1954 Kumbh Mela stampede
|Date||3 February 1954|
|Location||Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India|
|Cause||failure of crowd control measures, presence of a large number of politicians|
1954 Kumbh Mela stampede was a stampede that occurred in 1954 at Kumbha Mela on 3 February 1954 in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh state in India. It was the main bathing day of Mauni Amavasya (New Moon), when the incident took place. During the festival 4-5 million pilgrims had taken part that year, which was also the first Kumbh Mela after the Independence.
The figures for the tragedy varied according to different sources. While The Guardian reported more than 800 people dead and over 100 injured, TIME reported "no fewer than 350 people were trampled to death and drowned, 200 were counted missing, and over 2,000 were injured". According to the book Law and Order in India over 500 were dead.
Reasons and aftermath
The Kumbh Mela gathering was traditionally used by politicians to connect with the Indian populace prior to India's Independence, and as this was the first Kumbh Mela after Independence, with more than 5 million pilgrims in Allahabad for the 40-day festival, many leading politicians had visited the city during the event. Compounding the failure of crowd control measures was not just the presence of a large number of politicians, but also the fact that the Ganges River had changed course and moved in closer to the Bund (embankment) and the city, reducing the available space of the temporary Kumbh township and restricting movement of the people. Ultimately what triggered the tragedy was that a surge of the crowd broke through the barriers separating them from a procession of sadhus and holy men of various akharas, resulting in a stampede.
After the event, Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru suggested that politicians and VIPs may not visit the Mela, who were all but exonerate along with the government after the inquiry of any wrongdoing. The judicial inquiry commission, set up after what was one of the worst stampedes in India's history, was headed by Justice Kamala Kant Verma, and its recommendation became the basis of better management for future Kumbh in the coming decades, where this tragedy stood as a grim reminder to Mela planners and district administrators. The subsequent Kumbh Mela organization remained event free after that, and grew considerably in size, so much so that around 80-100 million people took part in the 2010 Kumbh Mela, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.
In Popular Culture
- Kumbh Mela - Timeline What Is Hinduism?: Modern Adventures Into a Profound Global Faith, by Editors of Hinduism Today, Hinduism Today Magazine Editors. Published by Himalayan Academy Publications, 2007. ISBN 1-934145-00-9. 244
- The worst stampede was in Allahabad in 1954, killing 800. The Guardian, 28 August 2003.
- The Urn Festival TIME, 8 February 1960.
- 1954 Kumbh stampede Law and Order in India, by N. S. Saksena. Published by Abhinav Publications, 1987. ISBN 81-7017-216-0. Page 81, Page 164.
- Politics at the Kumbh Mela The Hindu, 23 January 2001.
- Maha Kumbh Mahakumbh: The Greatest Show on Earth, by J.S. Mishra. Published by Har-Anand Publications, 2007. ISBN 81-241-0993-1. Page 21.
- 1954 Kumbh stampede Can the Ganga be Cleaned?, by Brojendra Nath Banerjee. Published by B.R. Pub. Corp., 1989. ISBN 81-7018-544-0. Page 22.
- Paper 8 Title: Speaking to Subalterns/Subalterns Speaking: Pilgrims, Governments and the durghatna (tragedy) at the 1954 Kumbh Mela by Dr Kama Maclean, School of History, University of New South Wales, Australia.
- Millions bathe at Hindu festival BBC News, 3 January 2007.
- Kumbh Mela pictured from space - probably the largest human gathering in history BBC News, 26 January 2001.
- Kumbh Mela: the largest pilgrimage - Pictures: Kumbh Mela by Karoki Lewis The Times, 22 March 2008.