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The Karni Mata temple, 30 km from Bikaner, is dedicated to an early fifteenth century mystic who was considered to be a reincarnation of goddess Durga. The uniqueness of the temple is that it is inhabited by legions of brown rats which scurry around the complex without any fear. The rats are believed to be repositories of the souls of dead charans, the traditional bards.

Legend and History of Karni Mata

Karni Mata was an ascetic who led a righteous life dedicated to the service and uplifting of the poor and downtrodden of all communities. It is believed that she possessed supernatural powers. The foundation of Deshnok was laid by her and she has been worshipped as a goddess by her principal followers, Charans, as well as the rulers of Bikaner, who regarded her as the patron deity. 

Shri Karni Mata is the 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). The whole life of Shri Karni Mata was full of miracles and even after her disappearance from the earth; her innumerable devotees have experienced her merciful blessings in form of help in their life. The word disappearance has been used, because it wasn’t a natural death of Shri Karni Mata, rather her human body disappeared in divine light at her desire.


Karni Mata was endowed with divine powers. The daughter of Meha Ji Kiniya, Karni Ji incarnated on 28th Sep., 1387 at Suvap Village in Tehsil Phalodi of Jodhpur District. She was married to Depaji. The present Deshnok was founded by her on Baisakh Sudi Dwitiya Samvat 1476. Karni Ji developed the area into a sanctuary and anyone seeking asylum in this area was put to no harm. People accused of crime used to come here and adopt sanity to get themselves absolved of their sins. Karni Mata witnessed the accession to royal thrones by three consecutive generations of rulers Rao Ridmal, Rao Jodha and Rao Bika. She was instrumental in enabling those three kings to get the reins of power. Rao Bika beseeched her blessings and founded a new empire in 1488A.D. Whenever the kings of Bikaner found themselves in trouble, they remembered Karniji and with her blessing succeeded in getting over their turmois. The royal family of Bikaner always held Karniji in great esteem.

Shri Karni Mata was born on Friday, Ashwin Shukla Saptami 1444 i.e. October 2, 1387 AD in village Suwap near Phalodi in Jodhpur District, Rajasthan. She belonged to Charan caste. Her father was Mehaji and Deval Bai was her mother. Mehaji was a staunch devotee of Hinglaz, a Shakti Peeth (Holy Shrine) in farwest of Baloochistan’s (at present in Pakistan) Lal Bela area, about 18 kilometres north of Arabian Sea. Once for the whole night, Mehaji prayed to mother Hinglaz that “His name remains alive forever”. The next morning he heard a voice mentioning “Tathastu” (Yes, it will be).

At the time of birth Karni Mata was named “Ridhu Bai”. She was the sixth child of her parents. All the five children born before her were females. A night before her delivery, Deval Bai (Ridhu Bai’s mother), 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. Deval Bai told her dream to everyone, but all the members of her family took it lightly. After the birth of Ridhu Bai, her aunt (sister of her father) being much disappointed, patted the head of Ridhu Bai with her hand and then with a fist said, “Again a stone has come”. To the astonishment of everyone, her fingers momentarily got stuck to each other. After the birth of Ridhu Bai the economic condition of Mehaji improved a lot. Later on, after few years her aunt came to see her from her-in-laws’ house. One day her aunt was combing Ridhu Bai’s hair with one hand. Ridhu Bai asked her the reason for not using the other hand. 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).

When Karniji was six years old a snake bit her father in the jungle. She put her hands on the effected limb and removed the poison. This way she saved the life of her father. Meantime, the stories of the miracles of Karniji had begun to spread far and wide.

By this time Karniji became over aged & her parents became anxious for her marriage. Inspite of their best efforts, they could not find a suitable match for Karniji. Seeing her parents anxious & worried, Karniji herself suggested her father to go to village Sathika and talk on her marriage with Depaji, son of Rao Kelu- a great Philosopher of that area during that time. According to history, the marriage took place in 1416 AD, in a quite simple manner. When the marriage procession was returning to Sathika from Suwap, the people, horses and cattle felt thirsty, but there was no water nearby to quench their thirst. Karniji at that time indicated a certain place behind a sand-dune for water. Everyone was amazed to see a tank full of water. The bridegroom Depaji went to Karniji’s doli (palanquin) and raised its curtains 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. She 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 there was a village named Kaluja. The villagers already aware of her miracles 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. Today this well is known as “Shri Karnisagar”.


