Situated thirty km from Bikaner, is a marble temple built by Bikaner’s ruler, Ganga Singh, with domes of silver and gold; even the manadaps and the panels are golden. Elaborate works on the main gate of the temple is a tribute to the fine craftsmanship of the artisans of those days! Inside the shrine is a 75 cm image of Kami Mata (Karniji) the deity, adorned with a mukut (tiara) and garland. The ‘Garbh Griha’ of Deshnok temple was founded by Karniji herself -the place where Rajputs bring their children on Jadula (their first hair cut) and place them at the deity’s feet for blessing.
This is the temple dedicated to an early fifteenth century mystic who was considered to be an incarnation of Devi HINGLAZ or Goddess DURGA (The Goddess of Power and Victory. Goddess). DURGA is synonymous with Shakti, the cosmic power that wages an eternal war against the evil, one that should be visited by anyone interested in legends and mythology. Deshnok’s Karni Mata Temple is one of India’s most unique & fascinating temples devoted to Karni Mata. To understand how & why this temple is so unique we take you back in time to 1387 AD, so sit back and enjoy the legend behind this amazing temple! .
Born on Friday, Ashwin Shukla Saptami 1444 i.e. October 2, 1387 AD in village Suwap near Phalodi in Jodhpur District, Rajasthan, Shri Karni Mata was the sixth child to Mehaji and Deval Bai. Her father Mehaji was a staunch devotee of Hinglaz.
Born as “Ridhu Bai”, a night before her delivery, her mother Deval Bai dreamt that a Goddess appears and blesses her with the words that the Goddess will be born to Deval Bai, as an incarnation of Goddess Durga, but the dream was taken lightly. Being born after five girls, Ridhu Bai’s birth was not welcomed by her aunt (father’s sister) who on patting the head of Ridhu Bai with her hand commented “Again a stone has come”. To the astonishment of everyone, her fingers momentarily got stuck to each other. Years later when she came to visit and was combing Ridhu Bai’s hair with one hand, Ridhu Bai asked her the reason for not using the other hand. When her aunt told her the story of how her hand got defected, Ridhu Bai took her defective hand in her own hand and said “Where is the defect, it is all right” and surprisingly, her hand got cured in a moment.
Influenced by this miracle and recalling the past dream of Deval Bai, her aunt there and then renamed Ridhu Bai, “KARNI” (Meaning- She will do something miraculous on the earth).
From her father’s economic condition of Mehaji improving considerably a lot after her birth to saving her father from a snake bite when she was six years old, by putting her hands on the effected limb and removing the poison … stories of the miracles of Karniji began to spread far and wide.
In 1416 AD, she was married to Depaji, son of Rao Kelu- a great Philosopher of that area. When the marriage procession was returning to Sathika from Suwap, there was no water to quench the thirst of the people, horses and cattle. Karniji told them to go to a certain place behind a sand-dune for water and to everyone’s amazement; there was a tank full of water. When the bridegroom went to Karniji’s doli (palanquin) to thank her, he was amazed to see that, inside was a Goddess sitting beside a lion! After a few seconds Karniji transformed herself into human body and told her husband to marry her sister Gulab Bai, mentioning that she was born on the earth only to serve people.
On the way to Sathika was a village named Kaluja, the villagers having already heard of her miraculous powers requested her to solve their water problem. She blessed and told them to put her idol made of clay in the well and abstain from cutting trees. Soon the well was found to be full of water and still exists till date. It is called “Shri Karnisagar”.
It is said after the death of her husband, Karniji went to Deshnoke where she lived in a hut shaped cave that she used for meditation. In 1463 AD one of her stepsons named Laxmanraj went to Kolayat fair where he drowned in a lake and died, his mother brought his dead body to Deshnoke and prayed to Karniji to grant his life. Karniji ordered that the body be kept inside the cave, where she closed its entrance for everyone and remained there for three days. On the fourth day Laxmanraj himself came out of the cave
Since then, the rats, known as “Kabas” started to be born in the Deshnoke temple. Legends say that Karni Mata ordered Yama the god of Death to bring him back to life, when Yama replied that he was unable to do this, but that Karni Mata is an incarnation of Durga, could restore Lakhan’s life. This she did, and decreed that members of her family would no longer die, but would be incarnated as kabas (rats), and these kabas would return as members of her family. There are around 600 families in Deshnok who claim both decent from Karni Mata and believe that they will be reincarnated as kabas. This is why the Kabas in Deshnoke temple are fully protected and cherished like her sons.
Today, fascinating tourists from across the globe & India, are these facts related to the temple!
While rats are generally scared of human beings, here the Kabas are harmless and play around in the temple without disturbing the devotees, rather they sit on devotees’ laps, shoulders, hands and head which the devotees think to be of divine spirit and blessings of the Goddess!
Despite being innumerable, they never go out of the temple’s boundaries, even their life cycle continues inside the temple!
There has till date been NO disease relating to rats found in Deshnoke! A miraculous fact!
Neither the temple smells foul nor is it dirty anywhere! Offerings like milk, sweets, cereals, fruits, water and coconuts are first offered to the holy Kabas and then distributed among the devotees as a holy prasad, the water that the Kabas drink is considered to be very auspicious.
But the most amazing fat is till date it has not been traced that how these Kabas are reproduced! Moreover there has never been any trace of baby rats. All the Kabas are of standard size and weight without undergoing changes with the passage of time!
Open to the public early in the morning at 4.00 a.m. Charan priests perform Mangla-Ki-Aarti and offer bhog (special food) as worship; during the time of the aarti, devotees offer the rats milk, grains and sweets. A peculiar characteristic of the temple is the legion of brown cats roaming about in large numbers in the temple. They are considered auspicious and the devotees make offerings. Sighting a white mouse is considered extremely auspicious!
People here live in peace, harmony and fraternity and Karniji’s name is attached with all sorts of social, literary and religious institutions. Pilgrims come to pay their homage to Karni Mata twice a year at the time of Nav Ratra. Following in Karniji’s footsteps, the ‘ORAN’ is a sacred and protected area for trees and there is strict prohibition for cutting trees here. The area is kept unpolluted and Karniji’s blessings are always with the people of Bikaner.
It is said that the life of Shri Karni Mata’s life was full of miracles… looking at the temple and the interesting facts of the kabas we can’t help but smile wondering whether the miracles still continue!