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|Goddess of War
The Invincible One
Incarnation of Durga
|Other names||Ridhu Bai|
|Affiliation||Charans and Rajputs|
Karni Mata (Hindi: करणी माता or Karniji; The dates of both birth and death are unknown but are traditionally believed by followers to be 2 October 1387 – 23 March 1538 ,) was a female Hindu warrior sage born in the Charan caste. Also known as Shri Karniji Maharaj, she is worshiped as the incarnation of the warrior goddess Durga by her followers. She is an official deity of the royal family 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 contains a foot-print to symbolize her visit to that place. Karni Mata is also referred to as Nari Bai.
According to tradition, Karni Mata was originally the wife of Depoji Charan of the village of Sathika. However, she later expressed to her husband her unwillingness to engage in matrimonial relations. He initially humoured her, thinking that she would relent in time. Instead of doing so, Karni arranged for him to marry her own younger sister, Gulab, so that he might have a proper married life. She herself remained celibate all her life, with the concurrence and support of her husband.
Karni lived in her in-laws' village for about two years before leaving with her followers and a herd of cattle to live a nomadic life, camping at sunset. One such camp was made at the village of Jangloo; but a servant of Rao Kanha, who was ruler of the place, denied them access to water for the people and cows. Karni Mata declared her follower, Rao Ridmal of Chandasar, as new ruler of the village and continued on her journey. When she reached near Deshnok, Rao Kanha himself came to oppose her camping but he died.[clarification needed] Karni Mata stopped wandering further, and settled there. Her husband Depoji died in 1454.
Her first temple was constructed in the village of Mathania during her lifetime by her follower Amara Charan. In 1472, she arranged the marriage of Rao Bika, the fifth son of Rao Jodha, and Rang Kunwar, daughter of Rao Shekha of Pungal, 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 of that year she was travelling 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. She disappeared there, reportedly at the age of 151 years.
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 dedicated temple 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 to 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.
Another noted temple dedicated to Karni Mata is in the historical city of Alwar, Rajasthan. It is situated in heart of city, very near to the Sagar Palace and Bala Qila.
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