The annual religious festival in Kerala, south India, draws millions of pilgrims each year [AFP]

At least 100 Hindu pilgrims have been killed and scored injured in a stampede in the southern Indian state of Kerala, officials said.

Jaya Kumar, Kerala home secretary, said on Saturday that 102 people had been confirmed dead and dozens more injured, some of them seriously.

The Friday evening tragedy unfolded in a remote, mountainous area of southern Kerala as pilgrims made their way home from an annual ceremony at the hill shrine of Sabarimala that draws three to four million people each year.

Police officials said a packed jeep had lost control and ploughed into a crowd of devotees packed onto a narrow road in a hilly and densely forested area 10km from the shrine.

"The accident caused a mass panic and triggered a stampede on the hillside," Rajendra Nair, the police commissioner, said.

The search for bodies and survivors had been hampered by the remote location, heavy mist and the thick forest terrain.

The annual two-month Maravilakku festival attracts millions of worshippers to the remote temple of the Hindu deity Ayyappan.

RS Gavai, the governor of Kerala, expressed his sadness at the loss of life.

"I am deeply shocked and saddened at the tragic accident," he said.

"I share my profound grief of the bereaved families and pray for the speedy recovery of those injured."

Deadly stampedes have previously occurred at temples in India, where large crowds - sometimes hundreds of thousands of people - gather in congested areas with no real safety measures.

In March last year, police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh blamed lax safety for the deaths of 63 people in a stampede outside another Hindu temple.

At least another 10 people died in a stampede at a temple in the state of Bihar in October. In 2008, more than 145 people died in a stampede at a remote Hindu temple at the foothills of the Himalayas.

Source: Agencies