HYDERABAD: At least 22 people were killed and dozens injured in a stampede on Tuesday during a Hindu religious bathing festival in southern India.

The stampede occurred in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh state as tens of thousands of people pushed forward to bathe in the Godavari River during the Pushkaralu festival, said Arun Kumar, a state administrator.

The stampede was triggered by some pilgrims who were trying to retrieve their shoes, which had fallen off in the rush to the river bank, police said.

Kumar said the incident happened not long after the 12-day bathing festival started in the early morning hours.

An additional 34 people were hospitalized with injuries, Kumar said.

Festival participants believe a bath in the river can rid them of their sins.

Rajahmundry is 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Hyderabad, the joint capital of Andhra Pradesh and newly created Telangana state.

Nearly 24 million people are expected to take part in the 12-day festival at varying points along the Godavari River, which flows through the two states.

Deadly stampedes are fairly common during Indian religious festivals, where large crowds gather in small areas with few safety or crowd control measures.

In October 2013, a stampede in Madhya Pradesh state in central India killed more than 110 people, mostly women and children.