Babiya had lived at Sri Ananthapura Lake Temple since 1942, where it was considered the guardian

A famous “vegetarian” crocodile was buried with saintly honours on Monday after spending eight decades at a Hindu temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Babiya, a three-metre-long mugger crodile (Crocodylus palustris) was considered the guardian of the 9th-century Sri Ananthapura Lake Temple in Kasaragod and was popular with devotees who came to pray there.

Ramachandra Bhat, secretary of the temple committee, said the crocodile had been unwell and was being treated by vets from Pilikula Biological Park in neighbouring Karnataka state.

“We found her body late at night, around 11pm. She was not keeping well for some time … we are heartbroken,” Mr Bhat told The National.

More than 1,000 devotees attended the funeral as temple authorities buried Babiya with all the honours given to a saint on Monday afternoon.

The crocodile was a popular attraction at the temple, which is surrounded by a natural lake. Devotees often fed her “prasad” — an offering made of rice and jaggery that was first presented to the temple deity.

Many devotees claimed she ate only vegetarian food, but there is no evidence to back that. crocodiles often feed at night, and the temple lake contains plenty of fish, snakes and eels. Mr Bhat said Babiya appeared at the temple some time in 1942. She was allowed to roam freely and often basked in the sun on the temple stairs.

She was popular for her calm demeanour and had never scared or attacked anyone, he said. “She fed on vegetarian food, mostly coconut. She was the guard of the temple,” Mr Bhat said. “People would wait to catch a glimpse of her but only the lucky ones could see and feed her if she came to them of her own will,” he said.