Gangaram crocodile
Gangaram crocodile Image Credit: Twitter/ANI

Residents of a Chhattisgarh village in India got together to collect money to build a temple for their beloved ‘human-friendly’ crocodile who died in January this year.

Gangaram Magarmach (crocodile) was 130 years old when he died. Now, he has a dedicated temple being built near a pond in the village where he lived and was buried.

According to a report by Indian newspaper Hindustan Times, he was buried by residents of Bawamohatra village on January 8 2019, Vijay Kishore Goswami, the conservator of Radha Krishna Temple in Bawamohatra was quoted as saying.

Over 500 people attend funeral

Villagers protested for hours when Gangaram died in January after forest department authorities arrived to collect his body.

The villagers, who grew attached to the reptile, were adamant on burying the crocodile’s body themselves and as per their traditions. The forest department obliged to their desires.

At the time of his death, RK Sinha, sub divisional officer at the forest department, had told Hindustan Times that the post-mortem was conducted in the presence of the villagers, after which the body was given to them. The crocodile died of natural causes.

Gangaram was carried to his funeral on a tractor decorated with flowers and garlands, while 500 people attended its last rites.

The villagers recalled his nature to be passive and friendly to humans.

Goswami said that his forefathers brought the reptile from somewhere in India’s Uttar Pradesh and since then he had been living in the pond.

The conservator said that Gagaram might have been brought to the village over a 100 years ago.

“The Gangaram Magarmacch Ka Mandir [Gangaram’s temple] is to show our respect to him,” Goswami was quoted as saying. “Now, after the death, everyone believes that he was a divine soul and hence a temple is planned,” he added.

According to the Hindustan Times report, the temple will feature a statue of the crocodile with a statue of Hindu goddess Narmada.

Currently, as the temple is under construction, the villagers visit the temple structure daily and offer prayers, offerings and money which is being used for construction.

Instances of crocodile worship India

In Kerala, a crocodile named Babiya guards the famous Ananthapura Lake Temple. According to an article on the Indian news website Indiatimes.com: “Legend has it that Babiya is a local guardian of the temple. Babiya only eats the temple prasad, which is made of rice and jaggery and does not harm anyone, including the fish in the lake. The crocodile is believed to be vegetarian and has been guarding the temple for more than 60 years.”

In Goa, a village worships crocodiles for bountiful crop yields. Annually, residents of Adulshem celebrate a peculiar agrarian cultural expression dedicated to crocodile worship. They make a dummy crocodile out of silt extracted from the land as villagers chant prayers for a better crop and fish yield.