Friday, January 3, 2014

Rat Temple

The Karni Mata Temple at Deshnoke, 30 km from Bikaner, India, is one of the strangest temples in the world. The temple is home to over 20,000 rats, that not only live and dine within the temple premises but are actually worshipped by devotes who throng the temple in great numbers. These holy animals are called “kabbas”, and many people travel long distances to pay their respects.

This ornate, isolated Hindu temple was constructed by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 1900s as a tribute to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. Intricate marble panels line the entrance and the floors, and silver and gold decorations are found throughout.

But by far the most intriguing aspect of the interior is the 20,000-odd rats that call this temple home. These holy animals are called kabbas, and many people travel great distances to pay their respects.

The legend goes that Karni Mata, a mystic matriarch from the 14th century, was an incarnation of Durga, the goddess of power and victory. At some point during her life, the child of one of her clansmen died. She attempted to bring the child back to life, only to be told by Yama, the god of death, that he had already been reincarnated.

Karni Mata cut a deal with Yama: From that point forward, all of her tribespeople would be reborn as rats until they could be born back into the clan.


In Hinduism, death marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one on the path to a soul's eventual oneness with the universe. This cycle of transmigration is known as samsara and is precisely why Karni Mata's rats are treated like royalty.

rats 2 India’s Rat Temple: A True Test of Faith picture

Oddly, since the temple’s existence, there has never been an outbreak of plague or other rat-borne diseases. There is no explanation for this.

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