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10 killed in India during stampede at Hindu festival

Ritual celebrations and heated tempers proved a deadly combination, police said Sunday, as 10 people were killed in a stampede at a Hindu festival in northern India.

The incident happened late Saturday when between 30,000 and 40,000 people brought their goats to a small private temple in Tildiha, a village in Bihar state, to sacrifice the animals and offer up prayers to the goddess Durga on the last day of a 10-day festival.

People started pushing, and tempers were short because most people had been fasting all day, said Aadesh Chitarmare, a district magistrate for the area.

As worshipers struggled to have their animals killed by ritual butchers, barricades intended to control the crowds collapsed, creating a massive human pileup.

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Four women and six men were killed in the melee, and at least 11 others were injured. “All the deaths were due to suffocation, not other types of injuries,” Chitarmare said.

By some accounts, about 30,000 goats were sacrificed Saturday at the temple about 120 miles southeast of Bihar’s capital, Patna.

The 10-day Navratri festival honors Durga, the Mother Goddess in the Hindu religion, which has a pantheon of 320 million gods. Religious gatherings are a major part of daily life in the world’s second-most populous nation after China, attracting people from across the social spectrum.

Poorly trained police and massive crowds at religious festivals and other gatherings have left India with a history of deadly stampedes, including about 60 fatalities in an incident this year at a Hindu temple, about 140 deaths in a temple stampede in 2008, and about 300 deaths during a pilgrimage in 2005.

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mark.magnier@latimes.com

Anshul Rana in The Times’ New Delhi Bureau contributed to this report.


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