November 23, 2005
Hotel De Luxe, Station Road, 90 Rs (24 hour room rental)
Arrived in Bikaner in early morning, 5:30 pm, when the day was still dark and dozens of rickshaw wallahs welcomed me with the annoying hassle of hotel recommendations. Touting is very common in India, where the drivers get commision from the hotel owners if they bring you the hotels. It was frustrating at the first time, but now I am used already to deal with the rickshaw drivers. But still, my arrival time was not that good as I didnt have so much choice wandering in a completely stranger city in a complete darkness.
So, have you ever read any folktale of a world occupied by rats? Here, in this corner of Rajasthan, there are only rats rule. In the temple of Karni Mata in Deshnok village, 30 km from Bikaner, the holy rats occupy the temple and people pray for blessings from the rats. As I have difficulty in descripting the temple, a quick online search will bring you to this temple.
Thousands of black rats running and flying from every corner, resting, hidding, kissing, smiling to welcome people, eating the corns from the devotees, drinking milk from the huge bowls, and even posing in front of admirers. In a word, this is a rat’s world. The rats are believed to be the incarnation of Durga. Still, the llittle creatures scare many of the children forced by their parents to make a prayer in this temple.
“Don’t be afraid, dear. Dont be afraid of Durga!” said a mother to her crying daughter.
Among the rats, there is a white coloured, of which the holiest one. It is said that if you saw it, you would have good luck. I had, so I am waiting for my good luck now.
The devotees believe that eating the pasad (offering) that has been salivated by the rats will give fortune. I was offered by a priest. Touching the rats will also give you good fortune. And posing with rats in hands in front of cameras are apparently amusing for the locals. The happy rats here made me remember the struggle of their poor counterparts in my house just to steal the thrown food, as my father will be happily to catch them and make rat satay (he doesnt eat rats though). It should be the rats with the best karma to be born as holy rats in this temple.
Chatting with the people is always interesting part of the trip. All tourists go to the rat temple, but not many wandering around the village. A young guy of 15 year old was chatting with me under the sun. And after 5 minutes he started to grab my hand (in India boys holding hands each other is a sign of friendship), in 10 minutes he started to embrace me, and in 15 minutes he kissed my palm with his lips. I won’t give any interpretation on this, as I dont know whether it’s common or not for boys to kiss the hand of others. Any enlightment? He invited me to go to his house for food.
The military soldiers also came to the temple to pray. One of them treated me dinner, my favorite milchi bara (fried chilly in comparison with Indonesian pisang goreng). As shown in previous post, Indian guys only need about 5 minutes before talking about sex. And indeed in 5 minutes of chit and chat, he offered me sex for free with local girls… I know it was a joke, but such a joke with a complete stranger is indeed a culture shock for Indonesians. And everybody was really amused that I knew the price of prostitutes in Jodhpur.