The Karni Mata Story – Facts & Beliefs of the rat temple in Rajasthan

She begged him to return her son
But he said - "Death cannot be undone!"
"Instead I grant you this unique boon - 
"You & your sons will live on as rats with silver spoon"

.... And thus began the unique Karni Mata story of the only Rat temple in Rajasthan. 

Have you heard of a rat temple in Rajasthan – one where thousands of them are kept as royalty and worshipped? Maybe, you know it by another name – the Karni Mata Rat Temple of Deshnok? Or the Karni Mata Temple Bikaner?

Well, if you haven’t, this post is going to take you through a bizarre tour of the Karni Mata Rat Temple. Located 30 km from Bikaner in a village called Deshnok, this temple is home to over 25,000 rats. These rats known as Kabbas, are quite auspicious and care is taken to feed and nurture them. People come from far and near to pay respects at this temple. The reason for this is what makes this Karni Mata story an interesting one.

The Rat Temple in Rajasthan is a unique cultural and heritage experience
The Rat Temple in Rajasthan is a unique cultural and heritage experience

Frankly speaking, I stumbled upon this Karni Mata mandir accidentally when I made a stop at Bikaner en route from Jaisalmer to Jaipur. A friendly conversation with the locals revealed this unusual temple at Deshnok – just for Rats! Adding to my curiosity, were the strange Karni Mata temple facts. Naturally, I had to make that slight detour to see it all for myself. It is time you buckle up and follow me, as I share my experience at the Deshnok rat temple.

This Karni Mata Temple guide will not just give you a taste of what to expect but is full of tips that will help you plan a visit here. From how to get to Rajasthan rat temple to where to stay and the best time to visit Karni Mata temple – I have covered it all. And yes, if you are squeamish about rats, then you might just be happy with this virtual tour and the story of Karni Mata.

The Karni Mata Story | The Legend of Karni Mata

While the temple of rats would be the first point of intrigue, the next question that you must have is who was Karni Mata. Well, she was a legendary warrior sage who lived in Rajasthan between the 14th and 16th centuries. She is considered to be symbolic of victory and power among the Hindus in Rajasthan. Many even say that she was an incarnation of Goddess Durga.

It is believed that she was born as Riddhi Kanwar in the late 1300s to the head of the Kiniya clan. Her birth itself is a divine event, with her mother having undergone 21 months of gestation. Before her birth, she had a dream with the Goddess foretelling that her 6th child would be the Devi (Goddess) herself. There are several stories of her performing miracles – right from her childhood. She is said to have had some extraordinary power to heal people. It was this that earned her the name – Karni Mataji. (Miraculous mother)

She is said to have moved around Rajasthan, specifically around Jodhpur and Bikaner. Karni Mataji was highly revered by the royal family of these two places. Eventually, she ended up in this small village near Bikaner – Deshnoke. She is said to have finally, settled here with her followers – till she mysteriously disappeared. She was 151 years old when this happened!

Karni mata temple silver window edited

Book your private tour to Karni Mata Temple from Bikaner with an English-speaking guide right here

Why are there rats in the Karni Mata Temple? | Karni Mata Temple Mystery

Now that you know the story of Karni Mata, you must be wondering why is her temple full of rats. The answer to this Karni Mata temple mystery lies in another legend.

Why are there so many rats in the Karni Mata Temple Deshnok?
Why are there so many rats in the Karni Mata Temple Deshnok?

It is said that when one of her sons – Laxman died, Karni Mata met the God of Death – Yama and demanded that his son’s life be given back. God Yama initially refused but eventually relented to her. He reincarnated her son and rest of her male followers of the Charan clan into rats. He said that going forward all her family members will be reborn as rats before they die again and get a human life.

And thus, you find so many rats in this Karni Mata Deshnoke temple.

Karni Mata temple history

Statue of Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner - who is said to have built the currrent Karni Mata Deshnok temple
Statue of Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner – who is said to have built the current Karni Mata Deshnok temple

The inner shrine of the present Bikaner Karni Mata temple is deemed to have been built in the 15th century in honor of Karni Mataji. However, the outer Karni Mata Rat temple isn’t too ancient and was built in the 20th century by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. The most recent addition to this temple of rats in Rajasthan was in 1999 by a Hyderabad-based jeweler – Kundanlal Verma. These included a lot of marble ornamentation and silver rats.

