India is home to different cultures and faiths, each unique to the region and its people. One such incredible representation of faith is found in Karni Mata Temple, located in Deshnoke, 30 km away from Bikaner, Rajasthan. The temple is quite popular in India as around 25000 rats are revered here, which are considered to be the descendants of Karni Mata. This unique phenomenon is what attracts many to visit the temple where rats are worshipped.
The legend goes back to the 14th century when Karni Mata, an incarnation of the Goddess Durga, lost her son. At that time, she prayed to Yama, the Hindu god of death, to bring back her son to life, but all her requests were denied. However, moved by her sorrow, Yama agreed that the son would be reincarnated as a rat along with other male members of the Depavats family (also known as Karni Mata's descendants).
The rats here are known as ‘kabbas’ or ‘little children’. They are looked after by the various members of the extended Depavats family. Though these members work in shifts, some of them stay here permanently to take care of rats and regularly clean their excrement and food leftovers. The rats are fed milk, grains, sweets, coconuts, and other offerings by the devotees. Here, the rats are considered holy, and the vessel from which they drink water in addition to their food leftovers, all are said to bring good fortune.
Likewise in other Indian temples, you are expected to take off your shoes before entering the temple premises here. The interesting aspect is that it is considered auspicious if a rat runs over your feet. Spotting an albino rat (only 4-5 out of 25000) is also considered immense great luck. Going inside the temple can be a very unique experience. If the sight of too many rats scurrying around does not scare you, then do visit the temple.
The rats are in full-action mode during early morning and late-night hours when they are most hungry – it is said that this is the ideal time to visit the temple in its full glory! According to the temple laws, if one of the rats is killed accidentally, then it must be replaced by a rat made of silver or gold. So, be ultracareful while you are in the temple! A word of caution: the rats inside the temple premises are the only considered to be reincarnated. The ones out on the street are regular rats.
The Karni Mata Temple was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 20th century. The entire temple is built with marble and resembles the Mughal style in design. There are a few silver doors that depict legends of the Goddess. Within the inner sanctum of the temple, one can find the idol of the Karni Mata holding a trident in her hand.
The best time to visit the Karni Mata Temple, where rats are worshipped, is during the Karni Mata Fair that is held twice a year - once from March-April and then from September -October. Apart from that, one can visit the temple throughout the year to seek blessings and also revel in the unusual sights of worshipping holy rats.
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