Thirty-two people have been killed in a stampede in northern India during a Hindu festival.

The stampede occurred at the Gandhi Maidan in the state of Bihar, where thousands of people had gathered to celebrate the festival of Dusshera, a Hindu festival which celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

The crowd surged as rumours spread that an electrical cable had fallen on people, prompting them to leave the venue where an effigy of the demon God Ravana was set ablaze.

Home secretary of the state of Bihar, Amir Subhani confirmed the reports, saying: "Thirty-two people have died in the stampede ... A few dozen people could be injured. Senior officials are at the hospital, including the Health Secretary, and treatment is being ensured."

The celebrations were organised by the government, but eye witnesses said there was a lack of safety measures in place to control the large crowd.

People who had been separated by their families in the crush were desperately scouring the hospitals for their missing relatives at hospitals.

Protests also broke out as distraught family members shouted anti-government slogans against the administration.

Large crowds at religious festivals have been a major concern for authorities after several similar tragedies.

In February this year, a stampede killed 36 people at the Kumbh festival, the largest gathering of religious pilgrims in the world, and in October last year, a stampede in Ratangarh in central India killed 115 people.

The police have launched an investigation into the latest incident.