Babiya, the “vegetarian” crocodile that inhabited the famous lake temple of the coastal region – Ananthapura Sri Ananthapadmanabha Swamy Temple near Kumble in Kasaragod-died on Sunday. Sources said that the crocodile was suffering from age-related illness.

The crocodile, which is believed to be around 80 years old, lived on the ‘naivedya’ given every day after the daily puja.

Devotees would eagerly wait to see the crocodile, which used to come out of the lake hearing the sound of the temple’s bell in the afternoon. For most devotees, a visit to the Ananthapura temple was incomplete if they did not catch a glimpse of Babiya.

Devotees considered Babiya as the reincarnation of the deity and the protector of the temple, which is around 46km from Mangaluru. Lakhs of netizens have been sharing the news of the crocodile’s death. Thousands thronged the temple to have a last glimpse of Babiya.

Special arrangements were made for people to have ‘darshan’ of the crocodile.

The carcass of the crocodile was buried near the temple after rituals held under the guidance of the temple’s chief priest Brahmashri Delampady Ganesha Thantri.

It is believed that a British officer shot dead a crocodile that lived in the temple lake. The officer is said to have died due to a snake bite soon after the incident. Within a few days, devotees found another crocodile in the lake and named her Babiya.

Kerala BJP president K Surendran also paid tribute to the crocodile in a Facebook post.

Union minister of state for agriculture Shobha Karandlaje too tweeted her condolences.