When I first arrived in India, I wore only closed-in shoes and sanitised my hands approximately every 30 seconds. Just three days later I walked barefoot through India’s crazy rat temple where 20,000 rats that are worshiped. Ever wondered what it might be like to walk among 20,000 rats with no shoes? Neither had I! But you’re in the right place to find out.
A Bit of Backstory…
Karni Mata is a Hindu temple located near the town of Bikaner in Rajasthan, India dedicated to the Hindu goddess Karni Mata. Legend has it that the rats are reincarnations of Karni Mata’s children and descendants. Keep an eye out for a white rat, which is said to be the reincarnation of Karni Mata herself, and is considered an incredibly lucky sighting!
It is estimated that more than 20,000 rats live in the rat temple, where they are worshiped by hoards of tourists every day. The rats are well looked after, with bowls of milk and food dotted around the temple and wire netting put up to protect them from predators.
What it’s Like to Walk Through 20,000 Rats Barefoot
Before entering the rat temple all visitors are required to take off their shoes as a sign of respect. You then ‘queue’ in line (I say queue but in India it’s more of a pushing/shoving affair), while rats scurry tantalisingly around the entry gates. If you’re anything like me it’s now, after already committing to this crazy experience, that you’ll start to wonder about the various diseases rats carry and what would happen if one were to bite…
I guess the fear must’ve shown on my face, because a few locals started giggling and encouraging me to walk through. I don’t think I was quite prepared for just how many rats there would be, they were literally EVERYWHERE! And they move so fast! They were climbing up statues, scurrying over people’s feet and crowding around tiny bowls of milk.
And yet, despite being covered in bites, bleeding wounds and god knows what else, the little creatures kind of grew on me. They’re actually a little bit cute.
This new-found appreciation for the rats however quickly disappeared when we walked into the main area of worship. As my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, I noticed that it wasn’t in fact some sort of moving floor, but thousands of the furry creatures running all over the place. I took a deep breath of stale, putrid air and walked the full circuit through the area, dodging mounds of rats piled upon food bowls as I went. I was so relieved when I finally made it back out into the open coutyard with no bites or scratches on my feet!
Back outside the rat temple, the sun was setting as flocks of birds flew overhead. Over cups of warm chai we laughed at the crazy experience we’d just had. If that wasn’t a perfect introduction to India, I don’t know what would be!