The victims crowded the rail track on the outskirts of Amritsar, a city in Punjab state.
Navjot Kaur Siddhu, a local Congress party politician who was the chief guest at the religious function, said the celebrations take place in the area every year and railroad authorities are alerted to run the trains at slow speeds. People were found standing on the railway tracks when the train rammed into the people and killed almost 50 people and there are many more who are injured. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said that he is rushing to the incident site and to monitor the relief work. One official said the local response was on par with a "war footing" as emergency workers tended to the dead and injured.
Indian officials went to the site of the accident to personally oversee rescue operations. The injured have rushed to nearby hospitals.
#WATCH Amritsar accident: Police Commissioner SS Srivastava says, "Exact death toll is not known but it is definitely more than 50-60".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences.
Free treatment at government and private hospitals would also be offered to those injured, said Singh. "The tragedy is heart-wrenching", he tweeted.
Modi said he has asked officials to provide immediate assistance.
India's state railways, largely built during colonial rule, have an appalling safety record after decades of underinvestment in rail safety infrastructure, as the priority has remained more on keeping fares low for the 23 million passengers who use the network daily.
"Shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic train incident that occurred in Amritsar".
Following the train disaster in Punjab, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday cancelled his engagements in the U.S. and was on his way back to India.
"May God give strength to the bereaved and injured", Goyal tweeted.