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Visiting Shri Karni Mata – The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

Visiting Shri Karni Mata, the Rat Temple of Deshnoke, certainly isn't on everyone's wish list. You might wonder why anyone would want to go to a temple riddled with rats. The answer is quite simple: because it’s the only one of its kind in the whole world. For that reason alone, I was keen on going. But there’s more to this temple than just a bunch of freeloading rats running around.

VISITING SHRI KARNI MATA - THE RAT TEMPLE OF DESHNOKE

Visiting Shri Karni Mata - The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

Deshnoke is about 30 km from the town of Bikaner where most travelers choose to stay. The best (read: most interesting) and cheapest way to get to Deshnoke is by taking a local bus for just a few rupees. The driver will probably know you're going to the temple as do most travelers taking this bus. The bus will stop in front of the sign indicating the direction of the temple. Shri Karni Mata is a few hundred meters from the road where the bus stops. You can either walk about 5-10 minutes or take a tuk-tuk to get to the temple (which, in my opinion, isn't worth the hassle).

There's no entrance fee to visit The Rat Temple. Visitors are asked to remove their shoes but can keep their socks on. I preferred going in barefoot; I figured it was better to clean my feet afterwards than to keep filthy socks on in my shoes. I suggest you bring hand sanitizer and wipes for both your hands and feet.

Visiting Shri Karni Mata - The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

Devotees of Karni Mata firmly believe that each person of their faith is reincarnated as a rat rendering them as holy. There are different versions as to why this is but the end result is the same: rats are to be highly revered deserving of their very own temple. Pilgrims from all over India make their way to the Shri Karni Mata Temple to pay their respects to the holy rats known as kabbas and to ask for their blessing. The temple is also home to a few white rats said to be much holier than any of the other rats. I noticed parents reaching out their children’s hands to touch the white rats as a blessing and to bring good fortune.

Read also: Incredible India - Is It Really?

Visiting Shri Karni Mata - The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

The rats were more big-mouse-size than sewer-rat-size but, a rat is a rat no matter what size it is. These holy rats were scurrying everywhere. I mean, everywhere! Rodents were coming out of every crevice and hole. It was really hard to avoid having them run over my feet or nibble at my toes. Luckily, I did mange to avoid any contact with the critters. I tip-toed the whole time I was there and kept my eyes on the ground. I had to control myself from squirming and screeching out of respect for the devotees and their holy rats.

As holy as the rats are, the temple itself is filthy (hence, the wipes and sanitizer). Not only was the temple filled with rats but the floor was covered in rat (and pigeon) droppings and pee. It was quite the challenge dodging scurrying rats and puddles of pee at the same time. Not stepping on rat droppings was almost impossible. The smell from all the poop and pee was pungent enough to make your stomach churn. Make sure to have something to cover your nose. Turns out, I have a pretty strong stomach and an unexpected tolerance for holy rats.

Visiting Shri Karni Mata - The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

Read also: Sacred Cows and Holy Crap of India

Visiting Shri Karni Mata - The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

In the back of temple is a shrine where male devotees feed milk and rice in large bowls to hundreds of holy rats. Non-Hindu women are not permitted to enter the small, enclosed area but I was able to get close enough to take pictures of this unusual ritual. As you can see, no one was in the least bit bothered by the rats. Well, except for me. Seeing men casually sitting cross-legged around bowls of milk and rice filled with hungry rats was surreal. I never thought I would see something like that in person. Then again, I was in India, the land of the unexpected.

I admit none of this sounds appealing enough to visit Shri Karni Mata, the Rat Temple of Deshnoke but I’m still happy I went. I got to experience unique religious practices honoring one of the most hated rodents. It's not every day someone can say they hung out with holy rats. After all, Shri Karni Mata is the only one of its kind in the whole world.

Visiting Shri Karni Mata - The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

Have you been to The Rat Temple in Deshnoke? Would you dare go?

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Visiting Shri Karni Mata - The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

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The post Visiting Shri Karni Mata – The Rat Temple of Deshnoke appeared first on Life Untraveled.



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