At Karni Mata temple in Rajasthan rats are worshipped. Thousands of the rodents scurry across the temple’s checkerboard floors, getting tangled in each other’s tails and fighting for access to huge saucers of milk.
The rats are venerated as the holy descendants of Karni Mata, who was worshipped as an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga during the 15th century. Visitors to the temple are required to remove their shoes before walking inside. When shuffling among the droppings, spilled milk, and scrambling rodents, keep in mind that it is considered lucky for a rat to run across your foot.
The approximately 25,000 rats that live there are called “kabbas”, and many people travel great distances to pay their respects. The temple draws visitors from across the country for blessings.
Eating food that has been nibbled on by the rats is considered to be a “high honor”.
White rats are considered to be especially holy. They are believed to be the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her four sons. Sighting them is a special blessing and visitors put in extensive efforts to bring them forth, offering prasad, a sweet holy food.
The story behind this temple began more than 500 years ago when Yamraj, the god of death, came to take the soul of a 10-year-old child who was very close to Karni Devi. Yamraj said that the life of this child was finished and that he must take its soul to heaven, but Karni Devi would not allow that.
To stop him from taking the soul of the child, she turned the child into a rat. All the holy rats in the temple are the people of Karni Devi, and when they die they will be reincarnated as humans. This is her power and this is why they worship the rats.