|Karni Mata temple,Rajasthan,rats feeding on milk. flickr.com|
|Karni Mata temple Rajasthan,India.wordspress.com|
Deshnoke is a nondescript tiny village in the state of Rajasthan about 30 km from Bikaner. This village located in the desert area has a unique temple dedicated to Karni Mata where thousands of critters move or play around the temple freely with out fear and the visitors to the temple do not harm them or disturb them. As a matter of fact they come to the temple with some good food or nuts to subdue their pangs of hunger and after praying before the presiding deity, they leave this place with full of joy and satisfaction of having fed numerous creatures here. Those critters are none other than rodents house rats which we, in the urban areas shun them, chase them with a broom and poison them. These denizens of ghettos and gutters are being treated like VIPs and the rats have no fear of humans and move around all over the place without being disturbed.
|KarniMata temple entrance,Rajasthan.|
In this sub continent there are multitudes of strange customs, traditions, etc but feeding thousands of rat, that too in a temple, is something odd or unheard of. The visitors, surprisingly, take pride in giving them good food – not old rotten stuff - almost daily believing they are feeding their ancestors (pithroos in Sanskrit). In Hinduism it is an important duty of the people to remember their forefathers and every year they have to do ''thithi'' (shardham) - a sort of annual remembrance - to absolve of their sins. The belief is that their forefathers (who have become spirits now) will be pleased and come down to earth to partake of the food, bless them and their progeny.
For their part, rats eat the food to their heart's content, live happily with no fear of food scarcity and multiply. That, this rodent temple is home to more than 20,000 rats will give you surprise. It is any body's guess what would happen to the farmers if these rats were out in the lush paddy or wheat fields! Elsewhere in India several state goverments are spending lots of money to eradicate the menace of rats that devour food grains worth millions of dollars every year.