World's Largest Religious Festival: Stampede in India Claims 36 Lives

A stampede in India on Sunday resulted in the death of 36 victims, predominately older women, as millions rushed to take part in the world's largest religious festival at a temporary city in Allahabad, northern India.

The tragedy reportedly occurred at the train station located in the northern city of Allahabad, where a stampede took place as thousands scurried to board a train that would take them to the site of the Kumbh Mela festival, a two-month -long festival that takes place at a makeshift city featuring a long, sandy bank that represents the intersection of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers.

Sunday was said to be one of the most holy days to bathe in the rivers as part of the festival, and the temporary city, which is constructed four times every 12 years for the festival, saw an attendance of 30 million Hindu pilgrims in one day.

According to Reuters, the reason for Sunday's stampede remains unknown. Some reports indicate that a train conductor had announced a change in platform, initiating a mass rush among those eager to catch their train.

Other reports indicate that police used batons to control the crowd, resulting in panic and a stampede. While still others said a footbridge handrail collapsed, causing many travelers to fall on top of one another and many to be crushed.

As Reuters contends, 27 of the dead were women, predominately elderly and poor, and an eight-year-old child was also found trampled to death.

While some blame police action for the cause of the stampede, the police argues that the mass rush is a result of poor planning among train station officials.

"It was simply a case of overcrowding. People were in a hurry to go back and there were not enough arrangements by the railway authorities," Arun Kumar, a senior police officer, told The Associated Press.

The Kumbh Mela festival will see up to 100 million pilgrims over its two-month duration.

According to Hindu mythology, the festival marks the victory of good over evil among gods and demons, and is held four times, in the Indian cities of Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar, every twelve years.

Hindus believe that if they wash themselves in the Ganges River during one of the most holy of the festival days, they will be cleansed of their sins.