Before I decided to go to India, I’d been warned by people in my surroundings. You hate it or you love it. In my case the verdict is: I love it! Lots of tourists have a list with things like a visit to New Delhi, the Taj Mahal, the beaches of Goa or Mumbai on it, but on the top of my list was a visit to a rat temple in India.
Years ago, I’ve watched a documentary about a strange rat temple in India and decided that I had to see it with my own eyes.
India has a staggering 1,2 billion inhabitants and is known as the most colorful country in the world. Literally and figuratively. If you have any doubts about that claim, you’ll be convinced as soon as you get out of the plane. Everywhere you look you’ll see numerous women in delightfully colorful saris and the typical smell of India is hard to escape.
From the moment you set foot in India, you’ll know you are in a special place. Its not only a feast for the eyes, it goes beyond that. 415 different languages are spoken here and there are several religions (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, etc.) as well as different climate zones. A country so rich in diversity, is a recommendation for any traveler!
Karni Mata, the rat temple in India
From New Delhi I decided to travel to this remarkable temple which has been on the top of my list for years. Traveling by train is the most comfortable and safe way to reach your destination in India. Selecting the most luxurious class is not a choice worth much consideration (for any tourist). It will take a few hours to travel 1st class to Bikaner.
From there I take the bus to travel to Deshnok in an hour. That’s the place where this bizarre temple is located. The official name is Karni Mata. Karni Mata was a pious, mystical woman who was believed to possess supernatural powers.
There are long, colorful lines of women, men and children waiting impatiently in front of the temple. It’s quite noticeable that there are very few tourists about. As for all temples in India, its obligatory to take of your shoes. A friendly temple guard offers me special socks but I refuse his offer. I will go bare feet, because I’d like to immerse myself in the full experience and try to understand it.
It is explained to me that if a rat will walk over me feet, it will bring me a lot of fortune. I’m highly doubtful if I would enjoy it happening and if there is more chance of me getting an infection from it. Several stories about the origins of this temple are being told. The version most heard is that the local population believed that rats are the incarnations of their dead family members.
Courageously we decided to enter and we are not sure whether we really want a rat walking over our feet. It’s hard to describe what we see. Rats are everywhere in they are present in big numbers. They are big, black and dirty. The rats in this temple are being fed by priests and pilgrims.
There are several food stalls, before the temple’s entrance, on the square, where you can by some ‘prasad’. ‘prasad’ literally means ‘blessed food’. The floor is really dirty and really sticky from all the prasad being fed to the rats by the visitors.
The temple itself is rather small and after 15 minutes we walk out of the temple in astonishment. No single rat has walked on my feet, to my big relief. But I’ve seen plenty of rats and other remarkable things. The hope Indians have that a rat would walk over their feet was tangible. I can’t understand the spectacle, but I’ve gained an experience. My feet have become very dirty and for days I was scared to get an infection, but ‘luck’ was on my side and no infections happened.
When to visit the rat temple in India?
The best times for a visit to the rats temple are in the morning between 10:00 and 12:00 AM and in the late afternoon/ evening between 16:30 and 19:00, because those are the moments you’ll see lots or rats. It has to do with the heat in this part of India, during the day it’s too hot and the rats hide in their hideouts.
How to get to the rat temple in India
From Delhi you’ll take the train for a few hours to get to Bikaner. From Bikaner it’s easy to reach Deshnok in an hour or so. It’s not possible to stay in Deshnok for the night. Deshnok doesn’t have hotels nor any other possibilities to stay the night. The starting point for a visit to the Rat Temple is Bikaner. Bikaner is about 30 km north of Deshnok and has a wide variety of hotels to choose from. The best way to get to the Rat Temple from Bikaner is to rent a jeep or taxi. This will cost you about 500 rupees both ways. In the hotels you can get information regarding this transfer.
A great place to stay is Narenda Bhawan. I loved the ambiance, the decor, the rooms, the architecture, the service, the cleanliness, the hospitality, friendly & very respectful staff. The rooms are beautifully decorated. Breakfast is great with many selections. The hotel property felt like a calm and peaceful oasis.
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