In Bekkalale, cats are worshipped as gods
Mandya: A cat is a favoured pet or a bad omen if it crosses your path, but in Bekkalale village, it is literally put on a pedestal. Bekkalale, around 35km from Mandya, worships the cat as a form of goddess Mangamma and has no less than three temples dedicated to felines.
The practice is said to have originated some 1,000 years ago. Residents believe their main deity, goddess Mangamma, entered the village in the form of a cat and stayed on as their protector, shielding the village from all evils. Legend has it that an anthill emerged in the place where Mangamma appeared as a cat.
“Goddess Mangamma had appeared as a cat to our forefathers. She disappeared after showing them her divine powers and an anthill grew there instantly,” said R Basavaradhya, a priest. “After that moment, our forefathers felt the divinity in and around the village and began worshipping goddess Mangamma in the form of a cat. For us, cats are living godesses and we revere them.”
Bekkalale is, in fact, named after ‘bekku’ (cat) in Kannada. It is a simplification of its earlier name, Marjalapura: Marjala (Sanskrit) meaning cat and pura for town.