Karni Mata Temple
On my way from Pushkar to Bikaner, I stopped at a small town called Deshnoke to visit Karni Mata Temple, famously called Temple of Rats. From the exterior, it looked like any other ordinary temple. The temple was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. I walked past security gates towards the shrine barefooted. The sight which captured my attention was not the architecture or deity of the temple, but rats jumping and running across the corridors. The very sight irks your nerves. You could see thousands of rats running inside the temple premises. Walking further towards the inner sanctum through the narrow lanes, one could see group of rats munching on the grains. I took my camera slowly to capture them nibbling when suddenly couple of rats startled me by running across my feet. I was informed that if a rat runs across your feet, you are considered to be lucky. I wasn’t sure if I was happy or in a state of shock at that moment. There are additional fees for photography if one needs to take photos of inner sanctum.
Legend has it that Karni Mata is believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga. She belonged to the Charan Clan. When one of her step sons died, she pleaded God Yama to bring him back to life. Eventually Yama (god of death) agreed and revived him. But there was a twist in the story. Yama revived him as a rat. Henceforth it was believed that all the members of Charan Clan who died are reincarnated as rats. The rats inside the temple are all believed to be their ancestors. They treat them with such high honor that they even break bread with the rats.
People are offered the same prasad and still I was told none of them were infected by any diseases. The fact that surprised me was Deshnoke village was unaffected even during plague. More than 15000 rats move with ease inside the temple premises unaffected by the human presence. Rather it was us mere humans under pressure who had to walk carefully so that none of these rats gets killed or squished. The temple rules were if any of the rats were killed, then it has to be replaced by a silver rat. Considering the high stakes, I decided to slide without lifting my leg. People bring ladoos and milk as an offering to the rats.
It was a true ratatouille moment for me where the screen story gets its life in Deshnoke making the humble creatures as their official taste-makers. Sighting of white rat is considered rare therefore very lucky. Amidst these chaos, I looked for the rare white rat but alas luck was not on my side. The entire temple premise was covered by nets and iron bars protecting their ancestors from predators.
Karni Mata Temple visit was one of a kind. Seeing so many infested rodents makes you feel uncomfortable. My first reaction was to walk away when they crawled over my feet. But the more you see them you kind of lose your inhibitions and feel normal. After spending about 20 minutes inside the inner sanctum, I was quite used to the small squeaky hairy creatures rubbing my feet.
Rats in this temple are also called Kabbas. Only the rats inside the temple are treated as holy and considered as descendants of Karni Mata. The other rats in the city are just rats!
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