Theme Tourism> Pilgrimage
'Souls' are running cris- cross! Many of them are drinking milk from the brass vessel stretching from the floor, and many are eating sweets. In front of the offerings for the goddess placed before the sanctum sanctorum, 'ghosts clad in black blankets' are dancing. From the entrance of the temple you can reach the sanctum sanctorum by walking about twenty feet. But be careful while stepping on the marble floor, as you may be kicking a soul or two.
The village called Deshnok is not so far from Bikaner. The famous Rat temple or Karnimatha temple is located here. In this temple, you could see thousands of rats living their life king-size! Here, they get sumptuous food, royal accommodation and many believers to serve. They can run around anywhere in the temple, even up to the sanctum sanctorum.
The youngsters, including me, in Enfield and Bullets started early morning from Bikaner reached the temple at nine o' clock. Since it is hailed as a rat temple, we thought that there would be a statue of rat to worship. We felt uneasy the instant we entered the big silver door. The setup is good, but something is wrong some where. We looked on walls up and down. No, it could be an illusion, but the moment we stepped in to the next door we pulled back our foot frantically. 'Rats Full of rats!' They are running around so cool as if challenging us to count them. The believers give them sweets and milk and worship them. These holy rats are known as 'Kaba'.
This temple is more than six hundred years old. Karnimatha was a lady who lived here during the fourteenth century. She was gifted with divine powers and could do wonders. The devotees believe that she is an incarnation of the godess Durga. The little girl Reethubai became known as Karnimatha after curing her grand mother's incurable illness when she was six years old. Her saga starts from there. The Charan tribe of Rajasthan is equal to the Chekavas of Kerala. Patriots who dare to kill or die. Karni was born in that tribe.
Once a devotee fell on her feet. He was crying and weeping as his little child died of a disease. Karni requested Lord Yama, the God of death, to return the life of the child. But Lord Yama replied that the soul of that child has been reincarnated in another form. From that day Karni wished that the people in her tribe who die should reincarnate in the same tribe, and during the interval till the rebirth, they should reform in to rats. The myth is that Lord Yama agreed to her wish. It is said that from that day onwards, Deshnok became the village of rats.
The people in the temple say that they don't know how the rats multiply in this speed. 'If they are breeding, shouldn't we see some baby rats?', they exclaim. It is said that nobody has ever seen a baby rat! Spending there about one and a half hours, the members of the bike gang also could not see a baby rat. Another curious thing is that, you cannot even see a cat in the premises of the temple.
The offering (prasadam) of this temple is leftovers of the rats. The plate placed before the godess is full of sweets. The rats are running over them. The priest supply it as parasadam.
If the rats climb on your body or touch your body, it means Karni Devi blesses you. While thousands of rats are running around, if someone unknowingly steps over a rat and it dies, it will be a big sin. They may be affected with incurable diseases, or accidents may follow. Don't be afraid, there are remedies. You can offer a statue of a rat made of gold or silver, to the devi. That will do.
One who sees the white rat is extremely lucky. They are the pets of Karni Devi. It is assumed that more than twenty thousand rats are inmates of this temple. Out of more than twenty thousand rats only three or four are whites!
Till now we have seen only the rats which run to their hiding place on hearing our footsteps. But here the story is just opposite: Man should run on hearing the noise of the rats! Otherwise, if you step over a rat unknowingly, and if it dies, grave sin will follow. How interesting!
Text: T J Sreejith