Saturday, December 22, 2007
Rat Year - Tour of the Rat Temple (Karni Mata Temple)
There is a famous rat temple around 100km away from Bikaner. The intricate temple doors are carved out of blocks of white granite and embossed with many caricatures of white rats. The most unique are the carvings of a few black elephants, which form a stark contrast against the white rats. Two crouching lions guard the door, and devotees will caress them for good luck every time they pass through. I wanted to do it too, but discovered that a few of the rats were missing, as though worn down by numerous loving caresses.
Everyone had to remove his or her shoes at the main door. As I wanted to avoid feeling cold and the floor was dirty, I paid the photo-taking fee of 30 rupees and requested that I need not remove mine. The guard at the door told me that as long as I did not enter the hall, it was fine. Thank goodness!
Once we entered the temple door, we were welcomed by a whiff of rat droppings that nearly suffocated us. There were three halls that housed the principal deity of the rats, and my memory fails me when I try to recall his title. Every hall had long queues of devotees awaiting their turn to worship the deities.
The rats were housed in the left corner of the temple. It looked like there were at least a thousand of them and many devotees venerated them with offerings of food.
The rats in the temple do not step out of their territory, nor do they allow others of their own kind in. They said that if other animals like cats, dogs, snakes or rats tried to enter, they would be chased away by the resident rats.
There were two or three white rats among the horde. It is said that if one visits and chances upon them, you will have good luck. My wife and I had the great fortune of glimpsing upon them for a few seconds, so I guess we are in for good luck this Rat year!
The temple also has different legends to it. Boys in this area often die in their infancy, so the masses sought divine intervention. The Deity told them, "I cannot save your children, but I can let them reincarnate as rats, so that you may continue caring for them." As such, this temple was built. Ever since then, the boys in the area enjoy long lives and are imbued with the intelligence and wit of rats.
Posted by Tan Khoon Yong