Located in north-western India, the small city of Deshnoke,has a place of worship unlike any other, Rajastan’s famous Karni Mata Temple. The temple is home to over 20,000 worshipped rats, referred to as Kabbas. Many people travel great distances to pay their respects.
For many Westerners this would seem bizarre and strange to have a place of worship over run by an animal that is commonly associated with pestilence and disease. Since the temple was constructed there has never been an outbreak of disease associated with the vermin.
‘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.
“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.”
“Unlike the rest of the world, where rats are commonly killed for inhabiting the same space as humans, in this temple the rat residents are treated with sincere devotion. The veneration is so complete that if someone accidentally steps on a rat and kills it, they are expected to buy a gold or silver rat and place it in the temple as atonement.”