Rats and other types of rodents are a common problem in most major cities and rural areas around the world. Since they are known carriers of dangerous diseases and can contaminate food sources quite easily, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year in rodent extermination efforts all around the globe.
And although they are considered to be a nasty pest that can be a threat to our health in Canada, we at Pestend Pest Control Mississauga were shocked to learn that in some parts of the world rats are seen in a completely different light.
We are of course speaking of Karni Mata Temple in the small dusty town of Deshnoke India. Also known as the Temple of Rats, Karni Mata is home to approximately 20,000 rats that are worshiped by thousands of visitors annually.
Why On Earth Are They Worshipping Rats?
There are two main stories explaining why so many Hindus worship the 20,000 plus rats living in Karni Mata.
One of the legends tells a story of a 20,000 person army that fled a battle near Deshnoke about 500 years ago, an act that was punishable by death at the time. When Karni Mata, a Hindu warrior sage living in Deshnoke at the time, found out that these warriors deserted the battle, she spared their lives but turned them into rats offering the temple as a place they can stay. In return, the army of rats offered to serve Karni Mata for eternity.
The other famous legend tells a story of Karni Mata’s stepson drowning in a lake while trying to drink some water. When Karni Mata found out about his death, she called upon Yama, the god of death, to revive him. Yama first refused but then granted a special gift to allow Karni Matas stepson and all her other male children to be reincarnated as rats.
So to the thousands of worshipers that visit Karni Mata Temple every year, these rats are actually believed to be reincarnated servants of Karni Mata and some special white rats are thought to be descendants of Karni Matas family.
Worshiping The Sacred Rats
So how exactly are these rats worshiped in the temple?
Just like any other temple, there are several daily rituals that occur in the temple and of course special events several times a year.
Worshiping on a daily basis begins at 4:00 am when Charan priests offer a special food known as bhog to the rats. Throughout the rest of the day worshipers visiting the temple will also feed the rats special types of food and will even eat and drink with the rats. It is actually considered a high honour amongst worshipers to eat a piece of food that was nibbled by a rat in the temple and to drink from the same bowl of milk that the rats drink from.
The greatest honour of all at Karni Mata temple is if you spot one of the few white rats roaming around the temple. These white rats are thought to be the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her four sons. Visitors who are lucky enough to see one of these white rats will typically try to feed them a special food known as prasad.