Shri Karni Mata: The Rat Temple of Deshnoke

with 41 Comments

 

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 in existence in the whole wide world and so we I was keen on going. It might be a good thing that it’s the only one of its kind – I mean how many rat temples does the world need? But there’s more to this temple than just letting freeloading rats run around.

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 owing them 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 (kabbas) and to ask for their blessing.

Deshnoke is about 30km from the town of Bikaner (where most travelers stay). The best (read: most interesting) and cheapest way to get there is by taking a local bus for just a few rupees. The temple 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 it).

 

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As in all temples, shoes have to be removed but socks are permitted. I chose to go barefoot – I figured I could easily wash rub my feet furiously with sanitizing gel rather than keep my dirty socks on all the way back to the hotel. Needless to say, the temple was soiled with rat (and pigeon) droppings and urine. The smell was gut-wrenching as soon as we entered.

 

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Rats were scurrying everywhere, coming out of every crevice and hole making it really hard to avoid them but, miraculously, I did. Fortunately, not one of them managed to run over my feet (shivers) or nibble at my toes (more shivers). That was probably due to the fact that I tip-toed the whole time I was there and rarely looked up from the ground. Out of respect for the devotees and their holy rats, I had to control myself not to squirm and screech.

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.

 

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In the temple itself is a shrine where male devotees feed milk and rice in large bowls to the myriad of holy rats. Non-Hindu women are not permitted to enter the small, enclosed area but I was permitted to get close enough to take pictures of this unusual and rare scene.

So that being said (none of which, I admit, sounds very appealing), I’m still happy I got to experience and witness the peculiar religious practices at the Shri Karni Rat Temple. It is, after all, the only one of its kind in the whole wide world.

 

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

 

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  • You are much braver than I ever would be. I’m so scared of rats and would never be tempted to visit. Fascinating to read though, and that’s about it 🙂

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Admittedly it’s not for everyone….lol! 😉

  • Sridhar Salian

    Looks like it attracts numerous tourists and pilgrims due to its unique presiding beings. i love the way you have return you experience in this blog and written about such unique temples in the world.

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Thanks Sridhar! It was quite a unique experience. 🙂

  • Melody Pittman

    Omg. I don’t know whether to laugh or be scared. LOL I’m terrified of rats so I can assure you I would never have walked in the door. 😉

  • TravellingMom

    I would visit the Rat Temple, but without socks it’s a bit iffy. Now that I’ve read of your very interesting experience, I’d bring a pair of disposable socks for sure! Or two shower caps. 😉

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      An extra pair of socks (or shower caps….haha) is a good idea!

  • Antonette Spaan

    Ohh you are so brave for going inside. I actually saw a big fat rat in the sewer down the street the other day and I can’t help but just be scared of them …

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      These rats are quite small – nothing like sewer rats but they’re rats just the same…lol!

  • Danik Bates

    Wow! I think I saw this on television a few weeks ago. Crazy place to go into especially during the night. 😀 great write up and love the photos 🙂

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      I wouldn’t go at night! I had a hard time keeping my eyes on every rat and that was enough for me!

  • Carol Perehudoff

    Well I’m with you. I wouldn’t be able to pass up a rat temple either. I actually like rats, they’re friendly and smart, although they did spread the plague. You had me right up until the dirty floors with rat urine. Ick. I still think it would be a fascinating place to visit.

  • Carol

    Goose pimples all over me! But I should go because my Chinese lunar sign is a RAT!

  • You are lucky to have visited it from a tourist point of view! This is something so rare! But I was disappointed to know the place stinks. I wish they kept it clean but then with all those rats will it be possible? I hope I can make it there some day.

  • Vyjay Rao

    Have heard a lot about this temple, not been there yet. It is indeed unique because of the rats and probably that is what draws so many people to it. But it does feel creepy though.

  • Karla Ramos

    Uhhhhhh rats…. uhhhh can’t but then if its something that other culture celebrates then it would be nice to experience it.

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    Wow, that is just so crazy! I think it’s cool that now you can say you’ve been there and experienced it though. I think that I would do it too, but definitely in socks (with an extra pair waiting for when I was done).