A dispute arose between Karniji and the servants of Rao Kanha to vacate the jungle near Deshnoke as the area fell under him. Karniji, peacefully told them that, “I have come here with the blessings of Goddess Awad Mata. The image of Goddess is lying in that wooden box, if you put the box in my chariot; I will go away from here at once”. All the men of Rao tried to lift the box individually as well as collectively but couldn’t succeed. At last Rao Kanha himself tried to do so with the help of elephants but failed. During the attempts to lift the box one of the stands of the box broke. This Box of Karni Mata containing the idol of Goddess Awad Mata (whom Karniji worshiped during her lifetime) is presently situated in Temre Rai Temple in the middle of Deshnoke city. Karniji made her permanent residence in the jungle near Deshnoke, at a place which is now known as “Nehriji”. When she began to reside at Nehriji, she marked certain areas around that place upto two kilometres in radius. She then planted bushes of red berries all around. These green bushes on one hand served as fodder for the cattle and on the other presented fine natural scenery. In order to churn the curd a supporting stick was required to be tied-up with the iron ring. A rope was required to rotate the apparatus called “Zerna” which is a long stick of wood, having three to four prongs at its lower end, to churn the curd. This stick is called “Nedi”. For this purpose, Karniji planted the stem of a tree to churn the curd. This Nedi stick in the long run became the tree of Khejri since drops of curd fell on the stick in the course of churning. This Khejri tree, which is presently inside the Nehriji Temple surprisingly, contains the marks of curd visible on its bark

The Karni Mata Temple

The Karni Mata’s Temple is situated in the centre of a beautiful courtyard, the outer boundary wall of which has been constructed like a beautiful wall fort. The boundaries are built very high with four ornamented pillars and the provision of a huge platform for the guards to protect the miraculous temple.Bikaner's ruler Ganga Singh had the whole temple built in marble. The domes of the temple are made of silver and gold. The manadap and the panels above the image are also golden. The elaborate works on the main gate of the temple is a tribute to the fine craftsmanship of the artisans of those days.

The 'Garbh Griha' of Deshnok temple was founded by Karniji herself. The marble construction was completed in the time of Maharaja Ganga Singhji with superb architectural and artistic designs. The Karni Mata temple at Deshnok is a stone and marble structure and is also known as Madh. Inside the shrine, a 75 cm image of Kami Mata adorned with a mukut (tiara) and garland is installed. Her image is accompanied by the images of her sisters and the sisters of Avad Mata. The Rajputs bring their children on Jadula (their first hair cut) and place them at the deity's feet for blessing.


The temple is thrown 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. Devotees offer milk, grains and sweets to these rats during the time to aarti. 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. Two kinds of offerings, the 'dwar-bhent' is attributed to the priests and the workers. The 'kalash-bhent' is utilised for the temple maintenance and development Sighting a white mouse is considered auspicious. It is believed that the Maharaja of Bikaner had a vision in which the goddess asked him to protect the rats and for this reason, there is a bronze wiremesh across the temple.

Mata Churned curd with wooden form of dry tree which was later transformed into green vegetation .Deshnok has given us renowned men of literature. The Charans are famous for their literary creation and devotion to the deity. People here live in peace, harmony and fraternity .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. The 'ORAN' is a sacred and protected area fore trees. There is strict prohibition for cutting the trees. Karniji's far approaches for the protection of environment and keeping it unpolluted has saved people from many vissasitudes through the centuries. Karniji's blessings are always with the people of Bikaner.

Karni Mata Fair at Deshnok

Karni Mata Fair is held twice a year at Deshnok, a small town near Nokha in Bikaner district. The first and larger fair is held in March-April during the Navratras from Chaitra Shukla Ekam to Chaitra Shukla Dashmi which attracts hordes of pilgrims from places far the near. The second fair is held in September-October, also during the Navratras, from Ashvin Shukla to Ashwin Shukla Dashmi. The Karni Mata temple is thronged not only by the Rajasthanis. Rather, devotees from all over India and even abroad pay a visit to the temple. Day by day, the faith in Karni Mata is increasing, attracting more and more devotees to the place. Whenever the wishes of the devotees get fulfilled, they offer silver and gold to the goddess at the temple.

