One of the strangest places in India, Deshnoke near Bikaner is famous for Karni Mata Temple where rats are worshiped. Thousands of rats are fed daily with milk and sweets.
We Indians have always been fascinated with the idea of a supreme being who governs our lives. We enjoy worshipping our Gods and Goddesses in all their avatars. Gods for good luck, Gods for education, Gods for life and Gods for death - we seem to have plenty of them. And, sometimes, from such unshakable faith, stem stories that are unique and amusing.
Like this one, where rats are worshipped. They are offered milk and mithai.
Karni Mata Temple, located at Deshnoke, is nearly 30 kms away from Bikaner. This place is home to thousands of rats. These animals are called kabbas, and considered sacred by multitudes of tourists who throng here everyday.
Legend behind this temple
The temple was constructed by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 1900s as a mark of respect to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. She was a Hindu sage believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga.
According to folklore, Karni Mata approached Yama, the God of death, to restore to life a clansman who died accidentally. Upon his refusal, she struck a deal with Yama that the dead boy as well as other clansmen would be born as rats in their incarnations. Since then, rats have become special in this place.
Rats are lucky!
Rats here are treated with utmost reverence. It is considered lucky to have rats run over one’s feet. Sighting a white rat is an extraordinary sighting, as there are hardly 4-5 white ones among a huge group of thousands of brown rats. The white species are believed to be manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her kin. Visitors bring with themselves prasad, a holy offering. If a rat is accidentally killed in the temple’s premises, it must be immediately replaced with a gold or silver rat as an act of atonement.
Karni Mata’s Mandir and her story can be easily put in one word: Miracle!
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