Why should you visit the rat temple in Rajasthan? | Karni Mata temple facts

It is not everyday that you come across a temple of rats! However, if that isn’t a strong enough reason to visit Karni Mata Rat Temple, then here are some astonishing facts about this place.

Karni Mata Temple facts - it has solid silver doors and windows
Karni Mata Temple facts – it has solid silver doors and windows
  • This Karni Mata Rat Temple Bikaner is home to over 25,000 rats. You will find them almost everywhere – from the time you enter the temple. You will find them hanging on wires, along the doors, scurrying across the floors – everywhere!
  • There are several other Karni Mata temples in Rajasthan. In fact, the Karni Mata temple Udaipur and Alwar are quite popular. However, the one in Deshnok is the only rat temple among them all.
  • Karni Mata is said to have laid the foundation of the famous Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur and the Junagarh fort in Bikaner.
  • Despite the huge number of rats within the Deshnok Karni Mata Mandir, there are none that are found outside of the premises. They all live inside the temple.
  • Surprisingly, there are no instances of a plague in Deshnok temple Bikaner or around, despite the existence of so many rats.
  • This Karni Mata Temple Deshnok has solid silver doors and windows!

And with that last fact, let’s dive into the finer details of the Karni Mata temple architecture.

The architecture of Karni Mata Deshnok Temple

The arched doorway and the marble facade displaying the Rajputana style of architecture with a hint of Mughal influence.
The arched doorway and the marble facade displaying the Rajputana style of architecture with a hint of Mughal influence.

The current rat temple of Rajasthan has been built in a typical Rajputana style. There are a few shades of Mughal architecture with arched doorway. The temple facade is largely made of marble while the main temple doors, which are a recent addition (Thanks to Mr. Kundanlal) are solid silver.

Marble lion at the entrance of the Karni Mata Temple
Marble lion at the entrance of the Karni Mata Temple

You are greeted by two marble lions right outside the temple. Not sure of the significance of the same but purely from the perspective of art, the same is gorgeous. Spend a little time taking in the details of the marble facade and you will be astonished by the marvelous workmanship. You will spot figures of people and animals amidst a floral setting. On the silver doors and windows are some scenes of the Karni Mata story.

Close up of the marble carvings at the Karni Mata Rat Temple
Close up of the marble carvings at the Karni Mata Rat Temple

Inside Karni Mata Rat temple

The shrine of Karni Mata in the Bikaner Rat Temple
The shrine of Karni Mata in the Bikaner Rat Temple

The main shrine of the temple is 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.

However, they are not near the shrine. One step into the temple and you will be surrounded by them. In fact, 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.

Me- inside the Deshnok Karni Mata Mandir. Check out the rats in the background
Me- inside the Deshnok Karni Mata Mandir. Check out the rats in the background

Once I got over the initial shock, amusement took over. I began to notice how these wriggly fur-balls were so caught up with their treats. Some were crowded around a whole vessel of Kheer. 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.

Beliefs in the temple of rats in Rajasthan

The Kabbas (the Karni Mata temple rats) are still considered to be incarnations of the Charan clan (Karni Mataji’s clan). They are quite auspicious and care is taken to feed and nurture them. There are several beliefs and rituals that are associated with them and these form an important part of the Karni Mata temple story.

The Rats of Karni Mata Temple are called Kaabas
The Rats of Karni Mata Temple are called Kaabas
  • If any of these rats run over you, it is considered to be a stroke of luck. Consider yourself to be blessed!
  • There are a few white rats amid the regular black and brown ones. These white ones are believed to be Karni Mata and her sons. If you spot any one of these Karni Mata temple white rats, you have a stroke of even bigger luck waiting for you.
  • If you accidentally stamp or kill one of the rats, you have to do penance by donating a pure gold one. And that too, it has to be the same size as the rat that perished.
  • 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.

There is no doubt that a visit to this rat temple in Rajasthan is a very unusual experience. If you ask me, what was the experience like? I frankly for once, don’t know – pleasant? amusing? Squeamish? It wasn’t natural to walk around so many rats and that too, barefeet. So if you have an animal phobia, you might want to reconsider an actual visit here. My advice – nothing like braving it just this once! After all, it is one of its kind!

