Those terrified of rats – look away now! An Indian temple has become a safe-haven for more than 20,000 rats.
The Karni Mata Temple, in Rajasthan, India, is also known as the Temple of Rats due to its huge rodent population.
More than 20,000 rats can be found scuttling across the marble floors, hanging from the railings and drinking milk from giant saucers.
The Hindu temple, where rats are considered sacred, draws worshippers from across the country as well as curious tourists.
British photographer Darragh Mason Field, 38, visited the rodent-infested temple in Deshnoke, in northwestern India.
Mr Mason Field, of Bristol, said: “It is like being in a rats’ nest – they are everywhere.
“People sell protective covers for your shoes as well as milk and food for the rats.
“It smells bad in there, like a pet shop – you can tell that mammals live there just by the smell. There are rat droppings on every surface.”
The rats in the temple are greatly revered – if one of the rats is killed it must be replaced by one made of solid gold.
Eating the food nibbled on by the rats is considered to be a great honour.
Mr Mason Field said: “A lot of people believe these rats are holy, so you have to be careful where you step.
“I have been told that if someone kills one of the rats then people in the temple get very upset – they are sacred.”
The temple is named after Karni Mata, a Hindu sage who is worshipped as an incarnation of the goddess Durga.
Local folklore differs on the reason why the temple is home to so many rats.
One story has it that Karni Mata’s stepson, Laxman, drowned in a pond while he was attempting to drink from it.
Karni Mata begged Yama, the god of death to spare him – Yama relented allowing Laxman and all of Karni Mata’s male children to be reincarnated as rats.
Another local tale tells that an army of 20,000 men deserted a nearby battle and came running to Deshnoke.
The sin of desertion was at the time punishable by death. Karni Mata spared their lives but made them rats and offered them the temple as a place to stay.
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