It was definitely not god's will. This is what every "god-fearing" citizen of the country is saying as news channels beamed footages of victims, who died in Kerala's Kollam temple tragedy. More than 110 people died after firecrackers caused a massive fire at the Puttingal temple in the coastal town of Paravur in the Kollam district on Sunday (April 10).
Several injured are said to be critical and fighting for their lives. The massive scale of the tragedy, as hundreds have died and injured, is nothing less than a national calamity.
However, it is difficult to imagine such a huge crisis visiting a religious place. After all, the very mention of a temple, church or a mosque conjures up the images of a group of devotees with folded hands asking for almighty's blessing.
To see dead bodies strewn near a crumbled temple can shock both believers and non-believers alike.
Media reports say the temple authorities did not have the required permission to conduct the fireworks display.
Nonetheless, they went ahead with it in the name of continuing with their age-old tradition as the state is set to celebrate the New Year.
Blaming the temple authorities won't exonerate the administration for dereliction of duty. They should have ensured that pompous display of fireworks should not have taken place when there was no permission for it.
Louder the better
What about the role of temple patrons? Why do they always want grand and loud display of music and fireworks to mark festivals?
Festivals in Kerala are grand in nature. The temple authorities and devotees go to any extent to show their money power in hosting these festivals. Perhaps that is why several of these festivals have come under the scanner of animal rights activists for parading elephants as part of festivities.
Kerala, the hub of temple tragedies
Way back in 1952, Kerala witnessed a similar mishap. Around 68 people died and several were injured in a fireworks accident at the hill-shrine of Sabarimala.
According to statistics, in the last five decades Kerala has witnessed more than 400 temple-related accidents (both small and massive) where more than 400 people have died.
It's not just Kerala
Remember, what happened in March in Karnataka? Around 70 devotees suffered burn injuries after they accidently fell into the embers during a fire walk at a village in Tumakuru.
These people were attempting to walk on fire as part of a ritual at a temple for goddess Marammadevi near Tumkuru. One of the injured, a 35-year-old woman, died few days later.
In August 2015, at least 10 people died and 20 injured in a stampede at a temple in Deoghar in Jharkhand. In October 2013, more than 115 people died and 110 injured in a stampede in Ratangarh Mata Temple, Datia in Madhya Pradesh.
These are just few episodes of deadly stampedes in religious places in India. A quick search in google will show you a list of innumerable such stampede cases in last few decades where thousands have lost their lives.
No safety measures in place
Festival occasions are deadly times for temples, literally. These are the occasions when lakhs of devotees visit shrines of Hindu gods and goddesses. Unfortunately, often the administrations don't take necessary measures to have a safety net in place to avoid any untoward incident.
Every time a tragedy strikes us, not only blame game erupts (most often political in nature), but our preparedness to face the calamity is also tested. Do we need to wait for the god's command to make places of worships safer for devotees before another catastrophe visits us?