A note on the Karni Mata Fair | Karni Mata Festival

One of the carved scenes on the facade of the Karni Mata Temple
One of the carved scenes on the facade of the Karni Mata Temple

It might be a good idea to plan your visit (if you do decide to go) to coincide with the biannual Karni Mata Fair. This fair is organized for 10 days during the Navaratras – specifically Ashwin Shukla (March to April) and Chaitra Shukla (September to October). The Karni Mata Festival adds a little cultural nuance to your visit. You can do some local shopping at the fairs and enjoy the traditional dance and music programs. There are of course, some special poojas organized during this period in the Karni Mata Temple.

Common FAQs about the Karni Mata Temple Bikaner

What is the best way to reach Karni Mata Temple?

Karni Mata Rat Temple is located in a small village called Deshnok (Deshnoke) in Rajasthan. The closest city to this village is Bikaner at a distance of 30 km. Bikaner has its own airport and railway station. Once you reach the city, you will find plenty of public buses that take you to Deshnok. Alternately, you can hire a cab in Bikaner and get to Deshnok.

You can also, board one of the local trains from Bikaner to Deshnok. The train journey only takes 30 minutes and once you reach Deshnok, you can just walk to the temple of rats. The frequency of train is good enough for you to plan a return within a few hours to Bikaner.

Which is the best place to stay near Deshnok Karni Mata Temple?

I would recommend staying in Bikaner as Deshnok is a small village and there aren’t any good options for a stay. Bikaner on the other hand, has hotels in every possible budget. You can choose to stay in luxury heritage hotels like Laxmi Niwas Palace or budget heritage havelis like Bhawar Niwas.

What are the Karni Mata Temple timings?

The Karni Mata Temple timings are from 4 am to 10 pm every day. The first Karni Mata temple aarti takes place at 4 am.

What is the best time to visit Karni Mata Rat Temple?

In terms of the season, avoid summers (April to June) when the temperatures soar to over 40 degrees. It is best to visit this temple any time between September to February when it is reasonably cooler.

It might be worthwhile to plan your trip during the Karni Mata fair that takes place twice in the year during the Navaratra. The first one is generally held either in March or April (Ashwin Shukla) and the 2nd one takes place around September – October (Chaitra Shukla). The exact dates depend on the lunar calendar followed by the Hindus.

If you are just going to the temple as a tourist, then it is best to avoid this time as well as the evening aarti time as the place gets crowded. With the numerous devotees and scurrying rats, it is really hard to walk through the temple.

Is there an entry fee to the Karni Mata Temple?

No, there is no entrance fee for the temple. However, as a tourist, you will have to pay a photography fee – which is INR 30 for cameras and INR 70 for video cameras.

What are the other places to visit near Karni Mata Temple?

At Deshnok, there is only the Karni Mata Temple that you can visit. However, in Bikaner, you have plenty of sightseeing options which include Rampuria Haveli, Junagarh Palace, Royal cenotaphs of Bikaner, Laxmi Niwas Palace etc.

How many rats are there in the Karni Mata temple?

There are around 25,000 rats living in the Karni Mata Temple.

Additional Travel Tips

  • As is the Hindu custom, you will need to enter the temple barefoot. I highly recommend carrying an extra pair of socks or disposable temple socks for this visit as the temple premises are not as clean as one would expect. You will find it sticky and messy with all the food grains all over the floor and rats scurrying around.
  • There are a few local eateries around the temple.
  • There are public restrooms near the temple but avoid using them.

Before you go, pin this

Rat temple in rajasthan
Karni mata rat temple rajasthan 1
Karni mata deshnok temple

Booking Resources

  • MakeMyTrip is a popular website for all flight (domestic & international) bookings. You can use this link to book your flight(s).
  • Booking.com has numerous hotels in Bikaner listed on their site. You can pick from the luxury Laxmi Niwas Palace to a mid-priced heritage haveli stay like Bhairav Niwas. Use this link to browse the various options.
  • Viator.com has a guided tour to Karni Mata Temple from Bikaner that can be booked through this link. You will also, find a lot of other Bikaner tours and special activities on their website. If you are looking for a private cab hire or airport transfers, you will find it here.
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