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Where Rats Are Royalty

In Hinduism, gods and goddesses take animal forms, so, finding a temple where rats are worshiped doesn’t sound odd -not at least in this side of the world.

In Deshnoke, a small city near the India’s border with Pakistan, there is a temple dedicated to Karni Mata, the rat goddess.

The legend says Karni Mata lived in the 14th century and was the incarnation of Durga, the goddess of power and victory. One day her nephew felt in a river and she failed to save him so Karni Mata made a deal with Yama, the god of death: From that moment, all of her clan would be reborn as rats until they could be born back as humans. In early 1900,  Maharaja Ganga constructed this temple as a tribute to the goddess.

The temple receive visitors from all over India looking for good fortune and blessings. Drinking water or eating food sampled by the rats is considered a great honour. Entire families travel from all over the country to pay tribute to Karni Mata.

As weird as it sound, is in fact a fascinating place. I found it difficult to walk barefoot stepping on rat urine, excrements and food but being able to visit such a strange yet amazing place is a great experience. I even saw 2 white rats which is considered good luck.

If you are planning to visit, be sure its the last thing you do on that day before heading back to your hotel. Even if you wash your feet throughly after leaving the temple, you will feel in an urgent need of a long shower.

“They are my goddess’ family so they are my family too”

says one of the temple’s servant sitting on the floor, eating and surrounded by rats

A family prays at the Karni Mata shrine
Rats drinking water inside the temple
Woman with a box of food to offer to the rats
Whoever wants to touch the holy fire must give a tip to the servant carrying the fire
A rat wonders around the kitchen area. The women in the background are eating fresh papaya
A woman gets emotional after touching the holy fire
A man collects money from visitor. Entry is free but you are expected to leave a contribution
A woman gets her blessing from the fire inside the temple
The kitchen area where volunteers cook for priests and their families. They all eat together with the rats as they are considered part of the family
Children playing with a rat inside the temple
A young couple pick some seeds left by the rats on a window ledge. Nibbling food eaten by the rats is considered a big honour. Some other pick a pinch of seeds and count it. The number of seed picked is their lucky number
A volunteers takes his turn of carrying the fire around the temple. This is done every hour during the whole day. The temple is open from 4am to 10pm
A woman prays in front of the main shrine in the middle of the temple
People resting on one of the corridors. The temple is beautifully decorated with carved marble stone
A little girl helps an old lady to go down the steps in one of the shrines
Rats move and play freely around the temple. They are so used to the people that one should constantly watch the steps to not to step on them. Killing a rat will not only give an eternal life of bad karma but will be seen as the killing of a relative. If a rat is killed, it must be replaced it for one of solid gold.
A local devotee leaves the temple after praying


  1. Jacob James December 4, 2013 Reply

    Love this set John, somewhere I’ve never heard of/seen photographed before as well!

  2. Dave Hill December 15, 2013 Reply

    Stunning photographs! Your blog is an inspiration, I am your new fan.

    Thank you for sharing your stories

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