The annual festival of Surya-kunda (Suryakund) is perhaps the best-attended event of the local Vaishnava babaji society, marking the passing of Siddha Sri Madhusudana Das Babaji. Surya-kunda is a small village located in western Uttar Pradesh, some 40 kilometers off Vrindavana, a solitary place with a number of resident Gaudiya Vaishnava hermits. This year's event ended with a grand disaster — temple roof caved in, dozens dead and many more wounded.
Throughout the three-hour program of songs and processions around the village, people have taken advantage of the temple rooftop for a premium view of the program. The roof is particularly crammed at the concluding feast towards the afternoon, hosting up to hundreds of visitors from the total participation easily reaching over a thousand.
At the closing of the festival, as almost everyone had concluded their meals and began to move about, the ashram roof caved in on top of the crowds sitting in the large temple hall below. Many mahantas, important religious leaders from around the area of Vraja, along with hundreds of others, were taking their meals downstairs at the time of the accident, with hundreds more sitting on the falling roof.
Dozens are estimated dead, though no exact information is available as of yet. Participants smeared with blood were seen running around, wounded or mangled by the crashed building materials. Fractured skulls, fatal blood-loss and maimed limbs — the less fortunate were carried to their final rest. Apparently the supporting pillar of the building had given in, leading the entire roof to crash.
Some died on the spot, some on the way to the hospital, and some in the hospital. Exact information is yet to come in. An Italian devotee fell through the roof, but got off with a bit of blood and managed his own way home. Reports indicate that among the casualties was a well-built, hairy, bearded babaji, resident of Radha Colony, dressed in raggish clothes — very likely to be the same Bhakticharan Das Babaji with whom I lived last winter.
The social convention of segregating the sexes in religious festivals tells, assuming this year's seating arrangements followed the long-established trend of the event, that the majority of victims were men. Men are given places inside the temple and on the roof, women have a separate large area on the outdoors temple premises.
A disaster of this magnitude is likely to hit the news soon. News follow-ups will be posted to the comments-section. The information for this report was received from Malati Dasi, a participant herself, fresh off the spot. Background information mine.