Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Rat Temple in Deshnok

A rat in Karni Mata Temple
One of the estimated twenty thousand rats of Karni Mata

Our last full day in Rajasthan took us from Phalodi through Khirva, Gajner, Bikaner, Deshnok, Barani, Rol, Didwana, Moulasar, Ranasar, to Kuchaman. Karni Mata temple was a great site to visit. Kuchaman Fort was a great place to stay. The trek across Rajasthan was a wonderful vacation. A huge thanks to Sudev for putting together an itinerary for us. For me, the temple in Deshnok was the highlight of the trip.

The Rat Temple of Deshnok

Karni Mata was a Hindu sage in the fourteenth century, worshipped by her followers as an incarnation of Durga. Legend has it that Karni Mata tried to bring the child son of a local storyteller back from death. Yama, the god of death, however had already reincarnated the child as a rat and therefore Karni Mata would not be successful in her attempt as restoration. A pact was formed between Yama and Karni Mata, that all her followers would be reincarnated as rats under her protection, and that the reincarnated son would live where her temple stands today, in Deshnok. The original temple was built in the fifteenth century, just after Karni Mata's disappearance from the village, having lived more than one hundred fifty years by that point. The temple in its current construction came from the Maharaja of Bikaner in the early twentieth century. Karni Mata came to the king in a dream, instructing him to build a new temple on top of her old temple, to protect her rats, soon to leave the area and perish if not properly cared for. The temple is lavishly decorated in silver and gold, with intricate marble carvings. Amazingly, with an estimated rat population of twenty thousand, the temple is clean and free of odor.

Silver at Karni Mata Temple
Silver windows at Karni Mata temple

The rats are cared for by local people as well as pilgrims. It is said that if a rat is killed by a visitor, it must be replaced by a similar-sized rat fashioned from gold. To be touched by a rat, as I was, is a sign of good luck. And, to see a white rat is quite auspicious and a sign of great luck.

Rats drinking milk in Karni Mata Temple
Rats fed milk within the temple

I mentioned that a rat touched me. We were in one of the rooms when a rat ran across my foot. Startled, Anjali yelped and I jerked my foot, which sent the rat sliding across the floor. As she was saying she was then ready to leave, I was telling her that it would probably be best for us to leave. Kicking a rat is not the best way to show your respect to those around you worshiping the little guys. Perhaps the good luck I received from being touched was used to keep the kicked rat alive (trust me, I barely pushed the small creature).

If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend checking out the temple.

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