Having seen a site in the guidebooks called the rat temple there was no way we weren’t going there. Rosie and I like rats just as much as the next person, as in not really at all. Mice are fine, but rats are the same but bigger and they look as if they have worms for tails. If anything they look like a hybrid animal that 5 year olds draw when you ask them to think of a really horrid animal. What sounds more icky than a giant mouse with big claws and a worm stuck onto its butt?
Regardless a temple dedicated to rats and featured live rats running around sounded like we needed to go. What’s a trip to India without the fright of catching the plague. Apparently plague is still a big deal so watch out plagues about.
The rat temple is located in a small town called Deshnok near Bikaner in the Indian desert. The temple is dedicated to “Karni Mata lived in the 14th century and performed many miracles during her lifetime. When her youngest son, Lakhan, drowned, she ordered Yama (the god of death) to bring him back to life. Yama said he was unable to do so, but that Karni Mata, as an incarnation of Durga, could restore Lakhan’s life. This she did, decreeing that members of her family would no longer die but would be reincarnated as kabas (rats). Around 600 families in Deshnok claim to be descendants of Karni Mata and that they will be reincarnated as kabas.” Lonely Planet guide to India.
After a 40p (30 ruppees) from Bikaner we arrived at Deshnok and followed the swarm of tours it buses making their way along a pretty non descript dust path. The non descript path turned the corner and all of a sudden cows lay strewn across the road, people trying to sell us ritual pieces of coconut and stale bread, when really we knew it was their left over lunch, so we knew we had arrived at the place. Deciding that offerings to the great rat gods were not our bag we swept through the crowd like divine beings on an airport travelator, making disgusted looking faces at people trying to sell us rat inspired selfie sticks.
Considering this was a temple to rats we didn’t really expect the front of the temple to be luminous pink, but then again I’ve never been to a rat temple so I guess we had no reason to have had preconceived ideas. What struck us most though was the sheer number of other people who had also come. The queue was similar to the day a Harry Potter came out, it was astronomical. Well not really, but the temple wasn’t that big, so the queue just looked much bigger. It was really hard to tell if these were religious tourists or simple gawker like ourselves, drawn in by the rodents Leer.
Anyway after a longish queue and a metal detector made of just three pieces of wood (side note if you want to get metal into the rat temple go for it, the metal detector is a pile of shit) we were in.
The doors were adorned with the more common images of the life of Vishnu, however there were also more cartoon rats and a big fork. I’m not sure if the big fork was any indication that we were meant to have come prepared to eat anything, but regardless at least they let you know there is going to be rats inside.
As we passed through the first gate we saw a couple of rats running around and we thought we had been given out fill. Our daring side had been pushed, we had been within two feet of a rat and had decided not to report it to anyone. Thinking we had probably seen the rats we pushed onto the temple and we’re greeted with the most rays I have ever seen. Literally thousands, everywhere you looked. Running around in the corners sunning themselves in the betting above our heads and huge swirling masses of them in the feeding zones. The holy men had very kindly left out huge bowls of milk and the rats thankfully gorged themselves on milky goodness. As they drank and got milk drunk on the white stuff a few would fall in and have themselves a delicious milk bath. To say it looked cute would definitely be a lie, it looked pretty vile really and to top it off the sell around the temple was like a pets hutch after about 2 months unattended with all the contents have died, including the hay and food if that can die too.
We decided to brave the main room, and rats pushed and squirmed from every hole in the wall scrambling for food as religious spectators threw it in some kind of grotesque sacrificial feeding ceremony. Somehow we had managed to enter from the back and we’re in the feeding area with the rats. I had been told that if a rat ran across your foot it was good luck. This was definitely the place to get a rodent S touch, so as I stood there with the acrid smell filling my nose and the sight of one eyed, crusty rats swirling around the now delicate looking toes, I decided this wasn’t really for me. I had come and had my fill and now my rat stomach was full and aching. I kept getting the images of giant black spots and doctors with duck masks on that had filled history books about the black death. Regardless of whether the plague was present here I didn’t want to risk being that guy to bring it back to Europe.
With very little of the temple having been seen we left, although the on our way out we did see the super lucky white rat. So with that probably disease ridden albino lump having been etched into my eye balls for life, luck securely pocketed we left. Rosie decided to ask if we should get lunch at one of the fine eateries outside. As we thought back to the swarming rats and hundreds of tails flopping around like witches fingers we decided lunch could probably wait .
As the guidebooks says the rat temple is not for the Squeamish, but if you’re in Bikaner definitely come it was actually hugely enjoyable and I think I would have felt I had missed something if I had not come. Just if you want to eat delicious Rajasthany food that day, probably do it before you go.