By Acarya Dasa
Our pāda-yātrā party was in the Kumbla area, Kerala on September 17th. We decided to visit Anantapur located 4 kilometers away, where there is a temple of Lord Anantapadmanabha. There is an Anantapadmanabha temple in Thiruvananthapuram as well, the one in Anantapur is considered similar.
The pastime of Lord Anantapadmanabh
It was here, where the temple is now, that the great brahman sage Vilwamangalam did penance and performed pujas. It is said that one day Lord Narayana in the form of a child appeared before him. The boy’s face glowed radiantly overwhelming the sage. He was anxious to know who the child was. The boy replied that he had no father, mother or anyone waiting for him at home. Vilwamangalam took pity on the boy and allowed him to stay with him. Before agreeing, the boy had one condition: if he ever felt humiliated he would leave at once. After staying and serving the sage for some time the boy’s juvenile pranks started to become intolerable for Vilwamangalam. One day he shouted at the boy; humiliated, the child said he was leaving and if Vilwamangalam wanted to see him he would have to go to Ananthankat, the forest of the serpent God, Anantha. Then he disappeared.
The sage soon realized that the boy was none other than the Lord himself and he repented for his mistake. He went in search of the Lord and found the cave where He had disappeared. Vilwamangalam proceeded further and further into the cave until he reached the sea at the other end. He then walked south until he reached a woody area near the sea. There he saw the Lord in the form of the child, but He quickly disappeared into a huge Illippa tree (Indian butter tree or Mahua tree). As soon as the Lord disappeared the tree fell and assumed the shape of Lord Vishnu lying on a thousand hooded serpent.
Ananthapura Lake Temple & Babia the crocodile
Sri Padmanabha (Lord Vishnu, The Preserver) is seated on the serpent god Adisesha and is the presiding deity of the ‘Ananthapura Lake Temple’. The temple is situated in the center of the Ananthapura Lake, on a remote rocky hill in a calm isolated region. It is the only ‘lake’ temple in Kerala and it is believed to be the original seat (Moolasthana) of the Ananthapadmanabha Swami (also known as Padmanabhaswami temple) in Thiruvananthapuram. The temple is also unique in that it is guarded by a vegetarian crocodile. Babia, the crocodile is said to be the local guardian and messenger of the temple. It is said that Babia has been living in the lake for the past 60 or more years and lives in a nearby cave. After the daily worship, food offered by devotees is fed to Babia at noon. The meal is a sort of gruel made from rice and jaggery (molasses). Babia does not eat anything else, he eats only what is offered to him by the temple officials. When called Babia comes out and eats whatever is offered to him. He doesn’t harm anyone, not even the fish in the lake. There is only one crocodile in the lake at a time and when one crocodile dies, another one appears.
We all took darśana of the Lord and we also saw the crocodile.
Lord Anantapadmanabha ki! Jai!