Imagine yourself standing in the middle of thousands of rats, out of which some are scampering over your feet and the others are simply dining and playing with you. How would you react? Yes, You said it right it will either run a chill down your spine or absolutely petrify you. But to your surprise, this is not merely a wild imagination but a real life setting of a temple located in a small northwestern city of Rajasthan, Deshnoke. This ornate, isolated Hindu temple is called Karni Mata Temple. The temple was constructed by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 1900’s as a tribute to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. The rats in the temple are known as Kabas. Though there are Intricate marble panels at the entrance and the floors of the temple, and silver and gold decorations are found throughout, but by far the most intriguing aspect of the interior is the 20,000-odd rats that call this temple home. Many people from all over the world travel great distances to pay their homage to them.
According to a parable, Karni Mata was an incarnation of Durga, once the child of one of her clansmen died. She attempted to restore the dead child back to life from Yama(God of Death) but she was told by him that the child had already been reincarnated. From that point forward, Mata announced that no one from her Tribe would ever fall into Yama’s hands again instead they would be reborn as rats until being born back in to the tribe. Since then all her clansmen turned rats seeking shelter in this temple and with the blessings of Karni Mata they get their food, shelter, lodging and their lifestyle continues inside the temple itself. Despite being inumerable in number these kabas never come out of the premises of the temple.
One of the most outstanding fact about these Kabas is that they are completely innocuous and never disturb the devotees who visit the temple rather they silently play with them, eat with them, run around them, sit on their laps which the devotees consider to be the benediction of the Goddess. There is one rare blessing that draws the most attention, and that is the sight of a white rat. Out of all of the thousands of rats in the temple, there are said to be four or five white rats, which are considered to be the holiest. They are believed be the spiritual manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her kin. Sighting them is a blessing in itself, and visitors put in extensive efforts just to catch a glimpse of these rats by luring them with sweets and milk.
It is astonishing to know that despite the presence of so many rats in the temple, no diseases related to rats have been reported till date. Neither the temple stinks of foul smell nor it is dirty anywhere. Rather the offerings like milk, sweets, groundnuts are first offered to these kabas and then distributed to the devotees as mata’s ‘Prasad’. The water that these Kabas drink is considered very holy and auspicious. Another most interesting fact is that there has been no trace of these rats being reproduced. It is believed that all the kabas present in this temple are of same size, weight and body proportion without any change down the ages and their is no sign of baby rats inside the temple.
Though the rats are considered as one of the most shy animals found on earth that are scared of human beings but here in this temple the kabas roam about freely and often play with the devotees and at times dine with them or sit on their shoulders. The most ironic truth is that although we do not consider rats reverent enough and we kill them if ever we see them sharing some space in our homes and yet when we step in to this temple we worship them and even feel blessed eating and drinking their leftovers. Strangely the leftovers would not make us fall sick or catch any deadly disease instead its consumed as holy prasad of the temple.
All these incredible and astounding facts about the temple makes it one of the most visited place in the Bikaner city of Rajasthan. People from everywhere come to see this temple. Some come out of sheer curosity, some out of reverence and others simply come to enjoy and experience the feel of this strange, stupendous and one of its kind temple.