Where tortoise conservation is devotion

Over 400 tortoises are in the pond of Thoroth Addukath Bhagavathi Temple in Kasaragod

Updated - May 26, 2022 11:29 pm IST

Published - May 26, 2022 09:09 pm IST - KASARAGOD

Tortoises are protected in the pond of Thoroth Addukath Bhagavathi Temple.

Tortoises are protected in the pond of Thoroth Addukath Bhagavathi Temple.

While World Tortoise Day was recently observed to emphasise the need to protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats, a temple in Kasaragod has been protecting and conserving various tortoise species for several centuries.

Devotees of Thoroth Addukath Bhagavathi Temple at Molothumkavu in Bedadukka panchayat believe that offering rice (nivedya chor) to tortoises will redeem them of their sins and cure their skin-related ailments.

The tortoises are protected and conserved in the naturally formed pond (aamakulam), spread over two acres of temple land.

The pond is about 100 metres from the temple and has a structure (mandapam) in the middle for feeding tortoises. A bridge connects the temple to the mandapam and there are steps into the pond. There is a sculpture of Kurmavatara, considered second of the ten incarnations of Lord Mahavishnu, on the mandapam.

“We have no count but there may be more than 400 tortoises in the pond. There are many different species, some of them are endangered,” says A. Gangadharan, a temple staff.

The temple is several centuries old and it is believed that the custom of offering prayers to the tortoises is as old as the temple.

The myth has it that when Goddess Bhagavathy was in the pond, a tortoise appeared. The Goddess realised that it was no ordinary tortoise. The tortoise revealed his real identity of Lord Mahavishnu. The Goddess requested him to appear for devotees and cure their diseases, says Mr. Ganagadharan.

Tortoises emerge from the depth of the pool and eat the rice offering kept on the steps of the mandapam at the sound of a clap. He says devotees across the country and even abroad reach here to pray and feed the tortoises.

The tortoises are an attraction not only for the devotees but also for researchers and officials of the Forest department, who come to study the various species here.

Considered sacred, the temple authorities and local people act as guardians of the tortoises, some of which are believed to be over 100 years old.

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