The incident occurred at the Rajiv Marriage Palace in Dabwali, where the local DAV Public School was holding its annual prize distribution function.A synthetic tent, which had been set up inside the building, caught alight when an electric generator short-circuited. The fire spread quickly and blocked the main entrance; many of the deaths were caused by the resultant stampede as 1,500 people tried to escape through the single exit door. At least 400 people died in the fire, and another 160 were injured, half of them with serious burns. Some sources estimate that up to 540 people were killed, 170 of them being children and the rest adults.

Location Description:

A rectangular Pandal was constructed in the Rajiv Marriage Palace covering an area measuring 100' X 90'. The Pandal comprising steel super structure of GI Sheets on the top and partially covered on the three sides with a false ceiling supported with bamboo sticks. The lowest false ceiling wall inside the Pandal was at a height of 12 feet from the ground. The entire ceiling was made of cotton clothes in colorful designs and in chunri style. All the three sides of the Pandal were covered with thick cotton curtains tightly fitted with the bamboo support from the ground level to the height of first ceiling. The upper portions of the three sides of the Pandal were covered with PV Sheets. The front portion of the Pandal was covered with PV Sheets from inside up to the height of 12 feet. Thick cotton curtains on both sides of the gate were also fixed right from the ground level up to the height of 12 feet leaving a vacant space of 12' X 12' as entrance/exit gate. Both inner and upper curtains in the front portion were tightly tied with bamboos placed in between the angle frames and steel poles. The curtains of D-China cloth were fixed in hanging order on both sides of the entrance/exit gate of the Pandal. The lighting arrangements in the Pandal were described in the charge sheet submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the following words: "The pandal was provided with 12 electrical circuits through the switch board installed in the switch room towards eastern side of the pandal. There were 25 jhumar lights with electric bulbs of 100 watts each hanging from the false ceiling of the pandal. Beside, two halogen lights over the stage and other two halogen lights near the entry/exit gate of the pandal were also fixed. Besides, a number of temporary/loose connections were also provided in the pandal on the date of function.

Investigation Reports:

The report submitted by Mr. V.B. Gupta, Superintending Engineer, North Regional Electricity Board, New Delhi, in which the cause of fire was summed up as under:- "Based on the results of experiments conducted at site and discussions the most probable cause of fire appears to be the flash/spark created at the T-Joint above the main entrance to the pandal where a large number of loose electrical connections were made by the electrical operators for fitting the lighting equipments. The T-Joint was very close almost touching the curtains spread horizontally at 12' height above the main entrance. The spark from this T-Joint could have caused the fire in the curtain clothes. Once the cloth caught fire, the fire spread all around within few minutes bringing the whole of pandal into burning simultaneously".

Relying upon the opinions given by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory Experts in the field of Ballistics, Physics and Chemistry the Central Bureau of Investigation concluded that the incident was not caused by any sabotage as no explosive substance had been detected in the residue. The fire, according to the Central Bureau of Investigation, was caused due to short circuiting.

Mandi Dabwali Fire Accident – Haryana 1995 (Image Source: Yahoo News)