Warning : If you have a rodent phobia, you might want to skip this one.
Have you ever known real fear? Not the kind where your rational mind tells you that it’s temporary, that the ride will soon be over, or the horrors are just part of a movie or once you find the light switch you’ll be fine. I mean the kind of fear that paralyses you; the kind that leaves you completely unable to function.
I’ve only felt that fear twice.
Once was when one of my kids’ lives was in real danger and the other time was here.
“Here” is the Karni Mata temple in Rajasthan, India. It is a temple dedicated to rats.
I’m not afraid of many animals.
I’ve been up close with lions, elephants, tigers and alligators. No problem.
But I don’t like rodents. They’re too big to squish with my shoe and too quiet for my liking. So what, you might ask, would possess me to think that I should visit the rat temple in India? Well, the culture of course.
I wanted to see with my own eyes and understand the religion behind the belief that these tiny creatures should be revered.
People fascinate me. I have the utmost respect for people’s beliefs even when they don’t accord with my own. And the idea that rats are the reincarnated forms of people who were good in life fascinated me.
I love cultural beliefs that lead me to consider whether I’ve had it wrong all along. India did that time and time again. And the visit to the Rat Temple was no different. I was afraid, for sure, but I was also intrigued.
In fact, hours later when my heart returned to its normal pace, I would still be thinking about it and about the pilgrims who had made their way there to feed these rats bits of sugary sweets and who had thrilled if they glimpsed the white rat that is said to bring good luck.
I was humbled by their faith.
But right after I snapped this photo my then 7-year old had to take me by the hand and walk me out. I was so stiff with fear I couldn’t move.
The problem is that rats that are being pampered aren’t afraid when you step in their general direction. In fact they run up to greet you assuming that you too bring gifts. They run over your foot and sneak up behind you as you’re walking. They are in holes on the floor, climbing the walls, jumping in the rafters. There are more than 15,000 rats here.