Today I would like to share with you the unbelievable story of one of the most beautiful temples in North Kerala, Ananthapura Lake Temple.
I came to know about this temple recently from a local television channel. I did a small research about the temple before making the plan to visit and was quite surprised by reading the story about the vegetarian crocodile ‘Babiya’ who is believed to be guarding the temple since many centuries. I was very curious as I have never heard about a crocodile who is totally vegetarian. The very next day I made my plan to visit the temple which is situated 42 Km from Mangalore where I live.
I started early morning from Mangalore. Mangalore to Kumbla, Kasargod took me an hour and 15 minutes and from Kumbla to Ananthapura village where the temple stands is around 6km drive. I was greeted by one of the temple staff at the entrance who is ardently narrating the legend about the temple. Along with the other visitors I listened to his story keenly.
The legend says Ananthapura temple is the origin place (Moolasthana) of Trivandrum Ananthapadmanabha Swami temple which recently became famous after opening the vaults which contains enormous treasure.
As per the legend, Sage Vilwamangalam used to reside here and do his rituals and poojas. One day Lord Mahavishnu appeared before him as a boy and requested to let him stay with him. When the childly pranks of the boy became unbearable for the sage, he pushed the boy aside. The boy disappeared into a nearby cave and told the sage, “If you want to see me again, you come to Ananthakat” which is now the Ananthapadmanabha temple of Trivandrum.
The sage after realising that the boy is Lord Vishnu himself, went all the way following him to Trivandrum. He found Lord reclining on serpent chief Ananta. The sage offered Lord Mangoes in the dry shell of coconut which is still being followed as part of pooja in Ananthapadmanabha temple, Trivandrum.
One can see the cave when you go inside the temple. The cave is blocked with a gate. Unfortunately I couldn’t click the picture as photography is not allowed inside the temple.
Another unique feature of the temple is the Idol. Normally the idol placed in the temple is made out of a specific metal or from mixture of metals whereas here the idol is made out of medicines through a process called Katusarkara yogam. The Idol is in a real human form with bones , spinal cord and nerves (sapta nadi) made out of medicinal plants and dried coconut fibres.
The legends may or may not be true but I can assure you that the beauty of nature around the place will steal one’s heart. Apart from the rectangular lake on which the temple is built , there are 2 other ponds nearby. There are beautiful carvings and mural painings on outer wall of temple and few remains which shows the traditional Kerala architecture.
After spending some time in the temple I went to see Babiya, whom I was eagerly waiting to meet. I found Babiya’s story more incredible. The legend says when Lord Vishnu disappeared into the cave , Babiya appeared to guard the shrine. You will be thinking about the life span of the crocodile now. The same question ran in my mind too. Thats the mystery here and make this temple one of its kind. When Babiya dies another crocodile replaces it. Where the other ones come from is still unknown. In 1942 , a British soldier shot Babiya and killed it but the very next day another crocodile was found in the lake. Unbelievable isn’t it? The soldier was later found dead bitten by a snake after a week which is believed by the natives as revenge by serpent chief ‘Ananta’.
Babiya is given the offerings by devotees. This image is taken from web as the feeding time is at 12 in the afternoon and unfortunately I went there in the morning. Natives believe that only fortunate ones can see Babiya and it stays under water most of the time. I got a glimpse of its head when it came on the surface twice.
Its quite surprising that Babiya is Vegetarian. I had to believe it when I saw the amount of fish swimming nearby the crocodile without any fear.
My visit to Ananthapura was to quench the curiosity about Babiya and I came back with my head filled with incredible legends about the temple. The tranquil environment and the peace you get from there is worth mentioning.