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.

Karni Mata Temple fearless rats

 

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.

Karni Mata Temple entrance

Karni Mata Temple Facade

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.

Inner Sanctum Karni Mata Temple

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!

Rats offered milk in Karni Mata Temple

 

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.

Timings:

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.

World Famous Rat Temple. Karni Mata Temple in Bikaner

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.)

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41 Responses

  1. Yeah India can be shocking, I’m not surprised! I had so many adventures in India. Our bus got broken in a jungle, we got stuck for 8 hours on a small fisherman boat in the middle of the ocean… I love all animals and I also like rats. Why do we love rabbits and squirrels but hate mice and rats? I’d love to see this temple!

  2. I have never visited India, let alone quirky places like this! Karni Mata Temple is something truly unique, although I’ll be honest I really don’t know if I could cope with that many rats in one area, no matter how much they are worshipped!

  3. Bhushavali says:

    I’ve heard so much about Karni Mata Temple since school days! I’m glad that you got to go there and sad that I still haven’t been there!!!

  4. Ahh this is so crazy! I don’t know if I could do it lol but it is a really unique experience – one i’ve never heard of anywhere else!

  5. Oh my god rats?! Umm I think I’ll have to pass on this one 🙂

  6. Lillie says:

    WHAT?! I had no idea there was a rat temple! They look so cute… and yet so… ratty. Fascinating details, like the fact that it’s 600 years old.

  7. Annie says:

    Oh my god. A temple full of rats?? I am certaintly open minded to new and different experiences, but I didn’t even know this was a thing! Thankfully, I am not scared of rats so will look forward to this unique adventure someday.

  8. Ariane says:

    I’ve already heard about Karni Mata Temple and the rats. Would love to visit the temple. I’m definitely not afraid of rats… so, I guess I’d be ok 🙂 Love your pic where the rats are drinking in the bowl! So cute! 🙂

  9. Jeevan says:

    Absolutely, things unbelievable right there! I’m quite scare of rats and could never be comfortable visiting there. The stories relevant to the temple were interesting. I liked the façade of the temple and architecture details!

  10. OMG! Don’t really know how I would feel in this temple. I’m far from being afraid of rats, but they are so many!! I guess if the opportunity arises I also would check it out. Did you were lucky and saw a white rat?

  11. Rhiannon says:

    Oh bloody hell I can’t decide if this is a place of dreams or nightmares! I’m kind of like you – quite fond of rodents when there’s just one or two… But this many?! Eeek! I’m tentatively planning a trip to Rajasthan for later this year or next, as I fell in love with it last time and missed out on a lot, so I’ll have to see about visiting here!

  12. Oh wow. I don’t know if I could this, but it’s fascinating to learn about! I never knew a white rat symbolized good luck! Great post.

  13. I would really like to go there! I am not scared of rats either. In fact, since seeing Ratatouille, I think they are kind of cute. And it’s interesting to me that no one is exactly sure why rats are worshiped at this temple.

  14. Rosemary says:

    What a fascinating read about the rat temples. It truly does sound crazy…lol..and quite unique. I can’t believe you saw over 500 rats….did it smell? I’m glad to be reading about your experience. I’m not sure I’d have the courage to visit the temple!!

  15. Oh Gosh! It’s crazy but fascinate tale legends of Karni Mata is made of. Of course, the pictures are something.

  16. Victoria says:

    this would have creeped me out. I have never heard of a rat temple but i think it is so awesome. I will be very terrified if i was around so many rats though

  17. Aniñdita says:

    Omg,am scared to. Step there now

  18. Ami says:

    I am not sure if I liked this place or I did not…still have mixed feelings about it. My daughter for sure hated it.

  19. The temple architecture is so classic and beautiful! Very nicely photographed.

    The rats have found many safe places in India, the ones i know belong to lord Ganesha. The temple history surprised me!

    TC and keep smiling 🙂

  20. Earlier too I’ve seen couple of documentaries on Karni Mata Mandir but never got a chance in life to visit the place (to be precise Bikaner) that too when my roots are linked to Rajasthan. Hoping for the best for my future.

