In the olden days, temples were mostly built close to a water body – it could be a river, stream or pond. But what makes the temple at Ananthapura unique is that it stands right in the middle of a pond.
The temple, situated near Bekal in Kasargod, is considered the original seat of lord Padmanabha, the deity at Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Both temples have Lord Padmanabha as the presiding deity.
There is an interesting myth that connects both the temples. It is believed that Vilwamangalam swami, a holy man, used to perform the rituals at Ananthapura lake temple. He had a helper boy, whereabouts of whom was unknown.
The boy was very naughty and pestered the swami often. Once, the swami felt annoyed over the boy’s tantrums and pushed him aside. The boy was thrown to the ground. But he got up quickly and told the swami that if he wished to see him again, the swami had to come to the forest of Anantha. The youngster then vanished.
Vilwamangalam swami, realising that the boy was no one else but lord Vishnu, travelled southwards in search of the place. He soon reached Anantha forest and recognizing the divine presence there, consecrated lord Padmanabha at the spot. The forest of Anantha is now the city of Thiruvananthapuram.
Another attraction of Ananthapura lake temple is Babia, the ‘vegetarian’ crocodile. It feeds on the rice offered as part of the rituals to the deity which the priests drop in the lake. Devotees believe that the crocodile does not even prey on the fish in the lake. But a sight of Babiya is a rare occurrence and considered auspicious.
During the British rule, the authorities had shot dead a crocodile in the lake. But the harmless crocodile which is seen now appeared soon afterwards. From where, no one knows - it is considered to have come on its own!
The idol of lord Padmanabha at Ananthapura temple is made from ‘kadusarkara’, an alloy distinct from ‘panchaloha’ or granite. It is made up of 64 constituents, which include jaggery, wax, groundnut oil and powdered wheat.
There are several murals in the temple, which were created using natural colours. A striking aspect of the paintings is that they are over a thousand year old.
To reach Ananthapura lake temple, one has to travel about 25km from Bekal.