|Goddess of War
The Invincible One
Incarnation of Durga
|Other names||Ridhu Bai|
|Affiliation||Charans and Rajputs|
Karni Mata (Hindi: करणी माता or Karniji;) (Karni Mata is also referred to as Nari Bai) (circa 2 October 1387 – circa 23 March 1538,) was a female Hindu warrior sage born in the Charan caste. Also known as Shri Karniji Maharaj, she is worshipped as the incarnation of the warrior goddess Durga by her followers. She is an official deity of the royal families of Jodhpur and Bikaner. She lived an ascetic life and was widely revered during her own lifetime. At the request of the Maharajas of Bikaner and Jodhpur, she laid the foundation stones of Bikaner Fort and Mehrangarh Fort, the two most important forts in the region. The most famous of her temples is in the small town of Deshnoke, near Bikaner in Rajasthan, and was created following her mysterious disappearance from her home. The temple is famous for its white rats, which are treated as sacred and given protection in the temple. Another temple dedicated to her during her lifetime differs from others in that it does not contain an image or idol of her, but rather a footprint to symbolize her visit to that place.
According to tradition, Karni Mata was originally the wife of Depoji Charan of the village of Sathika. However, she later expressed unwillingness to her husband to engage in conjugal relations. He initially humoured her, thinking that she would relent in time. Instead, Karni arranged for him to marry her younger sister, Gulab, so that he might have a proper married life. She herself remained celibate all her life with the agreement and support of her husband, who died in 1454.
Karni lived in her husband's village for about two years before leaving with her followers and a herd of cattle to live a nomadic life. She and her followers once made camp at the village of Jangloo. A servant of Rao Kanha who was ruler of Jangloo denied Karni, her followers, and their cattle access to water. Karni Mata declared her follower, Rao Ridmal of Chandasar, the new ruler of the village and continued on her journey. Karni Mata stopped wandering further and settled at Deshnok.
In 1453, she gave her blessing to Rao Jodha of Jodhpur for conquering Ajmer, Merta and Mandor. In 1457, she went to Jodhpur at Rao Jodha's request, to lay the cornerstone of the Mehrangarh Fort at Jodhpur.
Her first temple was constructed in the village of Mathania during her lifetime by her follower Amara Charan. In 1472, she arranged the marriage between Rao Bika and Rang Kunwar. Rao Bika was the fifth son of Rao Jodha and Rang Kunwar was the daughter of Rao Shekha of Pungal. The marriage was arranged to turn the enmity of the Rathor and Bhatian families into friendship.
In 1485, she laid the foundation stone of the fort of Bikaner at the request of Rao Bika.
In 1538, Karniji went to visit the Maharaja of Jaisalmer.
On 21 March 1538, she travelled back to Deshnok with her stepson, Poonjar, and a few other followers. They were near Gadiyala and Girirajsar of the Kolayat tehsil in Bikaner district when she asked the caravan to stop for water. It was reported that she disappeared there at the age of 151 years.
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The most famous temple dedicated to Karni Mata is at Deshnoke, 30 km from Bikaner. It is also known as the Temple of Rats.
Another temple dedicated to Karni Mata is Shri Manshapurna Karni Mata Temple or Karni Mata, Udaipur, located on the Machla Hills, near Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Park in Udaipur, Rajasthan. One can reach to the temple either by stairs starting from Manikyalal Verma Park or by ropeway.
Between the years 1620 and 1628, Maharana Karan Singh developed a residential area at Machla Magra for Udaipur's safety. It was during this time that the Karni Mata Temple was built. Though for a long period the temple was deserted, in 1997 the Shri Manshapurna Karni Mata Development Committee rebuilt it.
A further temple dedicated to Karni Mata is located in the historical city of Alwar, Rajasthan. It is situated in the heart of city, near the Sagar Palace and Bala Qila.
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