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The Rat Temple – Karni Mata Mandir Rajasthan, India

In Rajasthan state of India, there is a small village known as Deshnoke, which is 30 miles south of city of Bikaner. There is this temple known as Karni Mata Mandir, worldly famous as ‘Rat Temple‘. This is simply the strangest temples of India because 20,000 rats live in the temple on regular basis making it their home. Not only they live on the sides of the temple, but everywhere, even inside the main entrance of temple, on steps, in the passage, everywhere.

The Karni Mata Temple was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 20th century in the late Mughal style. The entrance, featured, is lavishly decorated with beautifully sculptured marble paneling full of intricate patterns, and delicately worked doorways, colonnades, pavilions and balconies. Karni Mata is the ‘Goddess of Food Giving’, at the temple it is traditional to give food to the rat residents.

The rats are considered holy because they are believed to be reincarnations of storytellers who wait in the temple as another life form between successive reincarnations as humans. The visitors don’t find this strange at all, rather they dine with rats and allow rats to scroll all over their body.

The legend goes that Karni Mata, a mystic matriarch from the 14th century, was an incarnation of Durga, the goddess of power and victory. At some point during her life, the child of one of her clansmen died. She attempted to bring the child back to life, only to be told by Yama, the god of death, that he had already been reincarnated.

Karni Mata cut a deal with Yama: From that point forward, all of her tribespeople would be reborn as rats until they could be born back into the clan.

The temple draws Hindu visitors from across the country hoping for blessings, as well as curious tourists from around the world. Inside, where shoes are not permitted, tourists and worshippers alike hope to have rats run across their feet for good luck.

Eating food or drinking water that previously has been sampled by a rat is considered to be a supreme blessing. But there is one rare blessing that draws the most attention: the sighting 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 especially holy. They are believed be the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her kin. Sighting them is a special charm, and visitors put in extensive efforts to bring them forth, offering prasad, a candylike food.

Unlike the rest of the world, where rats are commonly killed for inhabiting the same space as humans, in this temple the rat residents are treated with sincere devotion. The veneration is so complete that if someone accidentally steps on a rat and kills it, they are expected to buy a gold or silver rat and place it in the temple as atonement.

For an animal that is commonly associated with pestilence and disease, this may seem strange. But during the century of this temple’s existence, there has never been an outbreak of plague or other ratborne illness among the humans who have visited—which may be a miracle in itself.


Devang Vibhakar is the Founder and Editor of www.SpeakBindas.com. He has interviewed more than 350 people. His effort was recognized by Limca Book of Records, twice. He has been to Scotland as well as Germany as part of vocational & cultural exchange programs and has compiled five books so far. He's passionate about bringing forth interesting stories & interviews of entrepreneurs to avid readers of SpeakBindas. He can be reached here.

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