Sunday, October 15, 2006

Temple of Rats

Am continuing with the book "My Dream of India" by Andreas Pröve at a leisurely pace. After Pakistan he lands in India in Amritsar and shortly thereafter - since the train to Delhi is overbooked, travels to Bikaner instead.

Here he decides to visit a famous temple dedicated to the goddess Karni Mata and when he reaches it, finds to his consternation that not only does he first have to contend with a flight of stairs but that the temple priest refuses to let in the wheel chair as that would desecrate the holy ground. He offers to wash the wheels, he bribes him twenty rupees (the priest has no problem taking the money) but he still refuses to let him enter. A couple of well dressed young men then offer to carry him inside. They huff and puff up and when they reach the top it is clear they have no intention of waiting to bring him down again. On top of that since there are no chairs or seats, they dump him on the floor.

To his horror Andreas sees that the black carpet on the floor is actually made up of thousands of rats swarming around. Luckily they have just been fed by the temple authorities (milk and various other goodies) so they are not particularly interested in sampling his flesh. Nonetheless there a few of them torment him, nibble at his camera cases and at his trousers and threaten to disappear up his legs when Andreas decides he has had enough and is lucky enough to find a couple of guys to transport him down again. Now he starts to worry about his wheel chair, and sure enough it is not where he left it. But he finds out that the guard has taken it with him into his shed and when he reaches it, finds the guard sitting in his wheelchair and laughing hysterically.

Andreas describes the tendency of Indians to stare open mouthed at him, their frequent lack of tact and views which he finds hard to digest. Imagine, he says, his wheel chair is considered desecrating but rats are not only tolerated in the temple precincts but actually fed and looked after! Still he loves the country and his inability to understand it only makes it more fascinating for him.

Bad weather compels him to abandon his goal of reaching the source of the Ganges. But that is the first part. The second part of the book is about his next journey to India, which he does almost exclusively on a custom built wheel chair which is also like a motorbike.


sudha said...

I was at this place last year; Its called Desnok, and is 30 kms from Bikaner. It was eerie enough standing a few feet away and watching the rats swarm. But these rats are not 'tolerated'; they are worshipped. Talk to any resident of Desnok and he will tell you he wants to be reborn as a "holy rat'!

stardust said...

Seeing those rats in the picture reminds me of the 1972 film, "Ben"