A revered crocodile that lived in a pond outside of an Indian temple for decades received something of hero’s send-off this week when hundreds of mourners gathered for the great reptile’s funeral. The creature, dubbed Babia, reportedly resided in the waters around the Sri Ananthapadmanabha Swamy temple in the state of Kerala and was seen by many as a guardian of the sacred site, especially since the question of how it originally arrived in the unattached lake is a mystery. Believed to be divine by virtue of its enigmatic origin story and because it never showed aggression toward other animals or humans, the creature was also beloved by way of its unique diet, which was said to consist of only rice and sugar blessed by the temple priests rather than the fish that shared the pond with it.
As one might expect, given the Babia’s iconic status, sadness filled the air when the creature was discovered dead on Monday morning. Priests promptly set about giving the crocodile a proper burial by adorning its body with flowers, parading it through the streets of Kasaragod, which is the community where the temple is located, and then briefly displaying the creature in a transparent coffin in the center of the village. Hundreds of heartbroken residents flocked to the ceremony to pay their respects to the perceived holy reptile before it was buried at the site where it had famously stood guard for decades. In a testament to Babia’s cultural significance, India’s Agricultural Minister even took to Twitter to mourn the passing of the creature that she called “God’s crocodile.”