Crocodilians have been around since the time dinosaurs roamed the planet, and have come to be apex predators. They are usually found at the edge of water bodies, waiting motionless for an unwary victim to get close enough for an ambush. Hence, a story of a crocodile who is fed prasadam by hand might come off as mythical, from a time long forgotten.
But that’s exactly what happens at Ananthapura Lake Temple in Kumbla, Kasaragod. Legend has it that Sri Vilvamangalathu Swami was engaged in deep penance to please his tutelary deity, Lord Vishnu. The God visited him in the form of a child every day and played pranks to test his devotee. One day, the Swami got irritated and push the boy with the back of his hand. The boy vanished into a cave closeby and a divine voice echoed, “Now if you want to see me, come to Ananthankadu” (the forest of the Serpent King Anantha). This is when the sage realised his folly and chased after the boy. He went through the cave and reached the seashore. He went southwards in search of Ananthankadu, and reached Thiruvananthapuram. Here, he had a divine vision of Lord Vishnu. This was also the spot where the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple would be built later, and hence, Ananthapura Lake Temple is said to be the Moolasthanam (original seat) of Ananthapadmanabha Swami.
The cave in which the boy disappeared still exists at the North-East corner of the lake, and it is this cave that the crocodile is said to guard. Fondly called, Babiya, this crocodile guardian is fed prasadam from the temple every day. The prasadam comprises of rice and jaggery, and it is believed that it the only thing that Babiya eats; if this is true, he’s one of the two vegan crocs we’ve heard of! (The other one being Gangaram in Chhattisgarh)
It is believed that each time one of these crocodilian guardians die, another one takes its place. Another legend associated with the temple and its mysterious guardian talks of this phenomenon. About 70 years ago, a British soldier killed the guardian crocodile. The soldier died sooner after from a snake bite (which is believed to be punished doled on him by Anantha), and a new temple guardian appeared to patrol the lake.
So the next time you make a trip to Kasaragod, go say “Hi” to this gentle giant. If you have met him already, tell us your experience in the comments section.