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Temples of Rajasthan-III, Karni Mata Temple of Deshnoke

Hinduism in India is as multifarious a religion as it is longstanding. Spirituality and symbolism are its two fundamental elements. Also, a deeply involved part of these two aspects of Hinduism are animals. The assertive Hindu belief of inviolability of animals is actually one of the most remarkable aspects of the Indian culture. These creatures have been reckoned as channels for love and unity, symbols of the culture and impetuses of growth, by many ancient Indian literary texts. The life of an animal is held equal to that of a human, the only difference being that unlike the latter their senses have not fully manifested. Among the prominent seats of religion in India is the legendary Karni Mata Temple in Bikaner.



HISTORY

Karni Mata was an embodiment of Shakti and remained celibate therefore she married her younger sister to her husband, Depaji, for the continuation of his line. From her, Depaji had four sons, the youngest of whom was Lakshman. Karniji cared for them as her own children.

One day, Lakshman drowned in a Kapil Sarovar in nearby Kolayat while bathing. Her younger sister pleaded to Karni Mata to bring Lakshman back to life. Thus, Karni Mata lifted the body with her hands and brought it to where the murti (inner sanctum) is now, closed the doors, and said not to open them. She went to the god of death, Yamraj and demanded for Lakshman to be returned to life. The god of death queried, "if so, how will the cycle of rebirth work? By what law will it move?" Karni Mata thus declared that her family will not come to Yamraj anymore. "Wherever I live, they will live. When they die, they will stay with me."

Then, Karni Mata chose the embodied form of the kābā —so that when human Charanas from her lineage die, they will be reborn as kābā and live near her within the temple, and when kābā die, they will again be reborn as human Charanas. In this manner, Charan Avatar differs from this general understanding of Hindu rebirth, in that the jāti is maintained across births despite being in a differently embodied form.