The Godavari Maha Pushkaram started off on a horrific note on Tuesday with 27 people being killed and 36 grievously injured in a stampede. The tragedy occurred when pilgrims in their thousands kept back while VIPs performed their pujas were suddenly let out to the bathing ghat.
Pilgrims rushed out of the gates like a pent-up river and in the stampede that ensued, many women, aged persons and children were trampled upon.
Amid the sea of frantic devotees, the distress of a few went unnoticed for some precious minutes and ambulances were constrained from getting closer as their paths were blocked by a teeming mass of people.
Such was the tide of pilgrims at the Pushkar bathing ghat in Rajahmundry that even Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s convoy was marooned when he arrived for his early morning holy dip in the Godavari.Unaware of other ghats
Many of the victims were people from the north coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, unaware that there were dozens of other ghats in the city where they could comfortably perform their rituals, as many of them were much larger than the Pushkar Ghat.
This was the ghat chosen for the benefit of the many VIPs, including the Chief Minister, who turned up in the morning to perform their holy dips. After the VIPs had bathed and left, the crowd that had built up since midnight was let out at once, triggering a stampede at the gates.