It was another black January 14 for Sabarimala pilgrims with Friday night's stampede tragedy being the third in the history of the hill shrine.
The first tragedy shook the shrine on January 14, 1952, when it was gutted in a fire caused by an explosion of fireworks, leaving 66 Ayyappa pilgrims dead.
The present shrine was rebuilt in place of the older one. In 1998, 52 pilgrims died following a stampede at Pampa, which also occurred on January 14 after 'Makara Jyothi' darshan.
As had happened on Friday, there was huge rush on that day also and most of the victims were from Andhra Pradesh. Friday's stampede that claimed 104 lives at Vandiperiyar is the third major mishap connected with Sabarimala temple.
Lakhs of pilgrims converge at the holy shrine to watch the 'Makara Jyothi', a bright flame that flickers three times on a remote hillside of Ponnambalamedu every year. The number of devotees keeps growing each pilgrimage season.
After the 1998 tragedy, the government had been taking great care and scientific planning for crowd management. As a result of this, the pilgrimage season had been largely incident-free since then.
The current pilgrim season had gone on smoothly till its final phase but for the shocking tragedy that happened on Friday night.