The Karni Mata Temple, also popularly known as the Nari Mata Temple, is a highly popular tourist spot. Karni Mata is believed to be an incarnation of Maa Durga. She is supposed to have laid the foundation stones of two of the most famous forts in Rajputana, and numerous temples dedicated to her can be found all across the country. What is unique about this temple is… 25,000 black rats live, and are worshipped in the temple. And the food that is eaten by them is considered to be holy and is later served as ‘prasad’.
There are different versions of stories surround the history of Karni Mata Temple. According to the most popular legend, Karni Mata’s Stepson Lakshman drowned in a pond in Kapil Sarovar in Kolaat Tehsil, when he was drinking water. Karni Mata prayed to Yama, the god of death, to save her son’s life. The Lord first refused, but later allowed reincarnation as rats to Lakshman and all of Karni Mata’s male children. According to another version, an army of 20,000 soldiers deserted nearby battle and fled to Deshnoke. When Karni Mata came to know about their desertion act, which was a sin and was punishable by death… she spared their lives but turned them into rats. The temple was offered to them as a place to stay. And the army of soldiers expressed their gratitude by promising to serve Karni Mata forever. One can spot a few white rats among the black ones. These white rats are considered to be Karni Mata herself and her four sons. All these black and few white rats are considered holy and are worshipped. The rats are allowed to move freely. Eating the food that has been nibbled on by the rats is considered to be honorable, and for the same reason people offer sweets, milk and other offerings to these rats. If any rat is killed by mistake, it must be replaced with one that is made of solid gold. A white rate is considered to be especially auspicious.
The Karni Mata Fair is a major event that takes place twice a year at the temple. The first and larger fair takes place in March to April during navaratras. During these fairs, thousands of people visit the temple by foot.