Sabarimala stampede deaths tear apart brothers

The brothers had been regular visitors to the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala for the past few years.

A shocked Lekshamana, who has not yet come to terms with the tragedy, said he had seen his brother being trampled in the stampede but was unable to help him. Thousands of pilgrims were returning to their home towns on January 14 night after witnessing 'Makarajyothi' (celestial light on the eastern horizon that marks culmination of the two month long Sabarimala pilgrimage) when the stampede occurred.

Similar was the tragedy that befell one among three brothers -- Krishna Prashant (34), a regular to the famous hill shrine for the last 10 years with his brothers Krishna Prateesh (33) and Krishna Pramod (27).

The brothers had been taking the Pullmedu route for the past few years as the Pamba route is usually very crowded. This year turned tragic for Krishna Prashant as he was killed in the stampede. He is survived by his wife and a four-year-old son.

Hailing from Palakkad, the brothers have settled at Kulithura in Tamil Nadu. For a 13 member pilgrim team from Belgaum in Karnataka, the magnitude of the calamity was all the more as they lost seven of their members in the stampede.

At Kumily government hospital, where most of the stampede victims were brought in, a weeping Govinda, who led the team, clutched onto a photograph of all of them taken at Gokarana temple,a well known pilgrim centre in Karnataka.

The six killed were Balappa (40), Pramod Shiva Puthrappa (22), Chandrakant (30), Prakash (35), Eashwaraj (30) and Siddhramalappa (28). Ashok from Tripunithura, who went with a seven-member team to Sabarimala, lost his friend Unnikrishnan in the tragedy.

He said there were no restrictions for autorickshaws this year and many autorickshaws and other small vehicles were seen in large numbers at Pullmedu. "Autorickshaws charged Rs 300 to Rs 600 to transport pilgrims to Pullmedu," Aneesh said.

As there was a huge increase in the number of pilgrims using the route, small vendors set up shops further clogging the narrow roads, he said.

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