Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Saturday, April 13, 2024









Deshnoke is a small town in the Bikaner district of Rajasthan near the Pakistan border and about 30 km from Bikaner. It is famous for its 600-year-old Karni Mata Temple, where rats are worshiped. The goddess Karni Mata has been worshiped by the royal family as well as the general public of Bikaner and other parts of Rajasthan since long ago. 


The Karni Mata Temple at Deshnoke, is one of the strangest temples in the world. The temple is home to over 20,000 rats that not only live within the temple premises but are actually worshipped by devotees who throng the temple in great numbers. These holy animals are called “kabbas”, and many people travel long distances not only to pay their respects but also to get rid of their sins and heal their ailments. Thus, this temple draws visitors and tourists from all over the world for blessings and to have a glimpse of these rats.



Karni Mata



Karni Mata was born to Charan caste couple and was a Hindu sage who was worshipped as the incarnation of Goddess Durga by her followers. She stands to be the official diety (Kul Devtha) for the Royal family members of Bikaner and Jodhpur.


She is also worshipped by people of Haryana, Gujarat and Madhyapradesh. She is also known by second name as "Nari bai". Most of the temples were dedicated to her during her lifetime as she had lived an ascetic life. One can very well notice the difference in her lifetime temples and present temples as the first would only contain the footprints of the deity where she stepped in and the later would have the Idols of the deity. During her lifetime she had laid foundation stone upon saying of Maharaja for two important forts situated in Rajputana. Among all the temples of her the Deshnoke which use to be home of the deity is very famous as she had disappeared from this place in her last time.






There is a belief that during 14th century, Goddess Karni Mata had resided here and performed many miracles during her existence. Karni Mata was a mystic, and had led a virtuous life truly committed to the service of the poor and the oppressed of all communities. She was the one who had laid the foundation of Deshnoke. 


First Legend says that, once when her youngest son Laxman, was drowned in a pond in Kapil Sarovar in Kolayat Tehsil while trying to drink water from it. After this incidence, Goddess Karni asked Yama (the god of death) to bring back her son's life. At First He refused but eventually relented, granted Laxman and all of Karni Mata's male children were reincarnated in the form of Rats. 


Second Legend said by the locals is that, when Lord Yama refused to return Her son's life, Karni Mata being accepted and worshipped as the Incarnation of Goddess Durga, had herself restored the life of her son. Later, She announced that her family members would no longer die ( Stay Immortal); as they will be reincarnated in the form of rats (kabas) and ultimately, these rats should be regarded and respected as Her family members. Presently there are around 600 families in Deshnok which assert to be the descendants of Karni Mata.


Third Legend says that, a 20,000 strong army deserted a nearby battle and for their life they came running to Deshnoke. As Karni Mata learned of the sin of desertion, punishable by death, She spared their lives but turned them into rats, and offered this temple as a future place to stay for them. Soon the army of soldiers expressed their gratitude and promised to serve Karni Mata forever throughout their life.






The present temple dates back to the 15th century, and was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. The temples prime attraction is its construction which is built with white marble. Inside the temple complex, one can see a pair of silver doors before the main sanctum sanctorum of the Goddess.


In the main sanctum sanctorum, the Idol of the Goddess has some holy things placed beneath her feet. She is surrounded by rats and seen holding a Trishul (Trident) in one of her hands. The Idol of Karni Mata is 75 cms in height, decked with a Mukut (Crown) and a garland of flowers. On both sides of Karni Mata, Idols of Her sisters are placed. 


The temple has a total of 20,000 rats in its premises which are fed, protected and worshipped by the authorities and devotees visiting this place. It is regarded auspicious, if a rat runs across one's feet, and especially holy if a white rat is seen.


The white rats are believed to be the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her four sons. Visitors put in extensive efforts to bring them forth, offering prasad, a sweet holy food. It is estimated that there are only about 10 or less such rats living in the temple.


Eating food that has been nibbled on by the rats is considered to be a blessing. Visitors often eat sweets and drink milk that has been tasted by the rats. Surprisingly, there has been no incidence of plague in the past which is deemed a miracle of Karni Mata.



'Karni Mata Fair' is held twice a year, in the honor of Karni Mata, at Deshnoke during which a grand fair is organized and people from far of places come here to seek the blessings of the Goddess. During Navrathri festival at the time of chaitra (March–April) or ashwin (September–October) months there is a big fair organised in which thousands of people travel to the temple by foot to seek the blessings of the deity and get their wishes fulfilled.