The Legend of the origin of the Rats at the Karni Mata Temple  

In 1443 AD her father-in law Keluji died. Thereafter she went to Deshnoke where her husband Depaji died in 1454 AD. In Deshnoke she built a hut shaped cave by putting stones on one another, without using lime or sand. Its roof was made of Zal tree wood. She used the cave for meditation. Most of her time was spent in it. In 1463 AD one of her stepsons named Laxmanraj went to Kolayat fair where he drowned in a lake and died. His dead body was brought to Deshnoke. His mother Gulab Bai prayed to Karniji to grant his life. Karniji ordered to keep the body inside the cave. 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. There is a saying as per poems composed by poets from time to time, that when Karniji brought Laxmanraj from Yama’s abode, she forbade Yama’s role in generation of her Depawat (falls under Charan Caste) and made her own law that any Depawat after death will be born as Kaba and Kaba would rebirth as Depawat. That is why the Kabas in Deshnoke temple are fully protected and cherished like her sons.

According to the folklore Shri Karni Mata once restored a dead child of her devotee back to life from Yama (the God of death) then Mata announced that no one from her tribe would fall into Yama’s hand again. Instead, when they died all of them would temporarily inhabit the body of a rat (Kaba), before being reborn into the tribe.


The Rats at the Karni Mata Temple

A normal human being will be absolutely scared over the thought, of the number of rats (They look like rats, but actually aren’t) that are in the temple. However, the outstanding fact is that, these 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.

The magnificence of these Kabas is that, despite being innumerable, they never go out of the temple’s boundaries. Moreover, due to the blessings of Karniji they get their food, shelter, lodging and even their life cycle continues inside the temple. The miraculous fact is that no disease relating to rats has ever been found in Deshnoke till date. Neither the temple stinks of foul smells nor it is dirty anywhere. Infact even the offerings like milk, sweets, cereals, fruits, water and coconuts are first offered to the holy Kabas and then distributed among the devotees which is consumed by them as a holy prasad, especially the water that the Kabas drink is considered to be very auspicious.

Till date it has not been traced that how these Kabas are reproduced. Infact it is believed that these rats have their own VIP maternity hospital, which takes care of the delivery. Moreover there has never been trace of baby rats. All the Kabas are of standard size and weight without undergoing changes with the passage of time. In the world most of the attempts to control the growth of rats could not be successful because of their faster growth rate. Looking at this fast multiplication in their number and their protection in this temple for more than five hundred years, these Kabas have a disciplined growth as well as pre scheduled living with demarcated boundaries. That is why neither any temple erection has been done nor the outside shopkeepers have been disturbed by any epidemic. Isn’t it not a vivid miracle just before our eyes?

Usually, rats are considered to be coward as they are scared of human beings, but in Karniji’s temple, under her shelter, these Kabas are present all over, rule the temple like kings, roar like lions and roam about everywhere in the temple freely & comfortably. 

Foundation of Jodhpur

Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, was Karniji’s devotee. She blessed him with her help in 1453 AD, in conquering Ajmer, Merta and Mandover (now known as Mandor). In 1457, she went to Jodhpur, on Rao Jodha’s request to lay the foundation stone of the renowned fort of Jodhpur. During her stay at Mandor, Shri Amara, the Charan of Mathaniya (a village) requested her to visit the place and sought her permission to construct her temple there. She accepted his request and asked him to put her footprints instead of her idol in the temple. The temple of Mathaniya is the first temple of Karnimata built during her life. 

Foundation of Bikaner

Rao Bika was the fifth son of Rao Jodha of Jodhpur. He came to Jangloo area with his uncle Kandhalji to establish a new kingdom, a state that would belong to him. He stayed at Deshnoke serving Karniji for many years. He carried out his mission under the guidance and blessings of Karniji. Karniji helped Rao Bika in carrying out his mission. She solved his problems from time to time. The biggest hurdle was the enmity and bitterness between Rathors and Bhatians. Karniji decided to remove this problem. To pacify this and facilitate smooth success for Rao Bika, she arranged the marriage between Rao Bika and Rang Kanwar, the daughter of Rao Shekha of Pugal. Rao Shekha, during that time was imprisoned at Multan. Karniji brought him from there overnight, to Pugal on the day of marriage in 1472 AD Thereafter, Rao Bika, smoothly succeeded in his goal. Rao Bika finally got the foundation stone laid by Karniji for his Durg (Fort) and Bikaner City in Rati Ghati (valley) in 1485. Bikaner City and the Fort were inaugurated on Vaisakh Shukla Divitiya V.S. 1488.

