This comes under the banner of the truly ironic. I read in the Sydney Morning Herald today that more than 140 people have been trampled to death in a stampede in Jodhpur in western India. The people were Hindus on a pilgrimage to the 15th-century Chamunda Devi temple. There was a long, narrow passage that became a death trap when the people were gripped by some kind of panic.
Now, you’d think that this would be the ideal opportunity for a bit of divine intervention, no? Or, if a god or gods were being honoured by the pilgrimage of thousands of faithful, you would think that said gods wouldn’t let something like this happen in the first place. Shouldn’t the people be gripped by a holy calm rather than a panic?
A senior state government official, Kiran Soni Gupta, said, “We have lost over 140 lives due to suffocation. This was a chance accident.”
And indeed it was, in one of those moments that are actually not that uncommon. This particular deadly stampede was the fourth in India this year. The annual Haj to Mecca has a body count that Arnie and Sly Stallone could never hope to top in their most brutal movies combined:
# On July 2, 1990, a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel (Al-Ma’aisim tunnel) leading out from Mecca towards Mina and the Plains of Arafat led to the deaths of 1,426 pilgrims.
# On May 23, 1994, a stampede killed at least 270 pilgrims at the stoning of the Devil ritual.
# On April 9, 1998, at least 118 pilgrims were trampled to death and 180 injured in an incident on Jamarat Bridge.
# On March 5, 2001, 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in a stampede during the stoning of the Devil ritual.
# On February 11, 2003, the stoning of the Devil ritual claimed 14 pilgrims’ lives.
# On February 1, 2004, 251 pilgrims were killed and another 244 injured in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.
Of course, hundreds, even thousands of deaths at a specifically religious event are considered a terrible accident; pure chance. One grilled cheese sandwich with the hazy image of a Messiah on it is a Divine Miracle. Let’s all look up Pareidolia for our homework.
In a slightly similar vein, I was greatly entertained today by Michael Fridman’s post at A Nadder!, where he equates books of the Bible with their very modern counterparts. Why are some mythologies still causing deaths by the thousand while others are considered nothing more than fairy stories? After all, a religion is nothing more than a myth that some people still believe to be the truth.