Millions rushed to Hindu temples across India on Thursday after reports of a miracle - the statues of one of their gods were drinking milk.
The faithful - bearing milk in everything from earthen and steel pots to tumblers and jugs - converged on temples that had reproductions of the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha.
“It is a miracle,” said A.K. Tiwari, a priest at a temple in southern New Delhi.
Scientists dismissed that explanation, saying the offered milk trickled down the granite or marble idols in a thin film that was not easily visible.
Crowds thronged temples in dozens of cities, including New Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. There was no way to estimate the overall number of people going to the temples. But a city such as New Delhi has about 5,000 roadside temples, and crowds of up to 300 per temple were reported.
Police and paramilitary soldiers were called out to guard temples across India. In the northern town of Jamshedpur, police waved bamboo canes to control a crowd of 500 that tried to storm a temple.
Milk shortages were also reported. In Calcutta, cafes stopped offering customers milk with tea and instead sold the milk for 10 times the normal price.
Tiwari, the priest, said the excitement began early Thursday when a devotee dreamed that the deity wanted milk. When the man, who wasn’t identified, held a spoonful of milk near the statue’s trunk, the milk disappeared.
Word spread quickly.