This article originally appeared on VICE India
When a crocodile casually wanders into a public place, the general reaction is to take flight before it can sink its mighty molars into you. Except these villagers in Gujarat decided that the best way to deal with a crocodile invading a Khodiyar Mata temple in the Mahisagar district on Sunday was by deeming it auspicious and delaying the forest department from rescuing it.
Khodiyar Mata is the family deity of the Patel community in the state. In religious literature and other representations, this deity is often shown riding on a crocodile in line with the depiction of gods and goddesses having animal vehicles known as vahanas. So the villagers felt the croc showing up had an auspicious significance and gathered in large numbers to perform a prayer ritual around it. According to the forest department official in the area, RV Patel, people chanted prayers and offered vermillion to the six-metre long reptile as it lay by the goddess’ feet.
“When our personnel reached there to rescue the crocodile, people opposed it,” said RM Parmar, the Mahisagar Deputy Conservator of Forests to the Press Trust of India. “We waited for two hours as we did not want to hurt religious sentiments. However, later, we managed to get the reptile to a nearby pond.”
Crocodiles are Schedule 1 animals (provided absolute protection) as per the Indian Wildlife (Protection Act), 1972. But despite them being pretty damn deadly, Indians have often conferred on it either reverence or friendship, with one village even holding a funeral to mourn the death of a beloved croc. Earlier this month a 12-foot long crocodile freaked people out in Ayodhya, while in a more shocking incident, another swallowed a young adult in Morena. Meanwhile, experts have issued a global warning that because of rising heat levels, crocodile attacks against humans is bound to spike. To combat this, the forest department is now building a shelter for such wayward crocodiles in Gujarat, creating potential for a tourism opportunity as well.
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