  • Nathan

    I really wanted to go here last time I was in India but I didn’t get a chance to make it! I hope to go next time I visit the country.

  • Sindhu Murthy

    Hi Lidia. Good to hear you liked this weird experience. I was in Rajasthan recently but couldn’t make it to the rat temple. Hoping to visit it during my visit.

  • what an amazing experience i am sure this would freak alot of people out. i would also be keen to visit since its a one off site that does not exist anywhere else in the world.I have never seen so many rats in one place

  • Ok so that is unique, I’ll give it that. Not something that would make me want to go. I’m pleased I have read about this here and now know that it’s not something for me.

  • I saw this on the Amazing race and they entered the temple at night time which was really freaky, but it looks just as bad during the day time – no thank you!

  • Frank Thomae

    Hmm, no thanks.
    Most don’t like too big though, more like mice than rats. I’ll never forget that time when saw a huge rat climbing up a snowbank – in Montreal of all places! First time I had seen one in 25 years of living there.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      It’s definitely not for everyone (my boyfriend almost vomited from the smell)! Most of them were quite small but they were rats nonetheless and I didn’t want them scrambling on my feet. I live in Montreal and I’ve never seen a rat (I know there are plenty in the sewers though) but I saw huge ones in Thailand!

  • Iju!!! You are very brave woman! I would never ever ever visit that place, I would just have no courage.
    I am wondering how did they decide the rats would be holy animals. Why from all the animals, they chose rats. And they eat with them! Iju!!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      haha…..it was quite the experience! That’s a really good question….not sure why they chose rats out of all the animals that exist. :

  • Clare Colley

    I am not sure I could of gone there!! Though when I was in Nepal there were quite a few rats hanging around at temples but nothing like this!! Think I might of run off screaming!!!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      I’ve also seen quite a few rats on my travels in Asia but these rats were much smaller (and “cleaner”) than street rats. If that’s any consolation….lol! 😉

  • Helene

    oh god that last picture killed me !!! The temple looks amazing but I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to do it!!! I guess it is truly something not everyone experience in a lifetime! I’m so admirative you did that !! I’m not sure I would go but I’m glad I know about it and pin it ! 😉

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Yes once in a lifetime – not sure I would go back! Thanks for commenting & pinning. 🙂

      • Helene

        you’re welcomed 😉

  • Punita Malhotra

    Whoa! First, I would never have the courage to even step into a temple with so many rats, and second, if I landed there in a trance…I would scream my lungs out! 🙂

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      haha…..I did want to let out a few squeals but I held back out of respect (though I’m sure the devotees are used to foreigners being freaked out).

  • Coleman Concierge

    There was a time in my life where I would have gone crazy for this post. You see, I had a stuffed rat growing up. We were very poor as my parents were half starving college students and they sewed him out of an old raincoat and stuffed him with a half dead pillow. I had many stuffed animals growing up but Ratty was my favorite. You never know what some people will like or treasure and it seems like you have found a truly, one of kind experience.

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      I never thought my visit to the rat temple would hold such special memories for someone. Thank you for sharing such an intimate story – it’s very touching.

  • Kassie- The Fly Away Life

    Wow you are brave! Going to a temple overrun by rats isn’t high up on my list. Though being in your shoes I think I would go to out of sheer curiosity. Not sure I could have resisted screeching about the rats though!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      It was actually one of the places I really wanted to go to in India only because it’s the only one in the world. I did hold back a few screeches though….lol!

  • sarah martin

    Fascinating. But there is no way in hell you would get me barefoot inside. Actually even the photos creeped me out a little.
    Like you said, it is a unique experience though.

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      You can wear socks! 😉

  • Natalie Tanner

    Wow. So interesting and really creepy! I would consider visiting, but then you said you had to be barefoot…….um….not sure I could handle that!! LOL! You are a brave explorer!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Hi Natalie! You can wear socks but I didn’t have a spare pair and I didn’t want to be wearing filthy socks the rest of the day. 🙂