Rat temple in DeshnokSmriti Saxena
They say there are a total of 330 million gods and deities in Hindu mythology, many worshipped in forms of fauna. There are cows, apes, serpents, elephants being venerated. So fairly enough one could ask, why must rats be left out? Devotees flock to a temple in Rajasthan where the gods themselves crawl to your feet and much in abundance.
This year earlier during my solo trip to Rajasthan I was travelling to Bikaner by train when I met some people who were going to a ‘rat temple’. They told me how they visit the place every year and it’s only one of a kind. I got interested and tagged along. With a small bribe to the TT the train carried me till Deshnok.
We reached quite early and were one of the first people to reach the temple that day. The temple is at walking distance from both Deshnok railway station and bus stand. The temple is dedicated to the local deity Karni mata, a sage she who is highly revered in Bikaner and Jodhpur. The temple was built pursuant to her death. Although the association of Karni mata with rats is much of a mystery but whether you like it or not this temple at Deshnok provides a luxurious haven for the Indian Bush Rat.
It looks rather plain from the outside. We entered the main gate and there were some rats crawling around, signs of the things to come. We were the only devotees (if I may call myself so) inside the temple at that time. An unruly stench hits you when you enter the temple. A combination of rotting food and rat poop, I guessed. We went inside the temple and offered prasad to Karni mata as per the custom. The priest emptied it into a container full of the prasad and rats and gave some prasad out of it to us. Food nibbled by rats is considered to be blessed! People scoop up half eaten food from the temple floor. There are saucers brimming with milk for rats to drink and sweet offered by the bhakts. Rats here are treated like royalty!
My new friends being devout bhakts asked me to do a feri (round) of the inner temple. The feri may send you on a wincing frenzy. It takes you through a narrow poorly lit corridor full of rats. You have to be careful not to step on any as they have no fear of you and will run directly towards you.
I was told to lookout for a white rat as it is considered auspicious and to be reincarnation of karni mata herself. It is said it is only seen by true believers needless to say I didn’t see any (but neither did my devout friends)
There is a stark absence of any dogs or cats in the village and there is a metal net on top of the temple to keep birds out. We had tea in a shop outside. The whole economy of this town seems to be centered around the temple. There are dharamshalas to stay, dhabas, tea shops and shops selling souvenir.
As some time passed buses full of westerners, tourists and some locals started pouring in and the temple started getting crowded. I said goodbye to my friends and walked to the bus stand. They went to buy some souvenirs for their home and I boarded the bus back to Bikaner.
- Distance from Bikaner: 30 km
- By train: 40 min
- By bus: 60 min
- Entry fees: none
- Camera fees: Rs 30 (though they didn’t ask me for it)
Contributed by Sanchit Cajla, India