Ananthapura Lake Temple is a Hindu temple built in the middle of a lake in the little village of Ananthapura, Kasaragod District of Kerala, South India, at around 6 km from Kumbla. This is the only lake temple in Kerala and is believed to be the original seat (Moolasthanam) of Anantha padmanabha Swami (Padmanabha Swamy temple) Thiruvananthapuram. Legend has it that this is the original site where Ananthapadmanabha settled down.
The lake in which the Sanctum Sanctorum is built measures about 2 acres (302 feet square). An interesting spot to keep in mind while visiting the temple is a cave to the right corner of the lake. According to the local legend, the deity Anantha Padmanabha chose to go all the way to Thiruvananthapuram through that cave. Hence both the places retain similar names, in spite of being on either end of the region.
The past of the temple is still obscure except for some myths. It was at this place where Divakara Muni Vilwamangalam, the great Tulu Brahmin sage, did penance and performed poojas. Legend has it that one day Lord Narayana appeared before him as a child. The boy’s face was glowing with radiance and this overwhelmed the sage. He became anxious and asked who he was. The boy replied that he had no father no mother and none at home. Vilwamangalam felt pity for the boy and allowed him to stay there. The boy proposed a condition that whenever he feels humiliated he will leave the place at once. He served the sage for sometime. But soon his juvenile pranks became intolerable for the sage and he reacted violently. Humiliated the boy disappeared from there after proclaiming that if Vilwamangalam wants to see him he would have to go to Ananthankat, the forest of serpent god Anantha.
Vilwamangalam soon realized that the boy was none but the lord himself and he had great repentance. He found a cave at the place where the boy disappeared and he proceeded further into the cave in search of the boy. He reached the sea and proceeded further toward the south and at last he reached a woody area near the sea. Vilwamangalam saw the child who soon disappeared into huge illippa tree (Indian butter tree or Mahua tree). Immediately the tree fell down and assumed the shape of Lord Vishnu lying on a thousands hooded serpent.
The temple also has yet another interesting tale to tell – the story of the guardian crocodile. From very ancient times, one crocodile has been seen there. Though devotees used to take bath in the tank there is no instance of it harming anyone. Babia is the name by which this guardian is known to the world. It is the local guardian and the messenger of the temple. The only food that Babia takes is the offerings of the devotees. Usually it is a special gruel made of rice and molasses. After the worship, the feed offered by devotees is given to Babia at noon. Temple authorities claim that Babia is a vegetarian and has never harmed anyone including the fishes in the pond.
There is an interesting local legend that narrates the entire story behind the guardian crocodile. Once Sree Vilvamangalathu Swami, devotee of Lord Vishnu, was doing penance for his favourite lord. While he was in his prayers, Lord Krishna in the form of a little boy appeared and started disturbing him. Being annoyed by the behaviour of this child, the saint pushed Lord Krishna aside with his left hand. The boy immediately disappeared into a nearby cave and the truth dawned on the saint. The crevice into which Krishna is said to have disappeared is still there. The crocodile guards the entrance and the shrine.
In 1945, when the British soldiers were stationed there, one soldier shot dead the crocodile. To the surprise of everyone the soldier died within few days by a snake-bite. People believe it to be a revenge by the serpent god Anantha. Soon another crocodile appeared in the tank and even now if one is fortunate one can see it. The legend goes that there is only one crocodile in the lake at a time. When one crocodile dies, another one appears in the lake. The devotees pay great respect to this crocodile.