First Published on February 4, 2016
Bikaner was not a planned destination during our trip to Rajasthan but happened as we need to break the long drive from Jaisalmer to Jaipur. Since we had made a halt here, we decided to explore it as well and on checking with the locals, heard about an unusual Karni Mata Rat temple at Deshnok – just for Rats!
Yes, you heard me right – this temple known as the Karni Mata Rat Temple is home to over 20,000 rats. These rats known as Kabas, are quite auspicious and care is taken to feed and nurture them. If they run over your feet, it is considered to be lucky and spotting a white rat is supposed to be extremely lucky for you.
Swati, my friend was quite kicked about it and was keen to visit it. ME? I was a little squeamish about it. I suppose it did not take too much of convincing on Swati’s part to get me going – but only because I wanted to see it for its strange facts and not because I was fond of the rats!
Exteriors of Karni Mata Rat Temple, Deshnok
Deshnok is around 30 kms from Bikaner, not really on our way to Jaipur but not too much of a diversion either. The roads are alright and we headed there around noon. I expected to see a lot of these rats outside the temple but to my surprise, there were none in sight. Two huge vessels were kept outside, which the folks at the entrance told us were used to cook food for the rats.
The Karni Mata Rat temple isn’t too ancient and was built in the 20th century by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. Interestingly, there are two marble lions outside the temple. Not sure of the significance of the same but purely from the perspective of art, the same are gorgeous.
The detailing on the marble is quite astonishing. I did not really get the time to dwell on them but having captured them into my camera, can spot figures of people and animals in various settings. I love the floral setting in this particular picture.
And here are some more of these exteriors of the Karni Mata RatTemple.
The doors and the windows of the temple are made of silver and this is where you see some rats inscriptions. These doors were said to be added later and were donated by a rich jeweler who currently, resides in Hyderabad.
Inside Karni Mata Rat Temple
As I stepped into the temple barefoot, I suddenly went on my tippy-toes. And that was not all – my daughter screamed and leaped up my hubby’s back – only to get down once we exited the temple. RATS! All over the temple floor – not just in corners but running across the floor.
Some were just chasing each other or snoozing in corners.
I tried pointing out these sights to my daughter, still piggybacking on my hubby but she was still spouting tears and urging us to finish fast and come out of the Karni Mata Rat temple.
Legend of Karni Mata
The main shrine was a small one with an idol of Karni Mata with her Trishul (Trident). There were rats around her too and they say that she is always surrounded by them. A lot of it is related to the story of Karni Mata. Karni Mata means Miraculous Mother and the lady is said to have had some extraordinary power to heal people. Though not from Deshnok, she wandered around to ultimately settle down in Deshnok. It is said that when one of her sons died, she met the God of Death – Yama and demanded that his son’s life be given back. However, God Yama said that his son has already been reincarnated as a rat and going forward all her family members will be reborn as Rats before they die again and get a human life. Well! That is some story, isn’t it?
This place is really, a Mickey Mouse’s paradise – what with the amount of free food that these guys get. Ratatouille too, would have loved this temple. Belief has it that any food that is offered to these rats and is left over is very auspicious and devotees actually take it back and eat it.
Scurrying out – pretty much like its inhabitants, we headed back to Jaipur. If you ask me, what was the experience like? I frankly for once, don’t know – pleasant? amusing? Squeamish? Within the temple, I saw these two sculptures. With the absence of a guide or a sign, I am guessing that one of them is Maharaja Ganga Singh. I am not sure, but hey, if you find out, let me know.
What do you think? Share in your comments with me here.
- Bikaner is the closest town to Deshnok. It is just 30 kms and one can reach Deshnok by road through buses or private cabs.
- Bikaner is the closest railway station as well. It is fairly well connected to all the major cities of Rajasthan.
- Jodhpur is the closest airport to Deshnok. It is around 5 hours from Deshnok
- The temple is open from 5 am to 8pm on all days.
- There are no entrance fees for the temple. However, there are minor charges for photography.
- One has to walk barefoot in the temple. You can leave your shoes at the shoe stall just outside the temple for a few rupees.
- The temple is full of rats and if you are not tolerant of the same, then, honestly, this may not be a place for you.
- Keep a check out for the Karni Mata Fair that happens twice a year. Once around March and once around October. It is quite well known and fun as well. The information on this is available on various websites like this one.
- When in Bikaner, don’t forget to visit the famous Junagarh Fort.