The Weird Destiny of Rats in India: Revered in Rajasthan, But Keenly Consumed in Assam

Have you ever tried Spicy Rat Dish? Visit the village of Kumarikata in Assam where the freshly-caught rat meat is the hot-selling food in the market. The rodents are picked from the local fields, boiled, skinned and then cooked in a spicy gravy.

On the contrary, the Karni Mata Temple at Deshnoke in Rajasthan, India is known as the Temple of Rats. The temple is famous for the approximately 25,000 black rats that live, and are revered, in the temple. These holy rats are called kabbas, and many people travel great distances to pay their respects. The temple draws visitors from across the country for blessings, as well as curious tourists from around the world.

Shoppers buy hundreds of freshly caught and skinned rats that local farmers say are hunted to avoid damage to their fields in the state which borders Bhutan. The ready-roasted kind also goes down well.

Rat has become a valuable source of income for the poor “Adivasi” tribal people who struggle to make ends meet working in Assam’s famed tea gardens. In the winter months when tea picking slumbers, the Adivasis go to rice paddies to trap rats for the market. A kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of rat meat, which is considered a delicacy, sells for about 200 rupees ($2.8)— as much as for chicken and pork.

Farmers say the region has seen growing numbers of rats in recent years. “We put traps in the fields as the rats eat people’s paddy,” Samba Soren, a rat vendor at Kumarikata, told AFP.

The rodents are hunted at night during the harvesting season with traps made from bamboo. The traps are placed at the entrance of the rat-holes in the evening and the rodents are caught as they come out to scavenge.

The vendors have to work at night to make sure other predators do not get to the dead rats first. Some of the rats weigh more than a kilogramme and the market traders say they get between 10 and 20 kilogrammes a night.

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