Since ancient times, the Ananthapura lake temple is said to be protected by Babiya day and night. Babiya is a legend, who stays in the lake water where the temple is located.
According to local folklore, Sri Vilvamangalathu Swami, a fervent devotee of Lord Vishnu was meditating to win the favour from the Lord. While he was in deep meditation, Lord Krishna took on an avatar of a small boy and started disturbing the sage. Miffed by the behaviour of the little one, Sri Vilvamangalathu Swami thrust him aside. The sage later realised it was Lord Krishna, but it was too late, as the boy vanished into the cave that is located within the temple grounds. Since then, the entrance of the cave as well as the temple is said to be guarded by Babiya.
At any one time, there is always only one croc in the lake, and as bizarre as it may sound, each time the guardian crocodile dies, another one pops up mysteriously and takes on the job of guarding the temple. Strange, but true! And to this day, no one knows how each new crocodile appears in the lake. According to the legend, once a British soldier killed the guardian crocodile, and in no time, another crocodile was seen in the lake guarding the temple. But, within a few days, that British soldier died from a snakebite. Locals claim that the snake-god, Anantha, punished him for his wrongdoing.
According to the trustee of the temple, Ramachandra Bhatt, “the crocodile is a God’s messenger who alarms the temple patrons if anything strange happens in and around the premises as well as protects the shrine from evil”.
The vegetarian crocodile here is friendly and (since the soldier incident long agao) there has been no incidence of harming anyone, not even the fishes in the lake. Interestingly, Babiya doesn’t eat anything except the offerings (or ‘Prasad’) from the temple and eats only when the temple official feeds him.
Today, several thousands of devotees and tourists visit this temple to catch a glimpse of Babiya, the vegetarian crocodile. Though, Babiya doesn’t often show up, but if you’re lucky, you may chance upon the croc in the lake.
The Ananthapura lake temple and its deities
Dedicated to Ananthapadmanabha Swamy, the Ananthapura lake temple lies in the center of the Ananthapura lake which is 2 acres long, and is the only lake temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The walls of the temple are adorned with an impressive collection of ancient painting and intricate wooden carvings, and the deities of the temple were made of an unusual mix of over 70 medicinal substances, referred as ‘Kadu-Sharkara-Yogam’. Though, many of them are now in the form of Panchaloha metal.
Address: Ananthapura, Naikap, Kerala. +91 04998 214 360
How to get there: The nearest railway station is the Kasaragod railway station, approx. 9.3 miles away from the lake temple – you can take a cab for the rest of the way.