Holy Rat !
Karni Mata, at first glance in your guidebook, sounds like any other amazing temples in India – it’s in the state of Rajasthan, which has innumerable golden palaces and towering temples. But in the town of Deshnok you’ll find this temple to be unlike any other temple in the world.
The silver rats on the door should be your first sign something is amiss, but as soon as you enter you’ll soon see that humans are the minority, while more than 20,000 rats have taken over this religious sanctuary. In fact, it is they who are considered holy.
The story goes that the Goddess Karna Mata, a Hindu sage and official deity of two royal families, died after a mysterious disappearance at age 151. The temple was built in her honor and strangely enough the rats came – perhaps because some of Karni’s male children had been reincarnated as rats.
Thousands visit during the ten days of the religious festival Navaratri; they say if a rat is killed, it must be replaced with a rat of solid gold. The worshippers come to pray with the rats and feed them as this is claimed to heal illnesses.
There aren’t any gates so the rats are free to go elsewhere; perhaps it is all the attention and free food that keeps them hanging around.
The Rat Temple is over 600 years old and is popular with tourists. Tourists come for the obvious fight factor, but it is said that rats climbing over your bare feet brings good luck – shoes aren’t allowed in the temple, so it isn’t for the weak of heart. Though if you spot the white rat, you’ll have even more luck when you leave.
Holy Rats ! AH