Near the India – Pakistan border and around 30 kms from Bikaner in Rajasthan, India, lies a small town called Deshnoke. The town is famous for its ancient temple, known as Karni Mata temple, which goes back 600 years. Goddess Karni is worshipped here, but that is not the only reason for the temple’s fame.The Karni Mata temple shelters more than 20,000 rodents! Built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 1900’s the temple has a remarkable entrance, decorated with silver and gold. With thousands of tiny, brown blurs of motion bustling across its marble floor. It looks as though you may have entered a kingdom of rats and they are all busy going about their daily routine. These rats eat, run, sleep and do almost everything like other rats, and surprisingly the disturbance by the hoards of visitors does not seem to bother them.
These rats not just reside within the temple in complete harmony with the visitors but are also worshipped and loved by them. They are so cherished that if one of them dies, it has to be replaced with a rat made of solid gold.Not just Indians but also fascinated tourists from across the world come to the temple to pay their respects and experience the miracle. Hindu newly-weds consider it auspicious to seek blessings from the Goddess when starting a new chapter in their life. Karni Mata,a mystic matriarch from the 14th century, was believed to be a reincarnation of Goddess Durga. She lived as an ascetic most her life and was also the deity of the royals of Bikaner. The reason why thousands of rats, locally known as ‘Kabba’ are worshiped at the temple is linked to a legend. The legend goes back in time when Goddess Karni was alive. One day, the son of one of her clansmen from the Charan community died. In an attempt to get the child back to life, Karni Mata went to Yama Devta, the Hindu God of Death. Yama told her that the child has already been reincarnated as a rat and sent back to earth. This led to a deal between Karni Mata and Yama, that from that point onwards all of her clansmen would be reborn as rats until they could be born again into the clan.
There are also some other uncanny facts related to the temple. Unexplainable but true that these 20,000 rats live inside the temple boundaries and never leave. Yet more surprising is that no one knows how they reproduce as no one has ever seen any baby rats here. Almost all the rats are of a standard size and their number has remained constant. This is contrary to the popular rat behavior, which is to multiply rapidly. Yet another wonder is that unlike common rats, these rats do not fear or run away from humans. Instead they climb on the visitors’ shoulders and even eat from their hands, which is considered a blessing. The holy rats are offered milk, sweets, grains and fruits in to receive Karni Mata’s blessings. Eating food or drinking water from the rats’ bowls of offerings is considered a great blessing. There are a couple of white rats in the temple, which are considered holy. Sighting them is considered hugely auspicious.
The temple gates are sprung open for the visitors at 4:00 a.m. each morning and people queue up for the blessings of Karni Mata. The day turns into night with thousands of rats dining with the people and scampering over their feet. It is an unbelievable sight, which cannot be expressed in simple words. One has to experience this wonder personally to believe it.The thought of visiting such a place might feel disgusting to a person but despite being home to a large number of rats the temple is reasonably clean!Amazingly there have never been reports of any rat-related disease in or around the temple.It may seem strange that a rodent, which is commonly associated with plague and other diseases, is worshiped like a deity. But the miraculous temple is running on the immense faith and belief that the people have in the deity — Karni Mata and the large army of her tiny supporters!
Courtesy : WildFilmsIndia and National Geographic