Karni Mata Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Karni Mata at Deshnoke, 30 km from Bikaner, in Rajasthan, India. It is also known as the Temple of Rats.
The temple is famous for the approximately 25,000 black rats that live, and are revered in, the temple. These holy rats are called kabbas, and many people travel great distances to pay their respects. The temple draws visitors from across the country for blessings, as well as curious tourists from around the world
Karni Mata (Karni Mata is also referred to as Nari Bai) (circa 2 October 1387 – circa 23 March 1538,) was a female Hindu warrior sage born in the Charan caste. Also known as Shri Karniji Maharaj, she is worshipped as the incarnation of the warrior goddess Durga by her followers. She is an official deity of the royal families of Jodhpur and Bikaner. She lived an ascetic life and was widely revered during her own lifetime. At the request of the Maharajas of Bikaner and Jodhpur, she laid the foundation stones of Bikaner Fort and Mehrangarh Fort, the two most important forts in the region. The most famous of her temples is in the small town of Deshnoke, near Bikaner in Rajasthan, and was created following her mysterious disappearance from her home. The temple is famous for its white rats, which are treated as sacred and given protection in the temple. Another temple dedicated to her during her lifetime differs from others in that it does not contain an image or idol of her, but rather a footprint to symbolize her visit to that place
According to tradition, Karni Mata was originally the wife of Depoji Charan of the village of Sathika. However, she later expressed unwillingness to her husband to engage in conjugal relations. He initially humoured her, thinking that she would relent in time. Instead, Karni arranged for him to marry her younger sister, Gulab, so that he might have a proper married life. She herself remained celibate all her life with the agreement and support of her husband, who died in 1454.
Karni lived in her husband's village for about two years before leaving with her followers and a herd of cattle to live a nomadic life. She and her followers once made camp at the village of Jangloo. A servant of Rao Kanha who was ruler of Jangloo denied Karni, her followers, and their cattle access to water. Karni Mata declared her follower, Rao Ridmal of Chandasar, the new ruler of the village and continued on her journey. Karni Mata stopped wandering further and settled at Deshnok.
In 1453, she gave her blessing to Rao Jodha of Jodhpur for conquering Ajmer, Merta and Mandor. In 1457, she went to Jodhpur at Rao Jodha's request, to lay the cornerstone of the Mehrangarh Fort at Jodhpur.
Her first temple was constructed in the village of Mathania during her lifetime by her follower Amara Charan. In 1472, she arranged the marriage between Rao Bika and Rang Kunwar. Rao Bika was the fifth son of Rao Jodha and Rang Kunwar was the daughter of Rao Shekha of Pungal. The marriage was arranged to turn the enmity of the Rathor and Bhatian families into friendship.
In 1485, she laid the foundation stone of the fort of Bikaner at the request of Rao Bika.
In 1538, Karniji went to visit the Maharaja of Jaisalmer.
On 21 March 1538, she travelled back to Deshnok with her stepson, Poonjar, and a few other followers. They were near Gadiyala and Girirajsar of the Kolayat tehsil in Bikaner district when she asked the caravan to stop for water. It was reported that she disappeared there at the age of 151 years.
In Rajasthan, the goddess Karni Mata is believed to protect the Krishna Saara Mriga
Legend has it that Laxman, Karni Mata's stepson (or the son of one of her storytellers), 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. First refusing, Yama eventually relented, permitting Laxman and all of Karni mata's male children to be reincarnated as rats.
The story behind rats at the temple is different according to some local folklore. According to this version, a 20,000 strong army deserted a nearby battle and came running to Deshnoke. Upon learning of the sin of desertion, punishable by death, 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.
Eating food that has been nibbled on by the rats is considered to be a "high honor". If one of them is killed, it must be replaced with one made of solid silver.
The building was completed in its current form in the early 20th century in the late Mughal style by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner.
In front of the temple is a beautiful marble facade, which has solid silver doors built by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Across the doorway are more silver doors with panels depicting the various legends of the Goddess. The image of the Goddess is enshrined in the inner sanctum.
The temple was further enhanced by Kundanlal Verma of Hyderabad-based Karni Jewelers in 1999. The silver gates to the temple and the marble carvings were also donated by him
Out of all of the thousands of rats in the temple, there are a few white rats, which are considered to be especially holy. They are believed to be the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her four sons. Sighting them is a special blessing and visitors put in extensive efforts to bring them forth, offering prasad, a sweet holy food.
The temple is thrown open to the public early in the morning at 4.00 a.m. Charan priests perform Mangla-Ki-Aarti and offer bhog (special food) in worship. Devotees make offerings to the rats, which roam about the temple in large numbers and are considered auspicious. There are two kinds of offerings made: the 'dwar-bhent' is attributed to the priests and the workers, while the 'kalash-bhent' is utilised for the temple maintenance and development.
Karni Mata Fair
Karni Mata Fair is held twice a year at Deshnok:
The first and larger fair is held in March–April during the Navratras from Chaitra Shukla Ekam to Chaitra Shukla Dashmi.
The second fair is held in September–October, also during the Navratras, from Ashvin Shukla to Ashwin Shukla Dashmi.
During Navratri thousands of people travel to the temple by foot.
Some Intresting Facts About Karni Mata Temple
The 20,000 black rats that live in the Karni Mata Temple are known as Kabbas and it is believed by the locals that these rats were 20,000 strong army men who deserted a nearby battle. Although the sin of desertion was punishable by death, but Karni Mata spared their lives but made them rats who live here since then.
Although there are 1000s of rats in this Rat Temple but never a single case of Plague is found in the temple or around.
Even when any of these rats die, it never produces any sort of foul smell.
If a single Rat is killed in the Karni Mata Temple, it must be replaced with a rat of similar weight and size, made of solid Gold.
Among thousands of black rats, a few white rats also live here, who are considered to be supremely holy and manifestations of Karni Mata and here four sons.