Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Karni Mata temple: A World famous temple where Rats are also worshiped as God


Karni Mata
was a female Hindu sage born in the Charan caste and is worshipped as the incarnation of the goddess Durga by her followers. She is an official deity of the royal family of Jodhpur and Bikaner. During her life-time she laid the foundation stone of two of the important forts in Rajputana. She lived an ascetic life, and temples were dedicated to her in her lifetime. The most famous of all of her temples is the temple of Deshnoke, which was created following her mysterious disappearance from her home. The temple is famous for its rats, which are treated as sacred and given protection in the temple.

File:Rat temple.jpg

The Karni Mata temple at Deshnoke, 30 km from Bikaner, in its present form was completed in the early 20th century in the late Mughal style by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. The temple was further enhanced by Kundanlal Verma of Hyderabad-based Karni Jewellers in 1999. The huge silver gates to the temple, and the marble carvings were also donated by him.

Throughout the year pilgrims from around India come to pay religious tribute to Karni Mata at the Deshnok temple. Outside Rajasthan she is respected and loved in areas like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana. During Navratri thousands come to the temple on foot. If one of the rats is killed, it must be replaced with one made of solid gold. Sighting a white rat amidst hordes of black rats is considered specially auspicious.

According to a local legend, Karni Mata, the 14th century mystic and an incarnation of Hindu goddess Durga, implored, Yama, the god of death to restore to life, the son of a storyteller, and upon his refusal she incarnated the dead son, and all of the storytellers as a rat, under her protection.

Karni Mata was born on October 2, 1387 in the village of Suwap in the Jodhpur district of Rajasthan. The seventh daughter of Mehoji Charan and his wife Deval Devi, her original name was Ridhubai. According to legend, she earned the honorific name Karni at age six by miraculously curing her aunt. Mata," a term meaning "mother," was commonly added to the names of those worshiped as mother goddesses. She married Dipoji Charan of the village of Sathika around AD 1415 but did not live a conventional "married life."

Later on she herself arranged the marriage of her husband with her younger sister Gulab. She lived in her in-laws' village for about two years before leaving with her followers and a herd of cattle to live a nomadic life, camping at sunset. One such a camp was made at village Jangloo, but a servent of Rao Kanha who was ruler of the place denied them access to water for people and cows. On this Karni Mata declared her follower Rao Ridmal of Chandasar as new ruler of the village. And moved on to the further journey. When she reached near Deshnok, Rao Kanha himself came to oppose her camping but he died. Karni mata stopped further wandering and started living there. Her husband Depoji died in AD 1454. Rats became sacred in her temple when Karni Mata's stepson Laxman drowned in a tank he was attempting to drink from.

Karni mata implored Yama, the god of Death; though he at first refused, Yama eventually relented, permitting Laxman and all of Karnimata's male children to be reincarnated as rats. In AD 1453 she gave her blessing to Rao Jodha of Jodhpur in conquering Ajmer, Merta and Mandor. In 1457 she went to Jodhpur at Rao Jodha's request to lay the cornerstone of the fort at Jodhpur.

File:Deshnoke Karni Mata.jpg

Her first temple was constructed in village Mathaniya during her life-time by her follower Amra Charan. In AD 1472, she arranged the marriage of Rao Bika (the fifth son of Rao Jodha) and Rang Kunwar (daughter of Rao Shekha of Pungal) to turn the enimity of the Rathor and Bhatian families into friendship. In 1485 she laid the foundation stone of the fort of Bikaner at the request of Rao Bika. In 1538, Karniji went to visit Maharaja of Jaisalmer. She was travelling back to Deshnok with her stepson Poonjar and few other followers on 21 March AD 1538. They were near Gadiyala and Girirajsar of Kolayat district in Bikaner district where she asked the caravan to stop for water. She disappeared there at the age of 151 years.

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