An 80-year-old vegetarian crocodile famous for guarding a Hindu temple in India was celebrated by hundreds during a formal funeral proceeding this week.
The crocodile, named Babiya or Babia, had been the sole guardian of the 3,000-year-old Sri Ananthapadmanabha Swamy Temple at Ananthapura in Kasaragod, Kerala, for over seven decades, according to Times of India. Sources believe the animal had been suffering from age-related issues.
She was reported missing on Saturday, Oct. 8. And temple officials found her dead in a pond around 11 pm the following day.
For Babiya’s funeral, temple officials put her on public display inside a mobile freezer where people covered her with flowers and wreaths. And priests said the last rites in accordance with Hindu customs and tantric rituals.
“The temple remained closed and routine poojas were suspended till 4 pm. The crocodile was given a ‘samadhi’ on temple land outside the temple walls,” said temple manager Lakshmana Hebbar P.
Officials said that Babiya’s burial spot will allow them to construct a memorial in the future once senior priests grant permission.
Temple Officials Await a New Divine Crocodile
The crocodile was one of many semi-aquatic animals that had guarded the temple in the past. She first appeared in the pond in the 1940s. No one knows where she came from. But legend says she walked onto the sacred grounds shortly after a British soldier killed the previous guardian.
“Sometime after [the killing], Babia appeared in the lake,” said Jeernodhara Samithi Ramachandra Bhat. “And over the decades she became a part of the family of everyone in the temple. We all are heartbroken. We could barely contain ourselves as we pulled the carcass out of the lake.”
During its life, the crocodile lived entirely off of boiled rice, which priests offered twice a day. Over the decades, people flocked to the site to see the divine crocodile. Officials say, people, even children, would touch Babiya for its blessing. And he never harmed them. In fact, Bhat recalled a time when a few children fell on top of the crocodile and she did not react.
With the animal’s passing, priests are awaiting the arrival of a new guardian. The Sri Ananthapadmanabha Swamy Temple has had a crocodile watching over it since its founding. And according to its website, once one passes, a new crocodile wanders onto the grounds shortly after.
“We believe another crocodile will now appear in her place,” Bhat added. “That is what has been happening for centuries. We have faith that it will happen again.”