"Bikaner and the Famous Rat Temple" Bikaner by Waxbag

Bikaner Travel Guide: 105 reviews and 366 photos

Bikaner is largely missed by most tourist. It is a large city, by Rajasthan standards, and there is plenty to do here. The most interesting is the famous Karni Mata Rat Temple which is located in Deshnok just 30 km south of Bikaner. The City Palace is worth checking out as it offers something different than other palaces in Rajasthan (I think all the palaces in the region are unique). You can also take a camel safari out of Bikaner if you want to get away from the Jaisalmer tours (although I think Jaislamer is probably better because of the landscapes).

Bikaner was founded in 1488 by Rao Bika, a founder of Jodhpur. It was once an important trading town and powerful city state. It now has a population of about 600,000. It's population is steadily increasing thanks to an aqueduct that has provided water for agriculture and urban growth in a city that is located in the middle of the desert.

The Karni Mata Temple is an important Jain pilgrimage site. It is a beautiful temple made of marble with solid silver doors. However, it is not the architecture of this temple that attracts non-Jain tourists; it is the thousands of rats that inhabit it. There are special holes and tunnels around the temple to facilitate the rats’ movements as well as a wire screen over the courtyard to protect them from birds of prey. Jain pilgrims are anointed with ash while the scurrying critters run over their feet. This is considered very auspicious as is spotting a rare white rat. Bowls of milk and water are strategically placed throughout the temple and pilgrims feed the rats balls of sugar. You may be asking, “Why all the fuss about rats?” Well, these Jain pilgrims believe that the rats are their ancestors. Legend has it that in the 14th century, Karni Mata, an incarnation of Durga (Shiva The Destroyer’s wife’s evil side) asked Yama, the god of death to restore the life of her son who had drowned. When he refused, she restored the life and deemed that her ancestors would no longer die, that they would be reincarnated as rats which would then be reincarnated as her family members (thus depriving Yama of human souls). There are around 600 families who claim to be descendants of Karni Mata, hence the large following.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Off the Beaten Path Town with Several Interests Like the Rat Temple
  • Cons:Not As Amazing at Jaisalmer
  • In a nutshell:An off the beaten town well worth the effort to visit
  • Last visit to Bikaner: Oct 2005
  • Intro Updated Feb 21, 2008
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Waxbag

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