the route, small vendors set up shops further cloggingthe narrow roads, he said.

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