Critical Commentary by Sarah Halvorsen

Posted on February 25, 2013 by


Just recently in India one of the local officers, Azam Khan, resigned from his position of being in charge of security during the Kumbh Mela Festival. He resigned because of the deadly stampede that broke out in a train station located in Allahabad. This local official’s job was to keep control over the “tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims flocking to the banks of the Ganges River,” and make sure that everyone was not in any danger in any way. Unfortunately, in this horrible event 36 people were killed and more than 30 people were injured.

You may ask: “What was happening in order for a stampede to take place?” Well that answer is simple. It happened because people wanted to take a bath. A bath? What is so special about taking a bath, we do it everyday? Well….

This bathing is during the Kumbh Mela Festival, which is a 55-day long religious tradition for the Hinduism belief that only occurs every 12 years at this specific location in all of India (however every third year the location changes to another sacred river bank in India). This festival is a congregation of roughly 40 million people which has become the “world’s largest religious gathering.”

With such an incredible dedication to this religious gathering from millions of Hindu people, one would expect that there would be ample preparation. Nevertheless, any event can take a turn for the worse, even if everyone was as prepared as they could be at the time. Things happen and you have to make do with what you have in the current situation. In reading the story from online there are four different stories to try and explain how the stampede of people started in the first place. In the first explanation Khan (who also happens to be in charge of an urban development in Allahabad) states that he will take all responsibility for the accident. Another story comes from some eyewitnesses who believe that the police are to blame, because they charged at the large crowds in the train station. One last story that was created was of “a person falling from a platform bridge.” However, the most up-to-date reason is that there simply were too many people on the platform, a problem of overcrowding.

After reading this article I know that I have a deeper appreciation for these Hindu traditions, because the Hindu people have such a deep faith and respect for their beliefs and traditions. Millions of people are willing to leave their homes in order to share a sacred common practice. In my own opinion I know that I would not want to go take a bath with millions of other naked people in a not so sanitary river. However, I do think that what those millions of people do is incredible, not to mention that they do it continuously every three years, it is not just a one-time deal. On the other, I have to wonder how the security could not have been tighter and more organized so overcrowding would not have been a problem and this tragic stampede would not have happened. The security did know that all those people would be arriving, so it is not like they did not have the opportunities to have a successful security setup for the Kumbh Mela Festival. 

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