The boats, which had between 20 and 25 people on board, tipped over in Bhopal as worshippers were about to immerse an idol of the Hindu elephant god Ganesha.

Rescuers conduct a search operation on a lake in Bhopal in the central Indian state for Madhya Pradesh on Friday, September 13, 2019.
Rescuers conduct a search operation on a lake in Bhopal in the central Indian state for Madhya Pradesh on Friday, September 13, 2019. (AP)

At least 12 people drowned in a lake in central India on Friday morning when their boats capsized during a religious ceremony, authorities said.

The boats, carrying 20 to 25 people on board, tipped over in the early hours in Bhopal as they were about to immerse an idol of the Hindu elephant god Ganesha.

"Twelve bodies have been retrieved so far and (the) search is on for one more person," the National Disaster Response Force said in a statement.

Police officer Akhil Patel said five people were rescued from the lake in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state.

The boat tilted and capsized while the worshippers were immersing a big idol of Hindu god Ganesh into the lake, Patel said.

This week marks the end of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, when colourfully decorated idols of Ganesha are immersed in water.

Hindus are celebrating the birthday of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. Ganesh is the symbol of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.

Boats are often overloaded, which lead to frequent accidents in India. Most boats operate in rural areas without life jackets.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies