Thursday, November 30, 2006
Karni Mata Temple ... oh rats!
My trip to Bikaner came mostly by way of a facination to see the Karni Mata Temple which is about 30kms south of Bikaner in a small town called Desnok. My visit to what is also commonly called the "rat temple" also marked my exit from Rajasthan back to New Delhi.
I took off my shoes at the entrance of the temple as is required. I felt some trepidation but I had prepared myself for walking barefoot in the "rat temple."
I was not, however, entirely prepared for the experience. I still harbor childhood induced fears about rats and their associated diseases. I took this picture while hundreds of rats ran all around the temple floor.
Everywhere I looked there were rats feasting on food that devotees offered in bowls and from their hands. I have been told that some devotees believe that if you eat a piece of food that a rat has left behind it will bring blessings. Grown-ups and children alike seemed unperturbed by the little critters. I cringed when they ran close to my feet. Oh my. I wonder if my moms and Angela Boo Boo would have accompanied me? Ummm hell no is my guess! :)
Inside the main temple this man sat patiently with a bowl of confectionery (Indian sweet meats) while rats ate from his hands. A man next to him took pieces from the bowl and placed it into his mouth. Both had that religious immersion/submission look on their faces. I have seen the same look of devotion on the faces of Muslims and Christians too. It made me wonder whether the context or form of believing (across religions) is irrelevant to the submissive religiosity (faith included) induced by the very act of believing.
The legend behind the rats (according to Lonely Planet) "is that Karni Mata (who lived in the 14th century) "reincarnated all dead storytellers as rats, they were later incarnated again as humans."
This rat either had a shoe fetish or was just comfortable snoozing in the sandal.
If you want to know more you can check out the website listed in the picture. It may not be the 8th wonder in the world but it will make you wonder. And yes Michelle, I checked to see if my feet were OK afterward, and no I did not catch rabies though I do feel a little run-down today ... ;)
I made my way back to Bikaner after the "rat temple" and stopped in at a yard to watch a few working camels as they sat eating. They are such beautiful and strangely graceful animals. The longer you look the more beautiful they become. Well until they breathe on you, not nice!
Bikaner seemed to me to be the dirtiest and most foul smelling town I have ever visited, anywhere. There were huge open sewers in the neighborhoods I walked through and trash everywhere on the streets.
I just wanted to spend the rest of day after the "rat temple" walking at a relaxed pace through various non-touristy areas. But the touts have other plans for tourists they victimize. I did my best to dodge the damn pests but to no avail. This taxi dude (in picture) was attached to the hotel I stayed in and no matter where I went in the sprawling desert town, he found my ass. Eventually I just caved in and allowed him to take me to see a government run camel and horse farm. It turned out to be a really expensive day ... even in dollar terms.
As is often the case with sinage in India, some of the signs at the camel farm had me cracking up.
Not to be confused with the 'pregnant he camels' "in location" elsewhere.
This is a royal Marwari horse whose bloodline is worth 10million rupees according to a keeper at the horse farm.
This is a Marwari horse whose bloodline is not worth two rupees so the government brains-trust crossed her with a "French Donkey" and the result is by her side. Don't ask me why. India can at times stun you with its complexity and at other times you see the full compliment of idiocy that lurks not too far from some of its intellectual pretenses.
There seemed to be an unexplained facination with "French Donkeys" at the farm. I have a theory of politics based on the revolutionary stubbornness of donkeys. This donkey, however, just seemed mellow and wanted me to pat her. Ain't that a face to love?
Here is another face to love. I stared at this beauty for what seemed too long in retrospect. Thereafter I navigated the taxi dude and his huge bill and made my way to the train station for what I thought was a 1st class overnight cabin. It was not!
Oh man, sometimes I really wish I was laying around on the couch with Cindy in South Africa. I am somewhat tired of being away. I did not say tired of India now! Or did I .... ? ;0)