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Karni Mata or “Temple of Rats” is a temple in India crawling with thousands of holy rats, protected and worshipped

David Goran

Karni Mata Temple is a famous Hingu Temple which has around twenty thousand rats in residence, called kabbas, and many people travel great distances to pay their respect. Located in the small town of Deshnoke, near Bikaner in Rajasthan, the temple is dedicated to Karni Mata, a female Hindu sage, born in the Charan castle. She is an official deity of the royal family of Jodhpur and Bikaner and was worshiped as the incarnation of the goddess Durga.

The temple's current exterior was built in the early 20th century by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Source

The temple’s current exterior was built in the early 20th century by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Source

 

The temple is inhabited by rats, thousands of them. Source

The temple is inhabited by rats, thousands of them. Source

According to the legend, Laxman, Karni Mata’s stepson (or the son of one of her storytellers), drowned in a pond in Kapil Sarovar in Kolayat Tehsil while he was attempting to drink from it. Karni Mata implored Yama, the god of death, to revive him. First refusing, Yama eventually relented, permitting Laxman and all of Karni Mata’s male children to be reincarnated as rats.

The nets above are protecting the rats from an adversary that has no respect for their previous incarnation. Source

The nets above are protecting the rats from an adversary that has no respect for their previous incarnation. Source

 

The holy rats of Karni Mata. Source

The holy rats of Karni Mata. Source

There are a lot of devotees who work in the temple. They work in shifts based on the lunar cycle and some families even live in the temple, taking care of the rats and the temple.

The food nibbled by the rats is also considered holy and is sometimes consumed by a devotee. Source

The food nibbled by the rats is also considered holy and is sometimes consumed by a devotee. Source

 

The Rats can be seen here eating from huge metal bowls of milk, sweets and grains. Source

The Rats can be seen here eating from huge metal bowls of milk, sweets and grains. Source

 

If one of the holy rats is killed, it must be replaced with one made of solid silver or gold. Source

If one of the holy rats is killed, it must be replaced with one made of solid silver or gold. Source

The only way to get inside is barefoot because these animals are sacred. Visitors can give them milk and treats and if they accidentally kill one of them they have to replace it with another made of gold.

Inside the Karni Mata temple. Source

Inside the Karni Mata temple. Source

 

The “residents“ at Karni Mata Temple. Source

The “residents“ at Karni Mata Temple. Source

The temple is famous for the approximately 20,000 black rats that live in the temple. It is considered lucky to spot a white rat because they are especially holly. Sighting them is a special blessing and visitors put a lot of efforts to bring them forth by offering prasadam or vibuti which is a holy food; like dust, given from the gods.

Out of all of the thousands of rats in the temple, there are a few white rats, which are considered to be especially holy. Source

Out of all of the thousands of rats in the temple, there are a few white rats, which are considered to be especially holy. Source

 

The rats here are fed, and behave unusually friendly, you can even pet them without any aggressive behaviour. Source

The rats here are fed, and behave unusually friendly, you can even pet them without any aggressive behavior. Source

Visitors come late at night or before sunrise at 4:00 a.m. At this time, the rats are out in full force, gathering food. There are two kinds of offerings made by the devotees: the ‘dwar-bhent’ is attributed to the priests and the workers, while the ‘kalash-bhent’ is utilized for the temple maintenance and development.