The Legend Of Karni Mata
The Legend Of Karni Mata3 mins 109 3 mins 109
Bikaner is a well-known town in the Marwar district of Rajasthan. Most of us have tasted the “Bikaneri Bhujia” and have also visited the famous “Bikanerwala” chain of restaurants. However, many may not have heard the name Karni Mata or her temple of rats in Deshnoke, a mere thirty kilometers away from Bikaner town.
Karni Mata was no mere mortal, for today she is worshipped as a Goddess and believed to be one incarnation of Goddess Durga. Karni Mata belonged to the Charan caste of Rajasthan and led a long and illustrious life as a warrior and a sage. She is believed to be born in the year 1387 and died in 1538.
As a young woman, Karni Mata was married to Depaji Charan, but soon enough she told him that she was not meant for married life and convinced him to marry her sister! She then renounced her home and family and became a wandering sage. She is believed to have performed miracles, one of which involved the son of her sister who was married to Karni Mata’s husband. It is believed that when the boy accidentally drowned in a lake and died, Karni Mata pleaded with the Lord of Death himself to bring him back to life. The deal she made with the Lord of Death was that all her devotees would be reborn as rats upon their death. Thus, a temple was built for Karni Mata where her devotees, born as rats after their death, still live in the temple to worship her!
I once visited Bikaner for some office work, and it was then that my friend told me about the temple of rats nearby. I was curious and requested him to take me there. We drove from Bikaner and soon reached the shrine. It was an ordinary temple shorn of any grandeur or architectural splendor.
We went inside, barefoot, and what did I see? Thousands of rats scurrying across the floor of the temple everywhere! The black mice (they were small, not large) were indifferent and unafraid of the presence of milling devotees. In fact, the devotees took extra care to ensure the safety of the rats so that they do not accidentally step over them!
The rats, about 24000, have been in the temple since it was built, and there has been no outbreak of any disease that rats usually cause. I could see that the floors were clean and there were no rat droppings anywhere.
The rats roamed freely around the temple and in the sanctum sanctorum where the idol of Karni Mata was kept. On large plates on the floor were sweets, flowers, and other edible offerings of devotees. I could see rats on these plates nibbling at whatever they felt like eating! These nibbles are considered as Prasad and devotees respectfully partake in it without fear of being infected.
I was told if anyone accidentally kills a rat; he has to replace it with a rat made of gold! That was his punishment. I was also told that amongst the hundreds of thousands of black rats were white ones too, which are considered as auspicious if spotted, for they are believed to be the Goddess Karni Mata herself.
Karni Mata, during her lifetime, laid the foundation of Mahendragarh fort in Jodhpur and was venerated and worshipped by the royal families.
Incredible, is it not? I was lucky to have visited this unique temple of rats.