Shri Karni Mata Temple, Deshnoke, India

The Temple

The Shri Karni Mata Temple in Deshnoke, India is unlike any other Hindu temple in the world.  In this temple, rats reign supreme.

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. (National Geographic, 2004)

Rats having din-din.

The rats are well fed, friendly and the temple is remarkably clean considering its inhabitants. Visitors are instructed to remove their footwear before entering.

Rats hanging out in the temple.

Friendly temple rats.

You might be thinking that my toes are curling at the very thought of hanging out with rats.  It may surprise you to know, however, that I’ve hung out with rats years ago, as a psychology undergrad.  In the “rat lab”, as we called it,  students learned operant conditioning principles by teaching albino rats to bar-press for food pellets, run  through mazes, etc.  My lab partner and I had a cute little albino rat which we named–get ready for it–Spot.

The little guys in the temple aren’t albino, but likely became gentle over generations of human handling and care.  You may not want to sit on the floor and have them scamper up your arm like the fellow above, but you may not have to worry about being bitten either.


6 thoughts on “Shri Karni Mata Temple, Deshnoke, India

  1. You just made my day! Have always wanted to visit India (my Indian clients are always thrilled to hear that) – TIGERS! But, a temple full of rats? That even trumps tigers! Thank you, what a delightful post!

  2. I don’t know how we ever handled and trained rats all those years ago… I can’t even look at these pictures without feeling freaked out right now! This is one place that is not on my travel wish list, that’s for sure.

    • I know–although sometimes I think I like the rats a whole lot more than people. 😉

      Recall that pic of me with “Spot” on my shoulder? I wish my scanner worked because I would have loved to include that in this post.

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