Karni Mata Temple, Rajasthan: A Temple With 20,000+ Rats
Recently while watching the movie “I Am Kalam”, a scene from that movie where the main character visits the rat temple of Rajasthan led me to share this interesting story of yet another unique temple of India – the Karni Mata temple in Rajasthan also known as the “Temple of Rats”.
Yes, there is a temple in the Deshnok village of Rajasthan near Bikaner that is home to around 20,000 rats. The locals highly revere the rats inside the temple and it is considered a great sin if you even accidentally kill one inside the temple. But as soon as you step a foot outside the temple, the rats outside are just annoying pests!
What makes Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan Special?
The Karni Mata Temple near Bikaner is popular, not for its location or the architecture, but for being home to thousands of rats that inhabit the temple premises and roam around freely. They often pass over the visitor’s feet and a passing or spotting of a white rat in the temple is considered very auspicious as they are believed to be Karni Mata’s sons.
The rats in this temple are almost the same size and can be seen emerging from the various parts of the temple like the crevices in the floor, wall, and roof. These rats are called Kaba and they are even present in the main sanctum. There are various types of food items kept on plates for the kaba to eat like nuts, grains, milk, fruits, halwa, coconut, roti, laddu, and even liquor.
The food nibbled by these Kaba inside the temple is then served as prasad in the Karni Mata temple. What is even more surprising is that no one has ever been sick after eating the prasad nibbled by the Kaba of the Karni Mata Temple.
Even though the Rat Temple of Rajasthan has more than 20,000 rats, the temple premises do not have any foul smell. The rats do not harm the goods and products in the shops surrounding the temple. The rats in the temple also have never been a reason to spread any animal-related disease and that is why they are highly worshipped here.
But who are these rats? Where do they come from and Why they are revered? Before answering all these questions, let me first tell you about Karni Mata who is also known as the “Mother of Rats” in the Karni Mata Temple.
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The Legend Of Karni Mata Temple
About Karni Mata
Karni Mata was no ordinary lady and her life was filled with several unworldly magic that was beyond the capability of a normal human being. Karni Mata was born on 20 September 1378 in Jodhpur and the series of magical powers that she held was revealed right after her birth.
Mehaji And Deval Devi who are believed to be the parents of Karni Mata belonged to the Charan Clan of Jodhpur. They had 5 daughters, but Mehaji wanted a son. Mehaji decided to please goddess Hinglaj Mata by going on a pilgrimage to the temple (currently in the Baluchistan region of Pakistan). Pleased by the devotion, Hinglaj Mata gave a boon to Mehaji.
Upon asking Mehaji asked that he wanted his respect back, which he thought was lost since he had no son to continue his lineage. The goddess granted him the boon and disappeared. After a few days, Deval Devi was pregnant but was not able to deliver even after 18 months of pregnancy.
During this time, Deval Devi had a dream in which goddess Durga appeared and asked Deval Devi to be patient and that the goddess herself would take birth from her womb. After 21 months, Deval Devi delivered a baby girl who was then named Ridubai. Furious about having another baby girl, Mehaji couldn’t control his anger upon hearing the news and he tightly closed his fist. His fist was then locked for a lifetime as a punishment for insulting the goddess.
Ridubai performed many miracles since her childhood like treating the handicapped with her touch. People around her knew that her powers were beyond human capability and they also believed that she was an incarnation of goddess Durga. Her family members assumed that she had a special purpose on earth and thus changed her name to Karnibai which eventually became popular as Karni Mata
As Karnibai grew, it was time for her marriage. She was married to Depoji Charan of Satika village. As the marriage ceremony was over, Karni Mata, Depoji, and other guests were heading back to Satika village. On the way, Depoji was thirsty but found that the water pots he was carrying were empty. Karni Mata then said to him that he must look behind and to his surprise appeared a huge lake with fresh water.
After quenching his thirst Depoji took some water for Karni Mata. As soon as he moved the curtains of her palanquin to offer her water, he was astonished by what he saw. He saw a huge figure of goddess Durga on her vehicle – the Lion and Trishul in one hand. He immediately bows in respect to the goddess. The goddess then told him that she could not indulge in worldly desires and asked him to marry her younger sister Gulab Bai.
Depoji did as instructed and Karni Mata then left to dedicate her life to worshipping goddess Durga. During this time she roamed in various parts of Rajasthan helping people. Her magical powers and spiritual work gained her fame and respect throughout the state. She was also invited to lay the foundation stone of the historic fort of Rajasthan like Meherangarh and Bikaner fort.
She continued worshipping the goddess and performing miracles all her lifetime from a cave near Bikaner until she self-declared her death after 151 years in 1538. As per her last wish, the Karni Mata Temple was built in the Deshnok village near Bikaner where her followers could come and offer her prayers.
There is also a small Karni Mata museum in front of the temple that has several sculptures that depict the life story of Karni Mata.
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Story Behind The Rat Temple Of Rajasthan
Gulab Bai and Depoji together had 4 sons and Karni Mata considered and cared for them as they were her sons. One day when the youngest son, Laxmana was drinking water from a lake but drowned in the lake and died.
