The Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan is one of India’s best known, if for a really spine tingling reason: this is the one with the rats. Well over ten thousand (maybe over twenty thousand) of the creepy mostly black rodents call this temple their home. They roam fearlessly through the temple halls, generally indifferent to human visitors, who often present gifts of food to the creatures. Pilgrims from all over India travel here seeking blessings of luck from the temple, while other visitors from all over the world simply come to gawk at the amazing army of rats.
Karni Mata was one of India’s rare historic Hindu figures who was female. She lived for a long time (some believe over one hundred and fifty years) sometime between the 14th and 16th centuries. A famous sage of her time, she was very popular and commanded a following. She also had many supplicants, and some considered her to be an incarnation of the goddess Durga.
There are many legends associated with Karni Mata. The most important one, at least as far as the Karni Mata Temple is concerned, tells of how her son Laxman drowned in a nearby lake. Yama, the deity of death, allowed Laxman to be reincarnated as a rat (a boon that was later extended to all of Karni Mata’s descendants).
Another legend tells of an army who were engaged in a major battle near Deshnoke. In fear of losing, the army deserted the battle and came to Karni Mata. She cursed them, turning them all into rats. However, she showed them mercy by allowing them to live in her temple, and they and their descendents have served her there ever since.
For at least four centuries, the Karni Mata Temple has achieved worldwide fame as the ‘Rat Temple’. The tens of thousands of black rats are said to be descended from the army, while the handful of white rats are believed to be incarnations of Karni Mata’s descendents. The place now attracts huge numbers of awe-struck visitors, Hindus coming to seek good luck, and others just coming to be amazed/disgusted by the temple’s inhabitants.
The Karni Mata Temple is very different in appearance from the typical Hindu temple. From the outside it looks more like a small palace enclosed in a pink wall. Its most famous, unique featrure is arguably its silver doors engraved with scenes from the adventures of the goddess Durga. There is also a great abundance of beautiful figures carved in marble both inside and out. But lets face it, this is one temple where nobody’s coming to see the architecture.
The temple is about the rats, and they are an amazing site. Thousands of the creepy critters crawl over every inch of the place. Having long since lost there fear of humans, they eagerly await to be fed by the temple’s many visitors. According to legend, if you feed a rat and then finish food from which it has already taken a bite, you will receive good luck. Any sighting or interaction with the rare white rats is considered to bring particularly good fortune.
The Karni Mata Temple is located on the southern outskirts of the city of Deshnok, approximately 220 miles west of New Delhi. The temple opens every day at 4:00am with a brief ceremony with offerings. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: N/A.
There are no other major religious sites in Deshnoke.