During the time of Rao Bika’s efforts to establish his own state, Shri Jeevraj, a Charan from Kathiawar, came to Jangloo area with good horses. Kandhalji, uncle of Bikaji purchased the horses but couldn’t pay the full price and for part payment, gave him the Jagir of Chhotadia (Now in Ratangarh Tehsil of Churu District). People of Chhotadia did not accept Jeevaraj as a Charan of their grade and cadre. Jeevraj being dissatisfied went to Karniji and complained her about the behaviour of the Charans of Chhotadia. Karniji married her grand daughter “Shanpu” with Jeevraj. Thereafter to pacify the Charans of Chhotadia Karniji herself visited the village Chhotadia several times. Presently situated in Chhotadia is a famous temple of Karni Mata. In 1538, when Karniji had attained the age of 151 years she went to Jaisalmer to cure some unknown disease of the Maharaja. At that time, she went to village Kharida to visit her sister. There lived a carpenter named Bana, who was her devotee. He was blind. Karniji called him and said, “I will bless you with eyesight, so that you can see me, and when you see me carve out my image on a sandstone as per what you see. On finishing the carving, put my idol under your head and sleep. When you awake, you will find yourself in Deshnoke outside my cave. You have to install my idol in that cave. On completion of this job, you will get your eyesight for good”. After Bana completed his work and obeyed the orders, the idol was installed in the cave as desired by Karniji. The image that Bana carved is not the image of Karniji as she actually existed in human form. Infact the image carved is an incarnation of Durga. The mouth of the image is a bit long, there is a crown on the head, round earrings, a necklace round the neck and bangles on both the hands.


There is a Trishul (a weapon having three prongs on the upper part) in the right hand and in the left hand hangs the head of a demon (in human form). At the lower end of the Trishul there is a head of buffalo. Thus Karniji had imaged herself in the idol as an incarnation of Durga & did not allow to worship her as an idol of human being. This is why she did not allow her idol in Mathaniya, permanently.

On the first day of “Chaitra Shukla” 1595(Vikram Samavat) i.e. 1538 AD, Karniji with her stepson Poonraj, started her journey for Deshnoke. She reached Dhaneri Tank on “Chaitra Shukla Navmi”, i.e. 21st March, 1438 AD. It is situated between Gadiyala and Girirajsar of Kolayat Tehsil in Bikaner District. She stopped her chariot at some distance from the tank and expressed her desire to have a bath. Poonraj looked in the water pitchers and found them to be empty. Karniji asked him to fetch water from the tank. When Poonraj went away, she told the driver of the chariot to see whether there were any drops of water in the pitcher. There were a few drops in it. She asked the driver to pour the drops on her head. At that time she sat in padmashana posture (a posture in meditation) gazing at the sun. As soon as the drops of water fell on her head a divine light flashed and her body disappeared in form of light. When Poonraj returned, he enquired about the incident that occurred. He cried. At that time a voice was heard telling, “Return to Deshnoke, you will find a carpenter there sleeping with my idol, outside the cave”. Install that idol in the cave. I will remain there forever and help all those who pray there with faith and pure heart”.

This long period of 151 years of Shri Karni Mata’s life is full of miracles. Only a few of them have been mentioned here in brief. Her merciful miraculous deeds have been and are still being experienced by her devotees, even after her disappearance.

Location and Transport

Deshnok is only 30 KM from Bikaner (by road). Bikaner is well connected through National Highway with Delhi, Agra, Jodhpur, Jaipur and other cities of India.

Rail service is also there, you can reach Bikaner by meter gauge or by broad gauge train. Bikaner is connected with Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bhatinda, Kalka and Kolkata.

The nearest airport is Jodhpur, 253 Km and the other airports are Jaipur, Agra and Delhi.

Bikaner is about 450 Km by road from Delhi, 350 Km from Jaipur and 350 Km from Jodhpur. The condition of the roads is good.

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