Karni Mata couldn’t handle the grief of her son’s death and took the body to Yamraj – the god of death. She demanded the life of her son but Yamraj refused by saying “This is the circle of life. How will the cycle of rebirth function if I break the rules for you and give the life of your son back?”. But moved by her sorrow Yamraj granted her a boon and reincarnated her son into a rat.
On this Karni Mata was pleased by Yamraj and rather declared that no one from the Charan lineage would ever come of Yamraj anymore. Thus, the deceased of the Charan lineage would be reborn as rats and then again as humans in the same lineage. Thus, the rats in the Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan are the people of Charan lineage according to the local legend.
It is believed that the rats who live inside the main sanctum have done some good deeds in their human life as they got a special place near their mother goddess. The white rats are considered to be the 4 sons of Karni Mata. Thus, spotting a white rat is considered auspicious in the Karni Mata Temple.
Another legend goes that a battalion of 20,000 soldiers once fled the battlefield and reached Deshnok to find a safe place. When Karni Mata came to know about this act, she happily offered them a safe shelter inside the Karni Mata temple. But she also punished the soldiers for running away from their responsibility by turning them into rats.
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The Architecture of Karni Mata Temple In Rajasthan
In the early 20th century, Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner completed the construction of the Karni Mata Temple. The entire structure, made of marble, showcases Mughal-inspired architecture. The captivating marble façade is complemented by sturdy silver doors that lead to the inner compound. These doors depict various legends of the Goddess.
The inner sanctum houses a 75 cm tall idol of Karni Mata, adorned with a crown and garlands, holding a trident in one hand. Her sisters’ idols accompany her on either side. In 1999, Kundan Lal Verma, a Karni Jeweler from Hyderabad, contributed to the temple’s enhancement with intricate marble carvings and silver gates, adding to its charm.
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Things To Know Before Visiting The Karni Mata Temple
- Temple Administration: The largest Charan lineage is of Depavats of whom there are more than 500 families who take care of the temple. Baridari is referred to as the Head Priest of Karni Mata Temple who is appointed from the Depavat families. Only he is allowed to enter the innermost sanctum and has to stay there during their month-long role as Baridari.
- Safety Precautions: You must be very careful while walking inside the temple premises of the Rat Temple of Rajasthan so that you do not step and kill the rats here. Killing a rat is a sin and the fine is to replace the dead rat by donating a solid rat made of silver or gold.
- Karni Mata Fair: The best time to visit the Karni Mata temple Of Rajasthan is during the Karni Mata Fair which is held twice a year – March-April and September-October.
- Oran Parikrama: Many visitors worship Karni Mata by walking a stretch of 42 km established by the goddess herself. During this Oran Parikrama, no one is allowed to harm any living beings – trees, animals, humans, etc. Many pilgrims undertake the Oran Parikrama during the months of Navaratri.
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How To Reach The Karni Mata Temple?
- Airways: The nearest airport to this Rat temple of Rajasthan is Jodhpur Airport, which is approximately 220 km away from the temple. From the airport, you can hire a cab, local taxi, or government bus to reach the temple.
- Railways: The nearest railway station to the Karni Mata Temple is Bikaner Railway Station which is approximately 30 km from the temple. Upon reaching you can avail of any local transport to reach the temple.
- Roadways: Bikaner is the nearest major town to Deshnok where the Karni Mata temple is located. Bikaner is very well connected to the major Indian cities with an extensive network of highways. A road trip to Karni Mata temple will give you an insight into the stunning arid landscape of Rajasthan.
What is Karni Mata Temple, and why is it called the Rat Temple?
Karni Mata Temple is a temple dedicated to the Karni Mata who is believed to be an incarnation of goddess Durga. It is also known as the Rat Temple Of Rajasthan due to the presence of around 20,000 rats inside the temple premises. These rats are called Kaba and are highly revered by the locals.
What is the significance of the rats in Karni Mata Temple?
As per the local legends, the rats in the Karni Mata Temple are believed to be the soldiers or the deceased people of the Charan lineage who are reborn as rats here. The Charan lineage is the same lineage from which the Karni Mata belonged. The rats in this temple are called Kaba. The 4 white rats inside the temple are believed to be the 4 sons of the goddess and it is auspicious to spot one of the 4 white rats.
Is it safe to visit Karni Mata Temple with the presence of so many rats?
It is absolutely safe to visit Karni Mata Temple with the presence of so many rats, as no case of any disease or plague has ever been reported in and around the temple. The pilgrims happily eat the prasad nibbled by these rats as it is considered holy. The pilgrims need to walk carefully to avoid killing or stepping on the rats inside the temple as it is considered to be a sin.
Why do people visit Karni Mata Temple?
Karni Mata is also Kul Devi of the Bikaner Royal Family. Pilgrims from Rajasthan and nearby places flock to Karni Mata Temple to pay homage to their mother goddess out of respect and the miracles that she performed during her 150 years of life. The temple is also popular due to the rat population on the premises which is seen nowhere in the world.