Karni Mata Temple
Unlike the rest of the world, where rats are commonly killed for inhabiting the same space as humans, in this temple the rat residents are treated with sincere devotion.
20,000-odd rats that call this temple home. These holy animals are called kabbas, and many people travel great distances to pay their respects.
The legend goes that Karni Mata, a mystic matriarch from the 14th century, was an incarnation of Durga, the goddess of power and victory. At some point during her life, the child of one of her clansmen died. She attempted to bring the child back to life, only to be told by Yama, the god of death, that he had already been reincarnated. Karni Mata cut a deal with Yama: From that point forward, all of her tribespeople would be reborn as rats until they could be born back into the clan.
In Hinduism, death marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one on the path to a soul’s eventual oneness with the universe. This cycle of transmigration is known as samsara and is precisely why Karni Mata’s rats are treated like royalty.
The devotees first offer grains, milk and sweets to the Kabba and then they share the leftovers among themselves. The water from which the Kabbas drink is considered holy water.
There is one rare blessing that draws the most attention: the sighting of a white rat. Out of all of the thousands of rats in the temple, there are said to be four or five white rats, which are considered to be especially holy. They are believed be the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her kin. Sighting them is a special charm, and visitors put in extensive efforts to bring them forth, offering prasad, a candylike food.
No one really knows how they reproduce. Many believe that the female rats are taken to some sort of maternity for rats where experts take care of the delivery. The reason behind this rumor is that no one has ever seen baby rats in the temple, all the Kabbas are the same standard size and weight. And unlike normal rats, that reproduce incredibly fast, the number of rats at Karni Mata has remained constant, around 20,000, ever since anyone can remember.
During the century of this temple’s existence, there has never been an outbreak of plague or other ratborne illness among the humans who have visited—which may be a miracle in itself.