Karni Mata Temple – World Famous Rat Temple in Bikaner, Rajasthan
How many quirky places have you visited in India? Does Karni Mata Temple feature in that list? And if you have not visited any yet, you can start your count with a visit to Karni Mata Temple at Deshnoke in Bikaner, Rajasthan.
Overcome Your Fear for Rats
Karni Mata Temple is famous for 25,000 black rats and few white rats that live there. The temple pujaris and locals feed the rats and worship them. I am not actually scared of rats but definitely won’t like one crawling over me. I do find the rats cute, especially from a safe distance. Sighting just one rat, or maximum two is okay with me but definitely any number more than that can give me sleepless nights. Those of you who have enjoyed the Stuart Little movie series surely would like to have a look at the place, no?
When the good folks at Narendra Bhavan arranged a tour for us to visit Karni Mata Temple I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I knew sighting so many rats together, being fed and worshiped is a rare quirky sight. So early morning of 7th Jan 2017 we set off for the temple.
Story of Goddess Karni Mata
Karni Mata’s real name was Ridhubai. She was born on 2nd October 1387 in Suwap, Rajasthan as the 7th child of Mehoji Charan and his wife Deval Devi. When in womb, Ridhubai’s mother dreamed that her child was special. Goddess Durga in her dreams conveyed to her that the child is an incarnation of Goddess herself. When Ridhubhai was just 6, she cured her relative off of a deadly disease. Since then she was known as Karni.
At a very young age she was married off to a wealthy man – Dipoji Charan of the village of Sathika. However she did not live a conventional married life. She was not interested in worldly affairs; she desired to live a saint’s life. Karni put forth a proposal to marry her younger sister Gulab, and subsequently processed with it. It is believed she lived for 150 years and remained young and beautiful. Karni Mata is worshipped as Goddess of Bikaner and Jodhpur Kingdoms.
Legends around Rats of Karni Mata Temple
There are several legends about the origin of worshiping rats in Karni Mata Temple. Wiki gives a good account of these legends.
Legend 1. One legend has it that Laxman, Karni Mata’s stepson 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. Yama eventually relented to Her prayers, permitting Laxman and all of Karni Mata’s male children to be reincarnated as rats. That is why rats are revered here.
Legend 2. Another one according to some local folklore is that a 20,000 strong army deserted a nearby battle and came running to Deshnoke. Upon learning the sin of desertion is punishable by death, they seeked Karni Mata’s protection. Karni Mata spared their lives but turned them into rats, and offered the temple as a future place to stay. The army of soldiers expressed their gratitude and promised to serve Karni Mata evermore.
History of Karni Mata Temple
Karni Mata Temple is 600 years old. Initially it did not have any idols. Maharaj Ganga Singh of Bikaner reconstructed the older version and got its present form in mid 20th century. It has Mughal style architecture. Temple’s façade is made of marble, so is the interior flooring. At the entrance are huge impressive silver doors. The panels of the door seem to tell stories with various pictorial representations. We could see idol of the Goddess in the inner sanctum.
Worship of Rats in Karni Mata Temple
It was unbelievable! I have read and seen pictures too of rats being fed with milk which always seemed so unreal. Yet seeing right in front of eyes it was unbelievable! Rats eating laddoos, sipping milk from a huge dish and some of the devotees taking a few drops of that same milk as prasaad… I felt I was in a different world. I lost count of how many I saw. May be 500, definitely more than that, the figure can’t be lesser! The Pied Piper of Hamlyn must have led all the rats here I thought!
The rats were all over the place, some busy eating, some sleeping, some scurrying here to there, some crawling up on each other, some on devotees. Neither the rats seemed scared of humans nor were the humans scared of rats. At one place they were being fed rotis (Indian flat breads). I saw one of them nibbling a piece of coconut.
The general surroundings aren’t dirty, but it isn’t too clean either. Efforts to keep the floors clean were evident. Floors were damp which indicated they were washed.
Open on all days 5AM to 10PM.
How to Reach Karni Mata Temple Bikaner:
Nearest airport: Jodhpur International Airport – distance – 251 km.
Nearest railway station: Lalgarh Junction (LGH) and Bikaner Junction (BKN) – distance 30kms
Bikaner is well connected with all the major cities by road. You can take public transport or hire a cab.
Travel Tips for Rat Temple in Bikaner
- Try and reach temple early as it soon begins to get crowded.
- Photography is allowed.
- Leave footwear outside. You can wear socks inside the temple.
- Spotting a white rat is considered lucky; your wishes will get fulfilled.
- A rat coming under your foot is considered unlucky. (It is said if a rat dies under your feet it is a sin and for as an act of penance you have to make an idol of rat in gold.)