Sunday 5th November 2017
Bikaner and Karni Mata Temple (Rat Temple)
Today we had breakfast and were met by our guide at the hotel at 9:00am. We drove 32 kms to the Karni Mata Temple (Rat Temple) at Deshnok. The visit to this temple was the reason for this trip. Lynn has always wanted to visit there since she saw it on an episode of The Amazing Race. We took our shoes off (as you always have to) and entered the temple with many others who come to worship and also to see the rats that inhabit this temple. They are holy and there are thousands of them, running everywhere and popping in and out of holes. Some of them seemed in poor condition probably a result of interbreeding and there were a few carcasses. As you can imagine the floor was awful to walk on with goodness knows what underfoot, but definitely much crushed crumbs included. There were platters of food for them, bowls of water and bowls of milk. Indian visitors also brought containers of food for the rats that they must have purchased outside. We took many photos and it was quite exciting but unfortunately, we did not glimpse the white rat that is supposed to be lucky. The story behind the Karni Mata temple is that Karni was the name of a woman (Mata means mother). Her husband died leaving her with one son. Sadly the son fell into a well whilst playing with friends and was killed. The woman asked the gods to give her back her son, to not take both husband and son. The gods agreed but told her the son would not be a child but would be a rat. After the visit to the Rat Temple, we drove back to Bikaner and went to visit the Bikaner Fort, a very impressive set of buildings that had been constructed over the course of about 400 years. The last Maharajah of Bikaner only died in 2003 and the royal family now live in private quarters in part of a hotel in the city. Our guide told us that the family was always well respected and still is. The fort is very beautiful and well worth the visit. The painted interior walls, ceilings and doors etc. plus the furniture are just great. Then we went to lunch at a tourist restaurant, very nice meal. After lunch, we went first to a textile dealer and then to a miniature painting shop where we spoke to the artist. We then visited the National Camel Research Centre. We saw many camels, stud males, females, babies. It was really good. Then back to the hotel where we had a coffee to recuperate, did a bit of shopping in the hotel shop then walked out into the incredibly bustling noisy shopping area of the town through the narrow lane ways full of people, motor bikes, cows, bicycles and tuk tuks looking for some final presents and food for the train tomorrow. You get so used to the noise and smells and rubbish that you can almost ignore them. The motor cycles rush past centimetres from where you walk. In almost every shop, people wanted to have their photo taken with us and we had many laughs as we negotiated buying a few things. Caught a tuk tuk back to the hotel (50 rupees = $A1) and sat around and had a little bit to eat from our snack bag before bed. We had our main meal at lunch. Today was warm and sunny around 30C. The nights are definitely a bit cooler, but overall the weather has been great.