  21. Wow…. I had no idea anything like this existed! More power to you, as I do not think I could do this. I’m also not sure that I could walk through a temple with rats without shoes on. Looks like a fascinating experience. I’ll sit back and enjoy your pics, as I don’t know that I could do this!

  22. Claudia says:

    I really don’t know if I could get over my fear of rats or not by visiting the Karni Mata Temple. It does look like a beautiful place to see however. Perhaps I can admire it from the outside? 🙂

  23. Megan Jerrard says:

    WOW … this really does remind me of the Pied Piper of Hamlyn … what a unique and truly different place to visit. I’ve never heard of worshipping rats … I’ll admit that they’re not my favorite animal if I had to choose … but it would be interesting and fascinating to visit and see how they have become a cultural icon of the temple.

  24. OH WOW! This would definitely challenge me to overcome my fear of rats. I’ll be honest, I don’t really like squirrels that much! Ha. But it looks like such an interesting and beautiful place. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  25. Oh hey. I watched about this on documentary TV. First of all, rats are disgusting. In fact, I do not want to have anything to do with rats. But then again, as I learned, they are every bit important to us too, not directly but they are a part of the balance of nature.

    So, it was an eye opener for me to watch the documentary and today, reading your post. Good one. As for worshipping rats? Ummm… it makes for a nice tourist destination today.

  26. Oh my… I’ve never been fond of rats or any creepy crawlies, ever. I mean, I respect your culture and beliefs, but no matter what angle I see it from, I’ll never be unafraid of rats. This would be such a challenge for me.

  27. What? Make an idol of rat in gold? I probably will never be able to bring myself to go to this Temple. I’m scared of rats. And I don’t want to risk bad luck too if ever I accidentally step on them. LOL.

  28. I would definitely be keeping my socks on! What a fascinating place – but to me it sounds like a bit of a nightmare come true!

  29. theresa says:

    OMG! I don’t know if I can visit your place. I even don’t know if I can call the place beautiful because I just hate rats! It’s just so gross for me. I didn’t know there’s a rat temple. I can’t believe it!

  30. First time I’m seeing a photo of rats drinking milk! They look so behaved! Thanks for sharing this!

  31. klaudia says:

    Waaah, never in a million years I would go in there, although the temple itself looks gorgeous. Rats out, me in or no chance at all 🙂 I could not get over my fear, well it’s not fear, I am disgusted by rats and mice also. Not my cup of tea.

  32. erica says:

    This is the rat temple I watched on BBC feature some years ago… It is quite interesting that this part of the world deems rats sacred. I know some provinces in the Philippines that worship animals and trees but not specifically rats. I am not sure if I can go to this place, I am scared of rats but also I am really intrigued by the faith of the people here, esp the old man who is in charge of all the rat feeding and “maintenance”… so maybe I could.

  33. Oh my, I don’t know if I can get inside the temple. Maybe I would just take photos from the outside LOL

  34. danik says:

    I still can’t believe there is a temple for rats there! What do rats do for us? 😉 But its amazing to see and still want to check oit out when I get to that part of India 🙂

  35. Quirky indeed. Our motherland is one amazing place! Great post Indrani.

  36. Chrysoula says:

    Never heard of this temple before. I don’t think I wouldbe too comfortable with so many rats around. I love the myths on how there are too many rats on the temple

  37. Herbert says:

    Saw an episode about this temple in Discovery Channel. Very very interesting place. I hope I can visit this place someday. It would be a great experience I guess

  38. This is indeed a unique temple. Though the rats are creepy. The temple is an ode to the faith and belief of the people. Something unique to Indian culture which believes in and respects all forms of living beings.

  39. I must need to appeal to the goddess as rats often invade our attic. Perhaps I’ll get the chance to make an offering at the temple one day and they’ll leave my home alone!

  40. Pedro says:

    Wow, that’s crazy! I didn’t know there was such a temple. That picture of the rats drinking milk it really cool and slightly scary, to be honest. Worth sharing!

  41. Have heard of this Temple. Enjoyed reading your narration.

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