Karni Mata Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Karni Mata at Deshnoke, a small town 30 km from Bikaner, Rajasthan. It is also known as the Temple of Rats.
The legend has it that Karni Mata’s stepson (or the son of one of her storytellers), Lakshman, drowned while trying to drink water from a pond in Kapil Sarovar at the Kolayat Tehsil. The grieving mother begged for help from Yama, the God of Death, to revive the boy.
After the mother persisted, Yama eventually relented, and folktales suggest that Yama agreed to reincarnate not only her son but all her descendants after they died. However there was a catch - they would all be resurrected as rats! And when they died as rats, they would once again be reincarnated as members of the Depavats family, as Karni Mata's descendants are known.
The story behind rats at the temple vary in different accounts according to some local folklore. According to this version, the rats are an army of 20,000 men who deserted a battle and retreated to Deshnoke, to hide. Karni Mata was greatly angered by this, as leaving the battlefield was seen as dishonourable and was punishable by death. Luckily for the army, the Goddess was merciful and decided not to execute them. Instead, it is said that she offered the soldiers the option of being turned into rats rather than face death, hence giving birth to the myth behind the rats at the Deshnoke temple. Regardless of which account can be deemed correct, the temple is an attraction for tourists and pilgrims alike, with the stories only adding to their curiosity.