If we saw a rat anywhere near our kids, our very first reaction would not be to whip out our camera and take a picture of the moment. We’d probably freak out a little and call an exterminator. But there is something different about these rats – they aren’t the disease-carrying vermin that we’re used to. The Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan, India has been overrun by upwards of 20,000 rats.In this temple, the rats are protected, fed, and praised by visitors. The stories behind the rats are varied, but people visiting the temple agree on one thing: these rats are holy.
The legend is that the son of the Hindu deity, Karni Mata, drowned while attempting to drink from a pond, and that the god of death, Yama, allowed the son and his brothers to live on and be reincarnated as rats.
Another legend says that 20,000 members of an army deserted battle and were spared from punishment by being turned into rats. They were welcomed to live in the temple, and express their gratitude by serving at the temple.
If any rat is killed, it is meant to be replaced by a rat made of pure silver. People travel from across the country to visit the temple to feed the rats small treats. They aren’t worried about diseases because there has never been a plague in the area, and the rats are well cared for.
Visitors are always on the lookout for rare white rats, who are believed to be the direct reincarnations of the original folklore.