8 February 2016

Tragedy at Ayyankulam Tank Function

Sadly, tragedy occurred at the Ayyankulam Tank this morning during the Mahadhaya Maha Punniya Kalam 2016 ceremonies. 

At least four people drowned in the Ayyankulam Tank and a number of others were injured when a stampede broke out as hundreds of devotees jostled to bathe in the Theertham on the auspicious occasion of Mahodaya Amavasya. 

West Gate. Theerthavari would be performed by priests standing in the water on the bottom steps

It is reported that around 7,000 devotees gathered around the tank to witness the dipping of the presiding deity in the water (theerthavari) on the occasion of the Mahodaya Thai (Tamil month) Amavasya (new moon day), which occurs once in 30 years.

Temple Priests had performed special poojas for the Trident and the Gods Lord Arunachelswarar and Sri Abhidhakujambal since midnight of the previous day which culminated in 'Maha Deeparathanai' (aarti). The ceremony was then to be followed by "theerthavari" (holy dip) early this morning. 

Background. Raja Gopuram of Big Temple, Arunachala

Reports state that the stampede occurred when a procession was taking the deity towards the temple pond. It has also been reported that when the Western Gate of the Tank was opened around 6.45am, devotees rushed forward to the tank which led to a stampede. 

Ayyankulam Tank: View from top of Steps, West Gate

Immediately after the tragedy Police sealed the tank entrance and rescued about 50 people who were trapped in the stampede. Fire and rescue services personnel rushed to the spot and rescued the injured. 

I will post additional information as things become clearer. 

Heartfelt condolences to all those involved in this sad accident.


Itinerant Yogi said...

Terribly sad news Meenakshi.

Divya said...

So tragic! May the unfortunate deceased Rest in Peace. I have my own experience of being crushed in the crowd, one MahaSivarathri day in Puttaparthi. I was the bottom layer, two or three others laying on the cement floor beside me and one or two others fallen on top of me, with hundreds of others ready to trample us. Luckily the Seva Dals forced everyone back and dug us out, safe and sound. Religious fever in India can be scary and dangerous!

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Today received information from someone connected with the Big Temple who was at yesterday's function. And now I feel much happier -- in his own words, "We don't feel sad because it was very peaceful and we didn't even know till after the function what had happened. One victim was a Temple Gurukkal and the other three were devotees who have done excellent service over the years to the Temple Gods. It was such a big, important day and what happened was like God just took them home."

I will be making a number of postings of the Festival over the next few days, which I hope will make this incident seem through Divine Grace, more celebratory than sad.