The temple of Rats in India: Karni Mata Temple

At first glance, this temple in the north Indian state of Rajasthan looks like any other. Pilgrims come here to pray saint and goddess ‘Karni Mata’ but this temple also houses other deities, ‘Rats’. They run rampant in the courtyard, spill out of doors, tumble downstairs, and scurry around corners. There is not one, not two but over 15000 rats, welcome to the Rat temple of India.

The Hindu Rat temple is situated in a small town called Deshnoke in the Bikaner district of Rajasthan, It’s near to Pakistan border and around 30KM from famous Bikaner. These Holy Rats are called as ‘Kabbas’, and many people travel a great distance to pay their respects. The Rat temple draws visitors from across the country for blessings, as well as curious tourists from around the world.

the temple of Rats in India
Rat temple in India

The story behind the rats in the temple of Rats is different according to some local oral history. According to this version, a 20,000 strong army deserted a nearby battle and came running to Deshnoke. 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.

In another legend says that Laxman, son of Karni Mata, sunk in a lake in Kapil Sarovar in Kolayat Tehsil while he was trying to drink water from it. Karni Mata pleaded to Yama, the god of death, to revive him. First declining, Yama eventually conceded, allowing Laxman and all of Karni Mata‘s male children to be reincarnated as rats.

the temple of rats in india
Goddess Karni Mata

According to another story, the priest of the rat temple who belongs to ‘CHARAN’ clan believes that the rats in this temple are their ancestor reborn as Rats and when Rat dies it born as a human. And the priest doesn’t just serve the Rats he also drinks, eats and sleeps with them. That might sound preposterous to many people in the west but people in India believe in reincarnation. The priest believes that his clan are descendants of the goddess they believe its special gift to be born and reborn in her tribe under her care.  

So sacred are these rats that they are treated like celebrities. Every day hundreds of tourists arrive at the rat temple. As in other temples in India, people are asked to remove their shoes outside and enter barefoot, the rule prevents people from squishing the rats.

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