[This postscript is about why, after publishing the last Kumbh Mela post, I traveled to an isolated town in the desert outside of Bikaner, Rajasthan.]
“It is unfortunate that many tourist [sic] especially our foreign friends visiting Deshnoke Temple, go away with the impression that it is a Rat’s temple. They remain ignorant of the Goddess Shree Karni Mata.”
— Lt. Col. Jaswant Singh
When Shree Karni Mata was born in a village near Jodhpur in 1387 she was her parents sixth girl child. Her aunt expressed her outrage at the new born’s being yet another girl by striking the infant with her fist. Immediately the aunt’s fingers were impaired. Lt. Col. Singh writes, “This light and just punishment to the aunt was the first miracle.”
There were many more miracles, but there was also political intrigue. Karni played king-maker in the then lawless desert of Western Rajasthan. She guided to their thrones the ruling families of Bikaner and Jodhpur. The Bikaner Royal family accepted Karni as their family deity and she is now worshipped throughout Rajasthan as well as in the neighboring state of Gujarat.
As a token of her love of all living things Shree Karni Mata provided a sanctuary to the most reviled of all animals, the rat. The rats have been well fed here for the last 600 years. Lt. Col. Singh believes it is a miracle that in all that time the rats haven’t spread to the people of Bikaner the bubonic plague or any other dangerous disease.
According to the Footprint guidebook Hindus believe that the rats are reincarnated saints. It may be my Western narrow-mindedness, but I prefer the Lt. Colonel’s explanation because I’d like to think that saints come back as birds.
Starting with this shot of the temple priest (wearing the turbin) and his assistants I will end this post and this blog with a series of portraits I took at this holy site and some final words about this project.
If there is anyone out there that found it worth their time to follow this adventure to its conclusion, now’s the time to add a comment. I’ve received encouraging emails from friends and family, but, just one comment from anyone else on the entire Kumbh Mela series. (And a big thanks to those that did leave comments or send emails, they meant a lot to me.)
As I post this I’m still photographing my way through Rajasthan. After visiting this temple in Bikaner, I traveled to the desert fairy tale that is Jaisalmer. Yesterday I was out all day taking pictures here in Jodhpur at the “toy temples” that kids make on the anniversary of Shiva and Parvati’s marriage…